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About six months ago, I quit my job and turned to freelancing. I am content and I have enough work to go by, but don't rule out that I would like to have a day job some time in the future, when the right opportunity arises.

Currently, I am pestered with recruiters, who want to hire me for full-time or extended (up to a year or more) freelance gigs. I should be flattered about all the attention, but my issue is, that they don't want to disclose any information about the job. Very often it also seems like a standard message, that they've likely sent out to everyone in my field – and when I ask around, that's exactly what it is.

When I ask the recruiters to elaborate on this incredibly exciting, but vaguely described opportunity, they simply respond with something like "it's for a big company" and ask to meet me in person. I have also tried asking specific questions, but to no avail. At this point, I kindly refuse and wish them good luck in their search.

How do I get the recruiters to cut to the chase and give me more information, without wasting time on pointless meetings or phone interviews?

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No. I kindly ask them to elaborate, and when they fail to do so, I thank them for the interest, and wish them good luck in their search. I don't want to come across as an ass. –  Nix May 9 at 19:25
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@nix - That is how I do it. I tell them to call me when they have something real to talk about. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame May 9 at 21:10
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@nix politeness often doesn't get through to recruiters. But they are very eager to fill those jobs. Tell them exactly what they need to do to get you interested and they will probably do it. And if they don't, well you weren't going to do business with them anyways, so youve lost nothing. –  Grant May 9 at 21:42
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5 Answers 5

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A recruiter's livelihood depends on three things:

  • not giving you information you can use to "go around" the recruiter (they can mitigate this a little because they can tell the client they spoke to you) or worse, give to someone they don't even know about and let that friend "go around" the recruiter
  • giving their clients discretion about hiring plans, and protecting their clients from being pestered by eager job hunters
  • telling you enough to get you to engage in discussing a possible position and being presented for it

It sounds like you're hearing from recruiters who care far more about the first two points than about the third. Probably you're in a market where jobs are thin on the ground, so job hunters are passing tips around, pestering people who they've heard are hiring etc, and when a recruiter says "I have an opportunity" they are leaping up and asking to be considered without needing much more information than that.

If you don't want to work with recruiters at all, just tell them that when they contact you. If you do (for the right kind of recruiter) then meet with them once. It might ostensibly be about whatever opportunity they claimed to have, but it's really about you and what you're great at, what you're looking for. They may then realize that whatever they contacted you about isn't a great fit, but they happen to have a perfect opportunity with someone else. Or they may have nothing now, but contact you with something far more targeted in a few weeks or months. The more they know about you, the more they will tell you when they contact you. On a cold call you're never going to get the details you need to decide whether to meet this recruiter for the very first time. But if you take a chance and meet one anyway, it might lead to something good. Of course, they could just be quite useless, spamming every developer they can find and wildly connecting people to opportunities that are wrong for them. So you might want to screen the recruiters a little to decide who to meet. Just don't base it on what they tell you about the job, because that will rarely be anything useful on a first call.

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It has worked well for me to ditch the recruiters with no details on the job, and to keep in touch with the ones who can give me answers. I currently have 3 recruiters, whom I have met with once or twice each as long as a year ago, who periodically call me - only about specific jobs that very closely match what I've discussed with them and that I would be a good match for. They focus very much on point 3 above - anything else is a waste of everyone's time. Working with a good recruiter is like having a personal marketing staff getting you into the right interviews - at no cost to you. –  brichins May 9 at 23:27
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Until you actually develop a relationship with the recruiters, you won't get them to "cut to the chase". Look at it from their point of view. You are a freelancer. If you get ahold of the name of a company who is looking to hire for freelance gigs in your area of expertise, what is to stop you from contacting the company directly and soliciting them, thereby cutting out the recruiters? You have made yourself their competition, and they need to protect themselves. If you are serious about wanting to use their resources to find yourself work then you should at least be willing to spend the time to sit down with them and go through the proper channels.

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The recruiter submits names of people they have been involved with in a job search and would require compensation if the company were to hire one of those people. Of course the company could lie, but to most it is not worth it. The recruiter can follow-up in many ways to find out who is working where. –  JeffO May 9 at 20:22
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Even if you don't want to meet in person, you can take the time to take a phone call from them. They'll be much more conducive to talking over the phone, at least in my experience.

It takes a relationship to build trust. You won't get a relationship from two emails, and you won't get details from a recruiter without trust.

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Since you're not actively looking, take the time and pick one or two and go through the process until you find one you like, trust and respect. Connect with them on something like LinkedIn, so you'll know if they're with another firm.

They'll want to have a personal meeting/interview. It's important for them to know you are presentable to clients.

Keep in touch with them. Follow their websites to see if any appealing jobs pop up. When you are ready, you can take the next step and eventually find the name of the company.

All the other recruiters, you can just ignore in the mean time or make knowing the company a requirement. They should be sending a list of people they've contacted about the position and would get compensated if they hired you. They make contracts and agreements with their clients so they can protect themselves. The company probably would have to wait up to a year before they could hire you without paying the recruiter.

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I will temper this suggestion that if you are in a big market, picking one or two recruiters may limit your exposure to the entire job market. Picking more recruiters to be "close" with will take more work to maintain the relationship, but it will be worth it in the long run if they find you a great job. –  Garrison Neely May 9 at 20:34
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The recruiters will have to learn to trust you - I think part of the reason they are secretive is that if they disclose the name of their client, you might apply directly to the client and screw them out of their commission. They are especially vulnerable to you going direct if they have taken upon themselves to introduce you to a company which is not a current client of theirs, and they are hoping to use you and your quals as a can opener to build a relationship with that company :)

For whatever reason, the recruiters who have contacted me have no problem disclosing the name of their client. Either they trust me, or they have taken precautionary steps in conjunction with their client to make sure that I don't screw them :)

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