Question on Robert Half agency and contract

In order to work with Robert Half Associates, they want me to sign
this thing that is about 4 pages and says "Hourly Employment
Agreement". The first part says "Consultant agrees to provide, on an
as needed basis, such IT services required by Robert Half from time to
time .. work provided hereunder shall be under direction of Robert
Half or client(s) of Robert Half ..

If I don't sign this contract, they told me that they can not send me
on any interviews. This seems a departure from the way that other
agencies I have worked with operate. My mother's advice is if I am not
sure, then don't sign it. I am curious what other developers might say
or what their experience might have been with this agency ?

Does your mother give any advice about off-topic postings to mailing
lists? Really.... this has *nothing* to do with Rails. Do you have no
generic freelancers' forum to post to? ( at
least... :-/

You don't say what country you're in, and with something such as this,
local laws will be key.

Quickly Googling Robert Half, I assume you're in the UK... if so, does
the contract talk about "associated schedules of employment"?
If so, it's probably a fairly generic freelance employment contract,
but it is unusual to have to sign it *before* even going on an
interview. Typically, they should have a terms and conditions which
would cover fees due upon introduction of candidates, but they're
applicable to their clients, not the contractors they're providing
employment too (unless you're working directly for them...). Without
more information about the specifics of the role, I'm sitting here
shrugging due to the wide range of reasons they could be asking you to
sign for.

Given that Robert Half seem to specialise in accountancy candidates,
not computing, I'm confused why you're a Rails developer going through
them for work. Have they advertised a position, or have you contacted
them speculatively?

I am in the USA. I tend to target mostly Rails work.

  Robert Half had called me and said that they had been getting in
Rails contracts and wanted to talk to me. Often times they do not get
so much rails work. I took it as a possible sign of a pickup in rails.
I went to their office and met with them and they had given me this
contract to sign.

My impression had been that their rates may seemed to be low and I
had flat out told them that in the past. This in particular when they
told me $40 an hour for PHP work (or even less). I am less interested
in PHP, but I don't want to rule it out altogether. Thus far I have
not told people who want to talk to me that I am not interested. I had
not signed their contract and felt I should email the friendly fellow
at Robert Half back and tell him something as to my impression of this
contract as to why I don't want to sign it or maybe other people can
tell me it doesn't matter really if I sign it or not, but my default
position is I am not going to sign it ..

Robert Half does have some IT postings for Ruby or related:,+MA&rbc=Robert+Half+Technology&jcid=8295f0911ec08bde


Your topic is totally off-post, but I will give you my 2¢ anyway.

I was placed at a company 3 years ago by Robert Half. I found them to be the most reputable agency out there, and I had very good experiences with them. (They placed me for a PHP job.) Almost all recruiters I’ve met are scum (really, scum of the earth), but the people at Robert Half that I worked with were respectable and professional. Pushy, at times, but professional.

It sounds like the contract they want you to sign is a non-compete contract, meaning that if they introduce you to a client who then hires you they get to collect a recruiter’s fee (typically 20-33% of your annual salary). You don’t pay this, the employer does. This is actually standard in the industry (for recruiters), although it is kind of appalling.

The contact they want you to sign is basically saying that if they introduce you to one of their clients, you can’t go work for that client directly without A) working through them or B) them getting their placement fee from the employer. That’s all they want – money. It is in everyone’s interest for you to get a good job.

This is what you wrote is in the contract:

Consultant agrees to provide, on an
as needed basis, such IT services required by Robert Half from time to
time … work provided hereunder shall be under direction of Robert
Half or client(s) of Robert Half

Based on the provision you posted in contact, I don’t actually know what your concern is. You are right to read contracts before signing them and to seek as much information as possible, of course, but it is unclear to me what your actual concern is. Maybe you concerned that this contract is obligating you to do work for them – it isn’t. Indentured servitude has been illegal for a long time and almost all states are “At-will” states, meaning you work “at will” and they can fire you “at will.” All this part of the contract says is that IF you do work for one of their clients (that they introduce you to), it has to be through them.

Do keep in mind that any contact that has a provision that is not in accordance with the law is not an enforceable contact – no matter what anyone tells you, contracts can’t circumvent “the people’s will” (the law of the land). Non-compete agreements are extremely hard to enforce, and historically are meaningless. That doesn’t mean you should try to get away with going behind their back to work for one of their clients, it just means that the scope of the agreement is typically narrow in the eyes of the law.

For example, let’s say that you go out and make a contact with an employer they work with. But they didn’t introduce you, you just happened to find that employer on your own. That would clearly not be covered under the non-compete agreement because they can’t make a contract with you that limits your right to be a free agent and find work on your own. (That contract wouldn’t be recognized by the law.) But if they do introduce you to the employer, they probably do have a legal case. Sometimes there is gray area, so see my suggestion #2 below. As I’m trying to explain, this stuff is complicated.

Basically if you go on an interview through Robert Half, they want to either subcontract you (make money off selling your hours), or they want a big fat placement fee (from the employer) that is about 25% of your annual salary (but that is negotiated between the employer & the recruiter, not you). If you play by those rules, you should be fine with Robert Half. If you don’t want that, I would suggest you not work with any recruiters at all.

I would recommend you do two things:

  1. See a job counselor who might help you (kind of like therapy but for your profession) figure out what it is that you need from your future employment. Boil it down to the things that matter to you (hours, location, salary, work environment, type of work, etc). Then figure out if what Robert Half is asking you to sign is at odds with any of those core things. If it is, bring it up to them as part of your core values you don’t want to give up. I wouldn’t recommend not signing the contract on principle – everyone is going to have a contract, it is just a matter of what in the contract is at odds with what you need.

  2. If you are really concerned about the language within the contract, you should consult a lawyer. Only a lawyer can offer you legitimate legal advice based on the laws in your state. You can also get free advice from various labor boards and/or labor advocacy groups. If you do that, be sure to have a specific question that you want an answer for.

Good luck!



Sorry if this is an off topic post. I don't frequent alot of IT
related groups and feel somewhat comfortable what people from the
Rails group might have to say as I have posted on this group a number
of times etc ..

I am not sure I have time for a job counselor or a lawyer on this.
It's just that it's this 4 page contract type thing that I am not used
to signing. I had the impression that perhaps it wasn't a big deal,
but if I can't be sure of that I wasn't going to sign it. It's not
like there aren't other agencies or jobs out there, but on the other
hand you seem to give a plug for Robert Half, so maybe I should
consider signing it. I guess I will have to think about it some
more ..

I was just saying I had good experiences with them and found them more reputable than the rest, I do not have any affiliation with them at all. (In fact I left that job about a year later).

Your best best is probably going out and interviewing without a recruiter, but that's harder and takes more time.

Your best best is probably going out and interviewing without a recruiter, but that's harder and takes more time.

I have tried to apply to jobs that are advertised directly by
companies. Sometimes if a job sounds good and it's advertised by an
agency, I will still apply.

Once an agency has my resume from somewhere, they may call me. If
they call me I usually reply to them which is how I got hooked in with
Robert Half. Once I put my resume on Dice and I got so many calls in
one day that I had to take it off.

If I sign the contract and send it in to them, they may obviously
call me with job opportunities. If I don't send the contract in, I may
neve hear from them again or I would have to deal with the contract
issue the next time they try to call me.

If you want to work with them, you'll have to sign the contract. That sounds normal. If you have problem with provisions in the contract, identify those specific provisions and tell them your concerns and see if they will modify the agreement to address your concerns.

That's life. We can't make this decision for you, you're gonna have to make it on your own. If you have any other questions for me, you are welcome to email me off-list as I'm sure the rest of the list is getting tired of this off-topic post.


If you don't understand the contract, then just don't sign it.

You can always get a lawyer to look this thing over for you too, if
you want to invest in it.

Odds are, if the contract doesn't make sense, or is obscure, there's a
good reason - it benefits them and it hoses you. Just my experience -
take it for what it's worth.