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I was recently cold-called by a recruiter on LinkedIn who had seen my profile/resume. The position seemed to be a very good fit for my skill set so I replied that I was very interested. Within minutes we were talking on the phone and after a laundry list of generic technical screening questions, we move on to discuss my personal projects. The recruiter responds positively but keeps asking for deeper and deeper details, to the point that I'm basically reading him pseudo-code. He does the same with my work projects but I (somewhat clumsily) deflect implementation level questions because the code isn't my property to share.

Seemingly unsatisfied, he requests that I send him an expanded version of my resume including "every technical detail you can think of" about every relevant project I've worked on all the way back through my senior year of college (about 4 years of work). He mentioned how a similarly experienced developer had submitted 20 pages of such information and was asked for more. This is apparently an application requirement set by the position's manager. I said that it sounded like a lot of work but could get it to him sometime the next week.

After some time to process such a whirlwind, I think this is way beyond asking for examples of my skills/experience to evaluate my candidacy. Is this recruiter/manager trying to steal the fruits of my labor or am I just paranoid?

Update: I walked away from the situation. The answers brought up a lot of possibilities, none of which I want to be involved with. I'm going to ignore cold-calls in the future.

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    Regarding sharing your current companies code: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/69744/… – Gregory Currie Mar 15 at 11:45
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    Does the "recruiter" have a website and a company that you can research? There are a lot of "spam" recruiting companies out there... it's not uncommon to get a deluge of requests for a reasonably experience resume. (or can you name the company here?) – WernerCD Mar 15 at 15:46
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No, this is an unacceptable level of detail.

No experienced (and self-respecting) developer would put up with this. And to be honest, no real recruiter would want this level of detail. It is just too much data to go through.

You must push back, as you have been, with questions around implementation details, or even features, on projects that you worked on while you've been employed elsewhere.

I have no idea if they are trying to steal your code, or what the deal is, but their motivations don't matter.

If possible, you should make available some of your work on something like Github. Obviously, it must be work you own so they can take a look at the actual code.

Keep in mind, if this IS an actual recruiter and it is on request of the position's manager, this may not reflect well on the organisation in question. If you decide to share this detail, it will not reflect well on you.

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    I've yet to meet a recruiter that could understand that level of detail. – Peter M Mar 15 at 13:38
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    @PeterM True. However, to make it real, they included a manager also in the story. :) – Sourav Ghosh Mar 15 at 13:39
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    Now you're just making me laugh. – Peter M Mar 15 at 13:40
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    There is also intellectual property and other stuff that you cannot disclose from your current employer and maybe other recent employers. Sometimes, even highly descriptions violate that contract you signed when you were hired. – Thomas Matthews Mar 16 at 21:05
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    @alwayslearning There may be a systematic attack on employees of the business. If the business gets reports from a few different employees, it's likely someone is going through Linked In and targeting employees from the business in the hope of getting their hands on some code. – Gregory Currie Mar 17 at 7:59
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Is this recruiter/manager trying to steal the fruits of my labor or am I just paranoid?

None, this looks like a scam.

Under no circumstances, you are supposed to give away the exact minute details of the working project for your current employer, let alone the source code and/or documentation. That would be a serious violation of the contract in most of the countries and most likely you can end up facing criminal charges. No reasonable employer would even ask this of you (or any applicant).

If they are willing to check "your skills" thoroughly, they can ask and arrange for an on-line or in-person coding test, there is nothing in your existing code that proves your skills. Heck, you might even showcase code written by someone else as yours, so there's nothing that can be proved by either sharing or receiving the code for your current employer.

Stop communicating. Run fast and run away from this.

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    Instead of a scam it could also be social engineering based pen test. In either case the winning move is not to play. – Peter M Mar 15 at 13:37
  • @PeterM That's why I said "looks like". And I agree to the last sentence. – Sourav Ghosh Mar 15 at 13:38
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    @ESR Don't know...maybe get to know the product architecture to find vulnerabilities? Maybe find out the architecture of a particular module? Maybe gain knowledge about a patented-part? It could be anything, but real interview. :) – Sourav Ghosh Mar 15 at 13:59
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    @ESR Not so much a scammer as a hacker. The first step of any hack is learning the technical details of the system you are targeting. The more you know about the system you are attacking, the more you can narrow down what kinds of vulnerabilities you need to exploit, and what kinds of protections are in place that you need to account for. – Nosajimiki Mar 15 at 14:26
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    I can think of a possible scam -- wanting to emulate this person's work history for immigration reasons? – Yakk Mar 15 at 17:14
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If you currently work for a government contractor, report this to your security group

This sounds like attempted industrial espionage and/or traditional espionage. If you work or have worked in any way for the government, directly or indirectly, report this to your security rep immediately.

Otherwise, run away as fast as you can

You could get into legal hot water by participating in what appears to be industrial espionage. Run away! If you have concerns that you may have already crossed legal boundaries by violating IP law or NDAs, contact a lawyer.

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    Yes, even if you worked for the government in the past. Or maybe even something on your profile that is typically government like intern at NASA or some research or grant in college that was eventually sold to the government. – Dan Mar 15 at 16:36
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    Updated based on your comment--thanks @Dan. – bob Mar 15 at 16:40
  • If you've left govt contracting and don't have a dod security rep at your current job, appropriate people to report a possible espionage attempt would be your old jobs security officer, a security officer at another contractor/govt office, or the FBI. – Dan Neely Mar 18 at 13:35
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He mentioned how a similarly experienced developer had submitted 20 pages of such information and was asked for more. This is apparently an application requirement set by the position's manager. I said that it sounded like a lot of work but could get it to him sometime the next week.

This might sound crazy but I wouldn't be surprised if the guy was some sort of state ran operative. It sounds like he's soliciting people with certain profiles to determine things. A 20 page technical detail sounds insane. Would you give 20 pages detailing everything you did to a stranger on a street just because they said they work as a recruiter for some company? Why would you trust a person on the internet asking for the same thing as someone would as a stranger on the streets?

I wouldn't even reply. Just delete and continue on.

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    That's not crazy at all. However, the level of "attention" paid to one person indicates this is a very targeted activity. It could full well be part of a security audit. – Wesley Long Mar 15 at 14:58
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    @WesleyLong Yeah my guess is a keyword on his resume matches something. So he wants a technical detail to disguise what he's really asking. He already clued in that he'd ask for more even with a 20 page so he's likely to return with, "This is great, but tell me more about <insert what he really wants to know>? You're not very clear on X, Y, and Z of that part." – Dan Mar 15 at 16:46
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I would strongly recommend that you inform your previous employers about this recruiter, because this is most likely an attempt at company espionage. Technical details like this are none of his business. If he says that someone submitted 20 pages of such documentation, then the recruiter is frankly lying. And I have never, ever encountered a prospective employer who was interested in that kind of information - actually, most wouldn’t want to know that kind of thing because of fear of legal consequences.

  • This. This is my suspicion, too. This level of technical detail is very uncommon on the field, even for some rare, seldom used techs. – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Mar 17 at 18:12
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I'm from an Engineering background, but it would definitely raise a few flags for me. The only way I would even consider showing anything is in a personal meeting, printed on paper, and take it back when I leave.

Don't send anything, as you might be delivering company secrets to a competitor. Disclosing any sensitive information should be done only after getting an NDA signed.

I would question any additional request from this so-called recruiter.

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    You would have absolutely no rights to share any code, even upon acquiring a NDA. And NDAs cover sharing information with 3rd parties. The recruiter may be the competitor themselves! NDAs are also signed by those receiving the privileged information, not the one sending. Signing a NDA, then handing over privileged information to someone else doesn't make sense on an almost comical level. – Gregory Currie Mar 15 at 10:14
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    I think maybe I'm not explaining myself either. If person X, works for company Y, and recruiter Z is to meet with person X. For any NDA to have an effect, it must be between company Y and recruiter Z. The intellectual property belongs to company Y. Disclosing the IP is likely a breach of X's employee contract, regardless of whatever contractual conditions person X reaches with recruiter Z. – Gregory Currie Mar 15 at 10:27
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    It really depends what the employee contract states. As an aside, even discussing a patent can reveal information not in the patent. You also state that "Disclosing any sensitive information should be done only after getting an NDA signed." which I understand to mean... well... what it says. In addition, you say you are printing out "something like that", I'm not sure exactly what "that" means, can be several things. I'm not trying to analyse your answer to death, but it includes advice that allows the OP to be fired immediately. – Gregory Currie Mar 15 at 10:39
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    It's actually trivially easy to not talk about the specifics of work, and to be honest, most employees will not ask such questions. It's even easier to not share code belonging to your current employer and present it to a third party. In a lot of places doing so is instant dismissal. Giving the false sense that an NDA will somehow protect the employee is really dangerous to reader, and you should really consider rewording your answer. – Gregory Currie Mar 15 at 11:40
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    Disclosing any confidential information about your current or previous employer should happen NOT AT ALL. NEVER. – gnasher729 Mar 15 at 21:07
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As best as I can guess, one of two things is happening here, neither of which is good:

1) The company is asking you for reams and reams of data just because they can. They want to see if you'll do it, knowing full well that no real hiring manager will actually read the entire body of your corpus (plus, it's code not prose, so it's much more difficult to read). They're putting you through the paces to see how well you acclimatize to ridiculous requests. This means that you can be expected, on the job, to field such ridiculous requests and expected to do them. This is not good.

2) The company has such few applicants that the hiring manager has the spare time to read reams and reams of code from applicants to determine the good ones. This is a job nobody wants, and for good reason (because they ask for your entire corpus of everything you've ever done!). If nobody else wants to be associated with this company, why should you? Furthermore, it also speaks to the level of micromanagement in the company, where the hiring manager wants to read every line of code you're ever going to write, and has nothing better to do with their time than critique every member of their team personally and individually on a line-by-line basis. Run away from this type of micromanagement.

In any case, submit what you think is reasonable. Do not submit any code you have written for any employer, that's almost certainly very illegal. Take like 15 minutes of your time and put together a set of projects you have completed that you would feel comfortable submitting and ship it to them as a portfolio. If that's not enough for them, then simply say "sorry, that's all I have for you, if that's not enough then I think we're done here".

For future, you might want to consider hosting your personal projects on GitHub so that anyone can easily peruse your portfolio at their leisure rather than putting in this much work. It's near-zero work for you to put together a GitHub account, and then you don't have to go through this. Simply say "Look at my GitHub" and be done with it.

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