Quarsh Blog

Recruiter: The battle of commission and culture



We have all been on the receiving end of a phone call from a recruiter pushing a role in finance, when your CV clearly states that you’re in marketing.

We were discussing why some recruiters try to sell you jobs that are the complete opposite to what is written on your CV. The conversation focused primarily around company culture and their benefits. Does commission cause an effect for the better, or does it promote a negative outcome where recruiters put forward ill-matched candidates in the hope to gain commission, regardless of whether the candidate is right for the advertised role?

Generally, a recruiter’s basic salary can be pretty low and most of their money is gained through commission earned for placing candidates. So, what are the pros and cons of companies providing commission or an annual profit share?

Quarsh’s Recruitment Manager, Tony Glover has outlined our thoughts on the pros and cons for each:

Pros for Commission

  • Constant drive to perform
  • Recruiters get positive reinforcement on a regular basis for good performance
  • Promotes great performance from money-driven recruiters

Cons for Commission

  • Potential for quick wins, disregarding long term relationship
  • Often comes with aggressive KPIs
  • Disadvantages a more consultative approach
  • Potential to try and fit square pegs into round holes

Pros for Annual profit share

  • Team focussed for the good of the business
  • Clear reward for performance of business

Cons for Annual profit share

  • Need to employ non-financial rewards throughout the year
  • Length of time before reward can be discouraging
  • Doesn’t take into consideration individual accomplishments

Pros for traditional corporate bonus structure

  • Driven purely by success of business
  • Every candidate should be the right candidate for the job

Cons for traditional corporate bonus structure

  • Beyond cost saving, hard to see a monetary impact on business
  • Majority of recruiters likely to have experience in commission environment - may find the move difficult


We felt recruiter’s decision to put forward an unlikely candidate isn’t completely down to incentive but could be fuelled by company culture. The pressure of expectation for the recruiter to reach set KPIs forces them to deliver candidates that aren’t 100% suited to the role. We know there are still agencies out there who score recruiters on their number of CVs sent per day, interviews booked and number of cold calls made. Quantity over quality.

In all, there is an area of middle ground where a recruiter has the ability to put forward the wrong candidate, wasting both their client's and candidate's time, but, where will this get the recruiter in the long run? An unhappy client and a bad reputation. Recruiters are given a bad name, which can be said for some, not all. However, the recruiter can be completely committed to finding this candidate a role by trying to make them unrealistically fit the job role - wasted time, once again.

Whichever incentive businesses choose, they should advise you on the personality and traits of their desired candidate. Everybody has their likes and dislikes, just like people prefer different rewards to keep them driven. Finding a person that has similar drives to yourself is rare, but when you find somebody that does, it’s clear to see.

If recruitment businesses made their working environment less pressured and more caring, they would likely notice a correlation between happier staff and repeat business where candidates become clients. Retention rates would fall and valuable time saved on recruiting new staff.


I wonder if there would be changes if recruiters didn’t have an incentive in place and just a better basic salary.