Usually when dealing with recruitment agencies and applying for certain IT job positions, at some point they share the client's name (either by phone or e-mail) and usually saying that I should keep the client's name for myself (confidential). This is especially the case when the interview has been already arranged. For example stating:

Please keep the details of the company strictly confidential.

However when other recruiters from different agencies call me, at the beginning they're trying to be friendly and ask me a standard set of questions about my situation and whether I already applied somewhere or have/had any interviews. When I confirm that I have, they start their psychological investigation by asking further 'where' and with 'whom' unless they find what they need to know.

So at this point, I've got a few choices:

  • Tell them that the client's name is confidential and I cannot tell them that.

    After that they usually trying to get that name even harder by saying they'll keep it confidential as well, or saying that they cannot forward my application unless they're sure it's for a different client, as they want to avoid sending my CV to the role for which I already have been forwarded by the other agency. The longer I keep arguing with them the less pleasant the conversation gets (sharing just the location usually doesn't satisfy them, as they claim to have plenty of companies in such area). They basically say I can't apply for the same role twice, so they're just trying to help me, but I need to tell them the client's name, otherwise they get rude.

  • Ask the recruiter for their client's name.

    I've tried this approach a few times, but usually conversation ends with a rude tone. So when they ask me the client's name in order to avoid being sent twice (first by another agency), I'm asking them to tell their client's name, so I can confirm whether it's the same or not. So they usually tell me that they cannot share their client's name at this point (and at the same time they expect that I can). As usually I have to confirm in writing (e-mail) that I'm happy to be represented for this role by their agency, but they probably cannot send me the representation e-mail request for the role unless they're sure that I'm not represented already by some other agency for that role (so I think it's a bit circular logic). Maybe they can send me, but first I need to know what to tell them on the first call (the topic of this question).

  • Lying to them about forgetting the client's name, as I've got to check the e-mail.

    They usually either make it ironic or want me to check my e-mail and tell them, otherwise they don't want to be in the situation where I'm applying to the same client. Sometimes they say that legally they can't forward my application unless they're sure, which probably is a lie, they simply don't want to waste their effort and time. Sometimes they making it ironic and laugh that for example I don't remember with who I've got the interview. Sometimes they say telling the name helps to let the client know that the candidate has huge demand as per interview with X and Y (especially when the names are recognizeable), so they can stress their client and make them rush with their interview, pushing my role quicker.

  • Tell them the client's name by breaking confidentiality with the other agency.

    It's the easiest choice, but in most of the cases it's not enough for them as after telling the name they usually claim they 'closely' cooperate with them as well and know plenty of people there, they ask me further questions about surnames or they ask whether Mr X is still working there (while searching for some random names in their database for that company, claiming they know them) or with whom I've got the interview, while laughing about how many people they have placed there. Sometimes when I say the client's name too quickly or in a distorted way, they ask me to spell it so they can write it down. The goal of this conversation is most likely to gain the relevant contacts, so they can chase this client for any available roles. If I give them any names, it's easier for them to chase them directly. So I usually share some random names when I know they're no longer working there.

  • Tell them a lie that I don't have any pending applications or interviews.

    This usually is the easiest way, but at the same time they can think of me as a weak candidate (as I'm looking for roles for few weeks and nobody wants me). And I also risk being sent to the same company, which they're trying to avoid to begin with.

My ideal scenario would be to avoid telling the client's name without being rude or getting into another train of 'why' questions and being psychologically attacked. My goal is to not sound rude, and keep the conversation and lies to the minimum.

What would be most effective way of dealing with such a scenario?

  • 4
    Have you tried asking them to tell you the names of the companies they want to put you with and let you indicate whether you have applied with them or not?
    – David K
    Oct 17, 2017 at 14:55
  • 4
    @kenorb I've never had a recruiter that paranoid. I've always had them tell me who it is with prior to them submitting my resume so I can tell them, "No, I interviewed with them last year and they're not my kind of company" or whatever. It's odd to me that they're so resistant with you.
    – Chris E
    Oct 17, 2017 at 15:12
  • 3
    Keeping your word is never rude. You just politely refuse and tell them why. Then stick to your guns and feel pressured.
    – Chris E
    Oct 17, 2017 at 15:15
  • 11
    Find another recruiter to work with. I've changed jobs quite frequently (lots of smaller companies who've gone out of business) and have built up a very solid relationship with 3 main recruiters in my area, to the point that I send other people's CV's onto them. Every other recruiter I've had issues with, like the one you describe. Of these three, none of them have hesitated to give me the name of the company they're recruiting for when asked. Recruiters are very numerous, but good ones are well worth keeping in touch with.
    – Dark Hippo
    Oct 18, 2017 at 9:05
  • 3
    The problem is that recruiters will try and steal each other's clients.If recruiter A talks to you about a position at client B, then they are worried that you are actually recruiter C fishing for leads. Once recruiter C knows that client B have positions, then they will try and offer candidates for the job. Recruiter A won't give you the details of client B until they are convinced that you are a genuine candidate and not recruiter C masquerading as a candidate.
    – Qwerky
    Oct 18, 2017 at 15:16

7 Answers 7


Tell them that the client's name is confidential and I cannot tell them that.

You have already identified the correct solution. If they start trying to cajole and bully you tell them that if the situation were reversed and another agent was trying to get the client's name they would be unhappy if you gave it out.

If they are professional they should understand and accept your answer. If they don't accept it, then perhaps they're someone you shouldn't be doing business with anyway.

The tactic of "I want to send your CV to them but don't want to duplicate it" is a probably a ruse. A lot of companies work with recruiters on a exclusive basis as they don't want the hassle of dealing with multiple agencies, or if they do use multiple agencies they will expect to get duplicate CVs. Therefore, it's highly unlikely that they are in official contact with the company. They are trying to get the company name out of you so that they can pitch their other candidates to the company via a cold call. Most companies will reject cold callers, but would rather not have to deal with them.

Ideally the recruiter shouldn't be sending your to CV to companies without your permission either, but here in the UK it's very hard to get the company name out of the recruiter until you've agreed that they can send your CV.

  • 8
    This is exactly what I do. I've never had anyone press me, but if they did I'd say, "if you don't me something in confidence, you'd want me to keep it too and I'd do the same for you". And definitely agree with the last paragraph. This is another way you can separate the slimy recruiters from the good ones.
    – Chris E
    Oct 17, 2017 at 15:10
  • 16
    Remember that you are not required to answer every question you're asked. Whether it's professionally inappropriate like "Who was the recruiter you're working with" or "How much money are you making?", or it's personally inappropriate like "When are you going to have kids?", not every question deserves an answer. Oct 17, 2017 at 17:59
  • Almost every company I've ever worked for used multiple recruiters. Big and small. Anecdotal, but the exclusive recruiter thing is rare in my experience. I agree with the basic point that it's a ruse, though. It makes them look a little bit dumb, if anyone even notices, but mostly they are just digging for information they don't need to place you.
    – zzxyz
    Oct 17, 2017 at 19:46
  • 4
    "I want to send your cv to them but don't want to duplicate it" - sorry - if you want to send MY cv to someone, you have to tell me who they are first. It is not unreasonable to have the agents tell you the names of the companies so you can veto any duplicates.
    – UKMonkey
    Oct 18, 2017 at 14:20
  • 1
    @Joe - I know of many companies that use multiple recruiting sources. However, that last paragraph should be irrelevant, IMO, and here's why - "You do not have permission to submit me to any companies without my permission." If that's clear, then, when they want to submit to a company, they'll tell the name. The candidate can then say "I'm already there. You can confirm that with them if you wish." Candidate never has to tell the name of a company, regardless of exclusivity or not. Oct 18, 2017 at 15:34

My ideal scenario would be to avoid telling the client's name without being rude or getting into another train of 'why' questions and being psychologically attacked. My goal is to not sound rude, and keep the conversation and lies to the minimum.

What would be most effective way of dealing with such scenario?

I always tell a recruiter that if I have already made any connection with a prospective employer (via another recruiter or on my own), that I will tell them about it as soon as they name their client. That way, I'm not wasting their time and they aren't wasting mine.

Then I ask them what is the name of the client. If they decline to tell me, I thank them for their time and walk away.

If a recruiter insists that they want a list of names from me, I simply decline and walk away.

That has always worked well for me, and avoided most collisions between recruiters.

  • 2
    +1 for I always tell a recruiter [...] wasting mine. That shuts them up pretty quickly. Only once I had a recruiter not go forward after this, and even they emailed me back a few days after I wrote them off.
    – rath
    Oct 18, 2017 at 15:35

You said you asked them to tell you the name of their client. If they say yes, then you can say, nope I haven't interviewed with them, or yes I have. If they refuse to tell you, then say, ask why not. If they say it's because it's confidential, then say, yes, that's exactly the same reason why I can't tell you.

If someone really tries to pressure you to betray a confidence and insists that this is deal-breaker, I'd say that's too bad, nice talking to you. Do you really want to do business with people who pressure you to be unethical? If they expect you to break your word and lie, apparently they have little regard for basic ethics. It's fair to suspect that they will break their word to you and lie to you.

"they'll keep it confidential as well" This is how secrets get out. I only tell people who promise not to tell anyone else. Then they only tell people who promise not to tell anyone else. Etc. And before you know it half the population of the planet knows. The way to keep something confidential is to not tell ANYONE, and then you don't have to worry about who they might tell.

  • 1
    The way to keep something confidential is to not tell ANYONE and you also build trust with both, unless the one who wants it is just slimy. And trust is how you build long-term relationships and networks.
    – Chris E
    Oct 17, 2017 at 15:14
  • 1
    What's the quote again?... three can keep a secret, if two are dead? yeeeeeaaaaaah
    – Patrice
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:11
  • 2
    @Patrice Or the old joke, "I can keep a secret. My problem is that none of the people I tell it to can."
    – Jay
    Oct 19, 2017 at 14:27

Tell them that the client's name is confidential and I cannot tell them that.

^This. Basically if you have agreed to keep the information confidential then it's only professional for you to abide by that and it's not so unusual a situation so a professional recruiter should understand that.

That said, aside from the usual recruiter digging for any and all information rubbish there can be a legitimate reason why they might need to know who the client is. Like you say they don't want to put you forward for a role that you are already applying for with a different recruitment agent/firm as that just wastes everyone's time and at worst can jeopardize your application if the potential employer is touchy about that sort of thing (which some are).

If they press the issue for this reason (and I assess them as being genuine in this) then I'll give some broad information such as "It's a Widget manufacturer in Townshire" as if it's the same people then more often then not that will be enough to let them know if it's the same company without breaking confidentiality.

  • 2
    I'm not sure if I'd want to work for an employer that uses multiple recruiters, expects confidentiality from potential hires, and still is touchy about receiving the same application twice. If the company is rejecting you for that reason; it doesn't seem like the worst outcome.
    – JMac
    Oct 18, 2017 at 10:54

The recruiter is just there to vet your resume and forward it to their contacts for a position, in return for some remuneration from the client. Usually, the better ones will in fact tell you the client in advance, and give you a job number for the position so that you can avoid resubmissions through competing vendors.

There is no need to tell them exactly how far you are with interview process in other companies either; when asked I mention (if true) that I've applied to other positions, but obviously nothing is confirmed as yet otherwise I wouldn't be wasting their time. Whether you have just sent in resume, or have a final face-to-face interview scheduled an hour later; why would you inform other recruiters?

For those who insist on how they're only trying to avoid duplicate submissions, ask them who is the client first so that you can check if its the same company. If they refuse, then request them to at least give you a job posting id or some unique identifier used by the client - or just compare the job descriptions yourself, and tell them if its for slightly different areas.

Especially for the sleazy recruiters, they are probably more desperate to submit decent candidates. So even if you cut them off and put down the phone after getting pestered, they won't go away as they want to send good resumes to client and show their 'contacts'.

  1. The first approach should be to cooperate in avoiding duplicate submisssion, only if you're the one who controls the info (i.e. you get job posting no. etc.).
  2. If that doesn't work, insist that you're not the kind of person who breaks confidentiality, and are they really looking for such a person to present to client?
  3. Failing both, just 'accidentally disconnect' a few times when being pestered and the recruiter will realize you won't be bullied into giving up info.

Even if they do tell you the client and you have been submitted to the same company, unless its a small one you should still request a job posting id since there may be different teams hiring thru different recruiters.

Also, regarding your last point - personally for slimy recruiters I wouldn't feel bad lying to them. And them getting any impression of you as an unpopular candidate doesn't really matter, so long as you can interview well they will still forward the resume; they want their commissions!

  1. you are working with the wrong recruiters. Try and work with better ones - reach out to the better ones and talk to them directly.

  2. bad recruiters like this very rarely get you a job, and more often just waste your time. Again, don't waste time with them.

  3. If you must with with these types... Just lie and make up a company. Make it a real one, and make it one you don't want to with for. a cigarette company, a gun manufacturer, a global warming advocacy company, whatever your political belief is, there is a company you won't work for. Name that one!


The easiest answer is simple: if you've had your CV sent to a company but not had an interview arranged, then often you don't even know who the company is - as many recruiting agents won't tell you. Hell, for many job adverts the company doesn't even exist, they exist only to harvest your CV to the recruiter.

Once you've had an interview arranged, then it doesn't matter - the competing agent cannot 'steal' you from the original.

You can say the name, or you can say "I don't know yet, I'm still waiting to hear back from the agent".

Also, note that often the agent will be interested not because they are going to try to recruit you to that company, but because they might not know that company is recruiting - and once they do know, they will be contacting their HR to offer competing candidates. But again, this still doesn't matter if you've got an interview arranged - if you get it, good, but if not, the company will have more candidates to choose from.

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