Do recruitment agencies charge candidates and jobseekers?

As a jobseeker, you may have wondered whether you are charged by a recruitment company for them finding you a job or whether this is a myth. Here’s the truth…

We know what it’s like. You’re looking for a new job and see a perfect position advertised on a job site, so you submit your details or a CV. You may have thought your application goes directly to the employer, only to find out it’s gone to a recruitment agency instead who are advertising the vacancy on behalf of the company.

At this stage, you may be concerned. Will the agency ever contact you? Will the information you’ve submitted be what they’re looking for? And most importantly, are they going to charge you to submit your application to the employer and land you the job?

The answer is simple. NO!

In the UK, it is illegal for a recruitment company to charge a candidate for submitting an application or securing them a job (which they could never guarantee anyway), no matter which company it is with, whatever the role, or wherever it is located.

Recruitment agencies are paid by their clients – the businesses that instruct them to find the staff they need. So even if it wasn’t illegal, it would be morally wrong of them to get paid twice by charging candidates too.

However, recruitment firms are permitted to charge for optional additional services that candidates may want to use. These include CV writing, training, and transport, but they can’t make any of these a condition for finding a candidate a job.

What’s more, written details of the additional services – including costs and conditions – must be supplied to the jobseeker before they are charged a fee. And details of their right to cancel these services and the notice period required must also be included.

The only exception to this rule is entertainment and modelling agencies who are permitted to charge those looking for work a fee. Typically, these agencies will use a commission structure, taking a percentage of the entertainer’s or model’s earnings (which must be detailed in writing). Their fees can also include the costs associated with publishing an individual’s details online or in a printed publication to promote them.

Interestingly the list of occupations that an entertainment agency can represent includes composers, writers, photographers, stunt arrangers, theatre designers, choreographers, and even professional sports people, as well as actors, singers, musicians, and dancers.

But for most people, if a recruitment agency ever tells them that there is a fee for finding them work, that should be a clear sign that they are not dealing with a reputable company.

They should walk away knowing that the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 make clear that recruitment agencies (in the UK) can’t charge a candidate for finding them a job.

What’s more, recruitment agencies shouldn’t ever make a candidate feel that they must pay for any additional services they offer in order to progress an application or find work.

The best, most ethical agencies will provide unbiased free advice to candidates – potentially including recommendations for improving their CVs – but will never make a candidate feel under pressure to pay for additional services they may provide.

If you’re an employer looking to use a recruitment company, it is a good idea to speak to a number of firms before making your decision, and look beyond just the fees they charge. Remember that a recruitment agency is representing your business, so it’s important they share your values and ethos too – including how they treat candidates, regardless of whether they secure a job with you or not.


Alex Smith

Recruitment Specialist

I’ve worked in recruitment for the same agency for over 12 years, covering finance, office support, construction, and engineering. Temp and perm. Previously, my line of work was within banking and estate agency.
Favourite food: “Curry (Hot)”
Favourite film: “Heat”

Outside of work

“Gym 5 days a week. Home life consists mostly of entertaining a 3 year old! (for clarification – my son)”

Alex on ACR

“Very refreshing to work for a recruitment agency that genuinely care for their candidates and clients”

T: 01733 235298

Sarah-Jane Bond

Recruitment Specialist

I have spent the majority of my career working in Operational and Project Management roles. I first worked with ACR about 25 years ago as a candidate. ACR secured me a role at RNIB, where I stayed for 15 years, finishing as Head of Operations. Recruitment has always been a big part of the roles I have undertaken and is something that I really enjoy. When you match a fantastic candidate with the right client there is no better feeling!
Favourite food: “Has to be any dish from the Mediterranean”
Favourite film: “There are many, love a chick flick, especially ‘The Holiday at Christmas”

Outside of work

“I love socialising with friends, can always squeeze a bit of retail therapy in around volunteering at Deeping Rangers FC, running their hospitality on match days.”

Sarah-Jane on ACR

“I couldn’t have been more delighted when Nel asked me to join the company and have felt at home since day one. They really do care about providing the best service for their clients and candidates, building genuine relationships with both. The team culture is second to none, everyone supporting and looking out for each other. It is a pleasure to come to work every day.”

T: 01733 235298

Emily Roach

Recruitment Specialist

Emily was a Primary School Teacher for 10 years, before moving into the EdTech space, as a Relationship Specialist for MATs. She joined ACR in July 2023 and particularly thrives when recruiting for Account Management, Customer Service and Sales roles.
Favourite food:
“Spag bol or pizza”
Favourite film:
“The Notebook – or any romantic chick flick really!”
Outside of work
“I have a 1-year-old, so love fun family weekends with my fiancé and son more than anything. Time socialising with friends and family is where I’m happiest.”
Emily on ACR
“The unique culture, values, and style at ACR is polar opposite to other recruitment agencies and what I believed recruitment was. Having previously been a Relationship Specialist, I feel I’m doing the same thing! No hard sell, we truly care about our candidates and clients, and the team culture is 2nd to none!”
T: 01733 235298

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