14

I have made a mistake of answering the question "Are you interviewing elsewhere?" and now a recruiter regularly includes a question on how the other interview is going. I feel that there is no good way for me to answer that question to her: if I say I didn't get the job, she will perceive me as of lesser value and if I tell her I am to take the job, she may have less incentive to work with me. I have a feeling that the transparency cannot possibly work in my favor.

So I have two questions:

  1. Given that I have already opened the can of worms, is there a diplomatic way for me to stop future interrogation regarding this matter and to regain transparency regarding what I am doing that is outside of our relationship?

  2. On a going forward basis, how do I best answer such a question initially while not sounding sketchy, unfriendly, or suspicious and limit my interaction with a recruiter only on the business with him/her without them asking me what else I am doing?

6

It probably helps to state the recruiter's motivation: getting paid for placing candidates. In this case, the recruiter will get paid if

  • They can place someone else into the other job you've applied for. If the recruiter already has a relationship with the firm, you're giving your position away. If they don't already have a relationship, then if you let slip the name of the hiring manager, for example, then the recruiter will be able to get in touch with them. If you let slip details of interview questions, be sure these will get passed on to any of the recruiters' candidates who go for the same position. So on this count you're right not to want to discuss too many details with the recruiter.

  • They can place you into one of their jobs. In this sense, it is helpful, in a general way, for the recruiter to learn how you're doing elsewhere: what kinds of jobs you're applying for, what kinds of interviews you're doing well or badly in, and so on. Moreover, a good recruiter will be interested in timing, and will try to arrange that you get interviews and offers for their jobs at or before other jobs you're applying to. In this sense, transparency can work in your favor.

More generally, the economic function of a recruiter is to create a market, and to create the market they need to understand it and get information from sellers (people like you and me), as well as buyers (employers).

So to answer your specific questions.

1 Is there a diplomatic way for me to stop future interrogation regarding this matter and to regain transparency regarding what I am doing that is outside of our relationship?

As I said above, I don't think the fact that you're applying for other jobs is outside the relationship. But it isn't in your interests to let slip any of the details. My approach is to be vague, or simply ignore any requests for details. So, I might say, "I'm interviewing with company A next Friday, it's a second interview and they will let me know within a week after that.", even if they probed for more details. There's only so many times they're going to ask the same question if you reply in a vague way. (Think how politicians answer interview questions, by being continuously vague, evasive, or repeating the same thing.)

2 On a going forward basis, how do I best answer such a question initially while not sounding sketchy, unfriendly, or suspicious and limit my interaction with a recruiter only on the business with him/her without them asking me what else I am doing?

Once again, for the recruiter to do the best job of getting you into one of their jobs, they do need to know something about what you're doing, e.g. so they know how to schedule candidates' interviews. I say something along the lines of "I'm applying to a firm who produce widgets, I got through the first interview, but contacted them to say I didn't want to go further at this point." I'd be happy to mention the name of the firm, unless the firm only accepted direct applications, in which case I would be opening up that firm to cold calls (which would be discourteous of me, and might make me look bad if that firm discovered it was me that let the information slip).

I think you do need to be sketchy, but this isn't unfriendly, it's business-like. Recruiters want you to give them more information than is in your interests, and you need to give them just as much information as is in your interests. Anything else you can give them that doesn't hurt you is being friendly, as is enjoying a bit of chit-chat, sharing a joke, talking about the weather, etc. Recruiters understand the game pretty well as they do it all the time, and will try it on, but aren't going to be offended if you are firm in refusing to prejudice your interests.

  • This is a good answer. I would just add that a reason it's generally good practice to tell a recruiter about companies you've already contacted is because you don't want to get involved in a possible legal issue should the recruiter expect a commission from an employer with whom you had prior contact and hence doesn't want to pay the recruiter. I have seen this happen. Having disclosed prior contact to the recuriter, TooTone is exactly correct, you probably should not go in to a lot detail with the recruiter about this 'outside' contact. – Jim In Texas Jul 6 '13 at 1:11
  • +1 for "if you let slip the name of the hiring manager". This might annoy the hiring manager if they don't deal with recruiters and don't want to make it easier for recruiters to get past the gatekeepers. – explunit Jul 8 '13 at 19:09
2

Just tell then you are no longer perusing the opportunity for one reason or another. (Hopefully you never told him the company name)

Going forward you default answer should be: I just started looking

Never EVER tell a recruiter you are interviewing elsewhere. They will likely do one or more of the following:

  • Not submit you for new opps because they are afraid you do well then turn down an offer because of of a better one elsewhere. (They can only submit so many people to a single opp)

  • Not tell you about new Opps because they think you have a big mouth and will tell other recruiters about it.

  • Contact the employer and attempt to submit other candidates

  • Contact the employer, bad mouth you, then attempt to submit other
    candidates

1

Why is it so bad to say that you didn't get the other positions? Unless you are telling her a great deal about these positions, there isn't enough information to automatically assume you are inferior for not having gotten that job. If you are still available then there is work that can be done. Otherwise, it becomes a question of whether or not you'd be up for passing along the opportunities to those within your network to maintain a relationship.

Good recruiters can understand the value in getting to know someone well enough to place them in a good fit situation. The key is to understand what kind of value can you provide for her besides trying to place you. That may be a way to build a better bond though be careful about selling out your friends here.

Give that I have already opened the can of worms, is there a diplomatic way for me to stop future interrogation regarding this matter and to regain transparency regarding what I am doing that is outside of our relationship?

You have transparency in telling her where you stood before so I don't see how this is regaining that at all. You are trying to regain privacy though the question here is to understand that from her perspective of getting the basics: 1) Are you still available? and 2) What kinds of positions interest you?

On a going forward basis, how do I best answer such a question initially while not sounding sketchy, unfriendly, or suspicious and limit my interaction with a recruiter only on the business with him/her without them asking me what else I am doing?

You could tell her, "I appreciate your concern. When my status changes I will update you accordingly." that while it is a bit blunt, may work for some recruiters that just want to be kept in the loop as they don't want to waste time applying you for stuff when you are already happy in a position.

1

Open Can Of Worms

The recruiter may be concerned that they are placing candidates into the same position you're applying to through another recruiter. You should ask her if there is a potential conflict. She may not be telling you that she has submitted your resume to a long list of employers, therefore if you're also using another recruiter you may be locked out of the opportunity. Many employers will not consider a candidate if they are submitted by two different placement firms.

Going Forward

Make sure you're only being submitted to the specific opportunities you're responding to. Tell the recruiter up front that you are (or may be) using another recruiter for other positions. Some recruiters will tell you outright the name of the company they're hiring for, since that company only uses recruiters, and you won't get in any other way. In other circumstances they will only drop hints: 'Major financial institution' or 'Top 50 Company in the US', whatever. Therefore, when using separate recruiters make sure they're submitting to different companies.

1

Closing the Communication

If you really don't want to be abrupt, usually being vague will work. "The interview process is going well", "I'm taking it as it comes", "I've received a lot of interest and I'm keeping quite busy", or even "hey, I don't have a lot of time to talk and I want to make sure you and I cover the opportunity we are working together." are all fairly polite deflections.

Recruiters do well at their jobs when they are willing to press and be aggressive. There's a lot of knocking on doors in their industry, and it takes a personality that is comfortable pressing for answers and results to do this job well. So realize that a recruiter may be quite happy to push for answers until you are very clear that you won't answer. If you've given precise details about interviews in the past, be prepared that you may get questions like ".. but I'm really curious how interview X at Y company went". You may end up with saying, "I'm sorry, but that's not your business, let's talk about the opportunity you have in mind for me". It's a perfectly valid answer and when the pushing has gone too far, it's OK to say no.

For the Future

Vague is not sketchy. "I'm actively interviewing" is a legitimate answer. There's never a need to give details, and if the recruiter is fishing for them, that in and of itself is rather sketchy, and it's fine to say "I don't see that that's any of your business".

It is fair for a recruiter to want to guage your interest in pursuing opportunities. What's not fair is for them to be keeping tabs on your interviews so precisely that you feel you're getting interrogated every time you speak to the recruiter. I usually sum up my interest into one of several general responses:

  • No, I have absolutely no interest in job hunting - I'm so happy with my current state that you'd have to make a truly ridiculous offer come my way for me to even take the phone screen.

  • I'm fairly happy where I am but I'm open to opportunities - My job isn't in jeopardy, I could work here forever, but I'm slightly bored/underpaid/unhappy - so if you have something great, maybe I'm interested. And I'm usually willing to outline what "great" is.

  • I'm actively looking - Behind the scenes - I know the situation I'm in isn't good, and I am making job hunting a bigger priority than settling in to the current work. I'm probably taking interviews with multiple recruiters, and while I won't jump into the first opportunity, I'm going to make scheduling interviews a real priority.

The answer to "has your resume recieved any interest?" is pretty much always "quite a bit, but I'm always open to pointers if you know of key areas in the market".

If they want more details - too bad. I usually respond in equal force to the pushiness of the question. I've been known to:

  • answer with the same vague answer I just gave
  • say - "I'm not going to answer that"
  • say - "As I see it, you are pushing for an answer that is none of your business, I'm happy to answer questions about my job history, my expectations or my interest in your options, but if you don't have any opportunities for me, I'm not particularly interested in talking for the sake of chatting."

Yes, I've had to be that rude.

I've found that recruiters vary widely, and while some can be disturbingly sleazy, others are great allies in a job search. So I'm willing to be more forthright when I've been working with a recruiter for sometime, and they have thoughtfully found good opportunities that meet my goals. For example, if I'm getting close to an offer and I'm also working with a good recruiter on a second opportunity - I will give the recruiter the heads up that I may be close to a decision point soon. But I'll only do that if the recruiter as already shown me some level of decency and consideration.

1

If you have a good relationship with the recruiter, I would have no problem telling them where/when I was interviewing. This may give the recruiter (and end client) ammunition to push you along quicker through the process than others if there is some sort of timeline. It would also make the end client realize that they have to come up with a good offer if they like you enough.

Unscrupulous recruiters may use this as a fishing exercise.

0

If you have already told this recruiter that you have been interviewing with A, B and C corps while the process with this recruiter is on. You are in a precarious situation. If you are a person of such great interest, it wouldn't be unusual for friendly recruiters to share information amongst each other. If not directly, they could use a common staffing firm for your status.

To avoid further interrogation you could say "hey, I want to focus on this opportunity as this is the most exciting pursuit for me at the moment"

There is no way you can certainly avoid this question. Most recruiters will hit you with this sometime or the other. The way I answer this "are you interviewing else where" question is, "Yes, but nothing as exciting as this opportunity".

I have always had the HR pester me for a final call on somebody who simply said he was interviewing elsewhere (did not even have an offer!), even though the candidate may have been inferior with the skill set.Sadly, a candidates perceived value increases with such rhetoric.

0

You may not want to completely close down that avenue of discussion.

Many recruitment companies have a contract that says (to an employer) "If you employ someone I recommended, you have to pay our placement fee."

If two recruiters attempt to place you with the same employer, a positive hire decision might result in BOTH recruiters expecting to be paid, effectively doubling the cost of placement.

So, if your recruiter is working in your best interest, they'll want to avoid putting you forward for openings for which you've already been advanced, because that will effectively kill your chances.

Conversely, if your recruiter is working in their own best interest, they'll want to avoid putting you forward for openings for which you've already been advanced, because that will effectively kill their chances of getting paid.

Either way, keeping too quiet can work against you.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.