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It's something that bothered me for a while but cannot really put my finger on it. They call you and discuss some roles, inevitably enquiring whether I am interviewing anywhere else. I say yes, and they then usually want to know where exactly. It's often not enough to say 'a bank' or some such generic thing.

Is it risky to disclose the exact company/role/ref number? If they are from a different agency (to the one representing me for that other role), are there ways for (the unscrupulous part of) them to scupper my efforts?

Perhaps it's best to politely insist I keep it confidential. Or is it mostly for them to see how urgently they have to push along with their own role? I am sure it's naive to think that! But what are the possible ways for them to influence a seemingly unrelated interview process?

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    Yes, you are of course 100% correct. Never ever tell recruiters anything. – Fattie Feb 20 '19 at 14:40
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    What would the recruiters gain from interfering with an application that is effectively already in-progress? You didn't find the role through the recruitment agent, so they wouldn't get paid or anything for you successfully getting the role. – user34587 Feb 20 '19 at 14:56
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    If you can't trust them, why would you even work with them? You are going to have to trust somebody to be working on your behalf. – cdkMoose Feb 20 '19 at 15:28
  • @Kozaky things can get complicated. Assume the recruiter has 2 candidates in the client's pipeline: you and other guy. The recruiter thinks other guy will last the required time period for the recruiter to get paid and that you will jump ship. In that circumstance, it makes sense for the recruiter to push other guy at your expense. – emory Feb 20 '19 at 16:54
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    @cdk when I need to buy a car I work with a car salesman, but I don't trust them when they offer upgraded wheels, or varnish coating, or go into a room with a glass wall and "have an argument with their boss" about whether they can cut me a "great deal" or not. In the same way, recruiters perform a function, and I need that function so I engage their services... but they also have their own agenda, and I don't trust them at all. – BittermanAndy Feb 20 '19 at 17:17
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Is it risky to disclose the exact company/role/ref number? If they are from a different agency (to the one representing me for that other role), are there ways for (the unscrupulous part of) them to scupper my efforts?

I'd never disclose any such information beyond the really generic - "it's a fintech firm around York" for instance, should be more than enough (if you even want to give that much info.) There's no advantage for you in them knowing the specifics, and they could potentially do one of a few bad things with that info:

  • They may introduce themselves to the company and say they know you, then try to claim commission if you're hired there;
  • They may also be hired by that company for that role (you've just found them via another means), and therefore they could explicitly recommend to the company that they don't hire you for whatever reason in order to get their commission;
  • Unscrupulous, but they may have contacts they can use informally or otherwise to try to make sure you don't get that job, or you're lowballed on an offer (so you end up rejecting it.)

If they know that you're generically interviewing elsewhere, that could potentially be an advantage in that they want to prioritise getting you good places to make sure they get their commission (and likewise they're therefore more likely to negotiate a higher offer.)

They can / will be persistent, because it's definitely in their advantage to gauge the position you're interviewing for - so you just need to be insistent back and say something like "Just as I wouldn't disclose any opportunities you may provide me with, I'm going to be unable to give any more specific information on the role you're asking about."

If they keep pushing, just say "I'm afraid if this information is needed to progress, then it's probably better we don't carry on beyond this point - thank you for your time" or similar. They'll almost certainly change their tune at that point, and if not, go find a recruiter who will.

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    I've worked with a lot of recruiters over my 20+ year career and I've never had a single one do any of these things. I would wager than any recruiter that did engage in this sort of behavior would not stay in business very long. – 17 of 26 Feb 20 '19 at 15:56
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    This seems pretty paranoid. More likely they just don't want to waste their time forwarding your resume to a job you've already applied for. – DanK Feb 20 '19 at 17:48
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Reputable recruiters ask this question for one reason: So they don't bother engaging you on jobs that you've already applied for. It would be a waste of time for both you and the recruiter.

Companies often have multiple recruiters working for them or use recruiters to supplement their own hiring efforts.

Recruiter A doesn't want to waste their time researching and presenting a job opportunity with company X if you've already applied for company X either through recruiter B or the company directly.

  • The main difficulty is finding out who is a reputable recruiter when you're just starting out. After ten years I now have a pretty good intuition, and there are a few recruiters with whom I talk openly (they disclose their customer to me immediately, and I disclose who I'm interviewing with), it really saves a lot of time. I usually also tell the customer which recruiters I've talked to about this job, and when, so they can make informed decisions whether they want to work with that recruiter in the future. – Simon Richter Feb 20 '19 at 17:25
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    This! It's Occam's Razor. Which is more likely? A recruiter wanting to actively sabotage the OP's career or one simply getting info so they don't waste time (and antagonize a client) by forwarding a resume that doesn't have the possibility of being fruitful? – DanK Feb 20 '19 at 17:54
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In my experience recruiters, assuming they have a role in their hand which they think they can land you in, are not playing games such as looking to cut in on other recruiters leads.

There are a few reasons that they ask for details about your other leads, but generally they are just being good salespeople and trying to read their mark.

  • By seeing what they are up against they are better equipped as to how they can sweeten or play up the deal for you, or for their client
  • By getting you talking about other leads, you might let slip an obstacle you have been keeping quiet about with their offer which they can then try to remedy or downplay.

All in the name of obtaining more valuable information they can use to try to soften you or their client up to close the deal.

I would politely acknowledge that you are pursuing other leads but offer no details whatsoever beyond that. You are looking out for you and grateful for their help in doing so as well.

When they have made you an actual offer and you are waiting because you expect others, they will be even more curious (and hungry!). You should still not share details with them but you should be open and honest about how much time you expect to take to make a decision, and you should expect them and the client to continue to look as well.

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Recruiters are always networking and looking for leads. Candidates are primarily a resource - they are a potential fill for a customer need, or they are a source of leads for other good candidates or potential jobs to fill that the recruiter might not know about. If they call a company and talk to a management professional, even if there are no openings needing a recruiter, they are going to pump that manager about others they might know, and what they've heard of in their network, and will even try to see if that person is interested in looking at positions - they would be mining for both leads on openings and more candidates on those calls.

I'm going to disagree with another answerer who stated that this was mainly so they don't put you in for a position you are already looking at - No reputable recruiter should ever submit your information to any company without your knowledge of who that company is. They may keep it close to the vest, at first, but when you give your permission to be submitted, they should tell you who it is, at that time. So, really, this is mainly about trying to get more leads, first and foremost.

They are mainly looking to an "in" with another company, in general (even if they don't land an agreement for that position, they have made contact with a company that might have needs in their area of specialization, going forward).

Having said that, there's nothing wrong with them networking this way, but there's also no particular obligation on your part to give them names of other professionals you know, or about positions you are aware of.

(I used to recruit with, at that time, a franchise of the nation's largest recruiting company, and this was part of their training).

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