35

I know this will likely hurt my chances and I am willing to live with that. I would like to enforce a personal policy: I will not engage a recruiter if I do not see the job description (JD).

By doing this, I am hoping to avoid wasting time with dodgy recruiters and fake jobs.

It usually starts with something like this: "Hi Bob, I have an exciting opportunity from a multinational company expanding very fast in your area, are you interested?"

At this point whether it's a phone call or email, I'd like to tell them that I want to see the JD, and will not engage further until then.

I would like to be firm, indicating I absolutely need to see the JD (no half measures like disclosing bits of information in the JD but not letting me see the JD itself - preferably including the company name); on the other hand I don't want to sound too cold and unwelcoming.

So the question boils down to: what arguments could I use to persuade them? My usual arguments are:

  1. It saves time for both parties (in case I'm not interested/job doesn't match my skills, etc.);
  2. I won't go behind their back and apply directly.

What other arguments could I use?

  • 42
    Have you tried simply asking for the job description? If yes, how have they responded? – sf02 Aug 20 at 14:09
  • 8
    @sf02 Usually one of those: 1. "Happy to send but always want to have a chat first"; 2. "I cannot disclose the company name or job title but here are some bits of information about the role"; 3. In rare case I get the JD; 4. No response. I understand usually it means they don't have the JD... – Billy.Bob Aug 21 at 9:04
  • 2
    "I am hoping to avoid wasting time with dodgy recruiters and fake jobs." That's a difficult one because employers themselves will often post fake jobs. Whether a recruiter knows that the job is fake or not is not really relevant as they'll often go around in a resume collecting spree regardless. (See here.) Basically, if the job is fake, your questions will be answered with bs; look for overly generic and vague descriptions; a lack of specificity is often a good indicator that the job may be fake. – code_dredd Aug 22 at 17:13

13 Answers 13

17

Personally my approach would be to respond something like this:

Thank you for your query.

I am already in the process of interviewing with several potential employers, one of which sounds similar to the role you've described.

Are you able to provide the company name and role? I do not wish to apply for the same role multiple times.

If you are unable to provide me with such information for whatever reason, I thank you for your time, and wish you all the best.

Regards,

Billy.Bob

This response does several things.

Firstly, it gets them excited, because you're already interviewing. This makes it somewhat easier for them to engage with you, as they don't need to crowbar you away from your current company.

Then it gives you an (additional) plausible reason why you want to know the company name and role.

And lastly, you establish that by not providing the company and role, there is no chance of you engaging with the recruiter. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being upfront with you.

Yes, it is a numbers game. And if they are playing the numbers, they will let you know the company and role because a non-zero chance of a positive outcome is better than zero chance.

They may get back to you and ask you where you are interviewing. Simply deflected:

Thank you for your response.

At this stage I will not be divulging information relating to alternative opportunities.

Should we arrive at the contract negotiation stage, I will be happy to discuss such matters.

They may also claim that they have an exclusive contract with the company or that they are an employee. That doesn't prevent double application.

If they say they are the sole way to get employed at the company in question, they should have no issues revealing the company and role.

Because my threshold for dealing with recruiters is low, my third email would probably look something like this:

Good day.

You have not managed to provide the company name and role as requested.

I have decided to not explore this opportunity.

Thank you for your consideration.

  • 7
    This is going to be followed up by "Okay, please tell me the companies and roles that you're currently applying to" and in dirtier cases "oh, I have a good friend at Company X! How is your application going?" – Mars Aug 21 at 0:51
  • 6
    "Thank you for your response. At this stage I will not be divulging information relating to alternative opportunities. Should we arrive at the contract negotiation stage, I will be happy to discuss such matters." – Gregory Currie Aug 21 at 1:18
  • 2
    And that was the last Gregory Currie ever heard from Recruiter Z – Mars Aug 21 at 1:20
  • 7
    @Mars And that's fine. No approach is going to have a 100% hit rate. It's not likely they actually had a JD to begin with. – Gregory Currie Aug 21 at 1:24
  • 1
    @Mars But if you have an alternative approach, I'd love to read it. It may even be better than mine. – Gregory Currie Aug 21 at 1:25
38

I do the same thing. It helps to remember that for recruiters, it's a numbers game, and their incentive to hide the job description from you (assuming one exists) is to prevent you looking up the description and cutting them out. What this translates to is, if you play hardball, they usually budge.

So make it clear to them that you don't want your CV going anywhere, and that you're not going to sign any agreement with them, unless you see the actual job description.

  • 12
    What this translates to is, if you play hardball, they usually budge. What I usually find is that they will move on to other candidates, since it is a numbers game :( – Billy.Bob Aug 20 at 13:42
  • 8
    @Billy.Bob Yes, and it's fine. You don't want to work with them for that reason, and it's the same for them. – rath Aug 20 at 14:11
  • 64
    If they "move on" usually there's no actual job and they are just filling their virtual Rolodex with candidate names. – Julie in Austin Aug 20 at 14:14
  • 16
    As a casual aside, how much longer until most people don't understand what a rolodex is/was?... – Mars Aug 21 at 1:31
  • 7
    @Nelson: Meanwhile, my 30-year-old niece didn't know what to do with an URL the other week. – Daniel R. Collins Aug 21 at 4:35
18

I don't think it would be unreasonable at all to respond that you won't know if you are interested unless you can review the "opportunity" by reading the job description. Job titles are hardly enough information to make a decision on.

If they can't respect the fact that you need information to make a decision, then you likely don't want to work with them.

  • Which it is exactly what I usually do. +1 – Rui F Ribeiro Aug 20 at 14:57
4

I know this will likely hurt my chances and I am willing to live with that. I would like to enforce a personal policy: I will not engage a recruiter if I do not see the job description (JD).

I honestly do not understand this. This is exactly how one should work with recruiters. I mean, you cannot apply for a job (nor have your resume sent without your consent) without first seeing a job description.

Are you saying you have seen resumes sent without seeing a job description first? Because that would be insane.

To answer your question, you do not need to be combative. Engage with recruiters, have them meet you (hell, they usually meet you over lunch and who can say no to free food, wink wink.)

The best recruiters actually make a point to meet you even if they do not have a specific job opening. They need to evaluate you as a person - do you look and act professional, what kind of person are you, etc. They need to make sure they do not send an unwashed wacko to their customers. They reputations are on the line also.

So meet them, be courteous, exchange pleasantries. And when the time come when they want you to send a resume, they will likely discuss the position and send you a job description. You can either ask, politely, when they can send a job description, or they'll ask if they can send one to you (and you say yes, or whatever.)

Then, you look at the description, and then you ask for more question: what's the salary range, what are the benefits (with the client or the recruiter), overtime pay rules, who provides the computing equipment, size of the team, type of development process they use, who are the managers, what kind of project it is, how many people has the recruiter placed in that customer's facility (and project you might be assigned to work), etc.

But all that starts with a job description.

Getting a job description at the start of a conversation is such a common practice, I cannot imagine what kind of scenario you ran into that prompts you to ask these questions.

  • Lots of recruiters want to meet you personally first. This meeting is explained to learn more about you, your job interests so they can better serve you with positions you are interested in the future. It also helps them know you are serious and not some nut job that will misrepresent the type of candidates they'd like to present. When there are plenty of positions open and demand for candidates is high, this meeting is often just replaced with a phone call. – Jay Aug 21 at 19:35
3

In General

You are the product. The recruiter is the salesperson. They get a commission when they connect you to a job. They need to provide enough information to get you interested in a position. Whatever you need for that to happen is what you need for that to happen.

If you politely let the recruiter know what you need to proceed, any recruiter that you want to work with will meet your need. Any recruiter that doesn't meet your needs isn't going to sell you on the job, so it isn't worth wasting your time with them.

Just tell them what you need

  1. Reply to the first email thanking them for contacting you and ask for the job description - along with whatever other information you know you're going to want to know, like company name.

    Thanks for the email! I'd like to know more. Could you send me the job description?

    Thanks,

    Your Name

  2. If you receive a reply that reject sending the job description, tell them that you need to see the job description before you proceed.

    Before proceeding, I'd like to see the job description. Would you be so kind as to email it to me?

    Thanks,

    Your Name

  3. If they still refuse to send the job description, thank them for their time and wish them luck.

    I hear you. If you can't send me the job description, then I'm not interested in this role.

    Thank you for your time, and best of luck!

    Thanks,

    Your Name

At this point, the recruiter will either go away, or they'll send you the job description. The very rare recruiter may try to push; just ignore them - it's not worth your time to fight with a recruiter who isn't meeting your needs.

Be Polite

I don't want to sound too cold and unwelcoming.

You can write your emails in a perfectly polite manner - friendly, even, if you like - and stick to the facts. The fact is: you need to see the job description (and whatever else) before continuing.

Arguments Get Argued

what arguments could I use to persuade them [to send me the job description]?

Don't provide arguments - or reasons, or whatever you want to call them. When people hear arguments, it's natural to argue against them. For example, from the recruiter's perspective...

(NOTE: I have devil's advocate reasoning below. I happen to always take my own advice, so bear in mind that this isn't my position. It's just argument.)

It saves time for both parties

Devil's advocate says, "No, it'll totally be faster to just jump on the phone. Phone calls are much better communication channels (for most people) because you can hear tone of voice, not just words. Besides, the recruiter will be able to get a feel for your personality and help identify whether the work culture at this place is right for you - or if maybe a different role would be better."

in case I'm not interested

Devil's advocate says, "Job descriptions are inherently bad at communicating what a job is really about, and they don't tell you anything about the organization or the hiring manager. And if the job is uninteresting, helping the recruiter understand your interests will help them to find you the right job."

job doesn't match my skills etc

Devil's advocate says, "Job descriptions often have skills that can be learned, or that aren't actually all that important to the role. Sometimes, the skills you have are much more important to the hiring manager, and the recruiter can help sell the hiring manager on what you would bring to the table - and change the job, itself! How will you know if you don't actually talk to the recruiter and explore the position?"

I won't go behind their back and apply direct.

Remember: you're the commodity. Other recruiters are working to fill the same role, using the same techniques to get your resume/profile. If you're looking for a job, you might find the same role on your own. Unless you're in desperate need of a new job, It's in the recruiter's interest to meet your needs so that you'll work with them.

And if the recruiter won't work with you? Then you'll either find the job, or a different (and possibly better) one on your own, or with a different recruiter.

Partial Information

I would like to be firm, indicating I absolutely need to see the JD (no half measures like disclosing bits of information in the JD but not letting me see the JD itself - preferably including the company name);

If they send you partial information, just reply asking for the full details - essentially returning to step 2 above.

2

Many times the recruiter doesn't have a JD to give you. Possibilities are..

  • There is no job. The recruiter is really building up their list of candidates for expected future jobs.
  • This is based on a client chat and not an actual position that's open, and the recruiter is trying to impress the client by presenting a list of candidates that match that chat.
  • The recruiter is a VERY junior person who hasn't been given the JD, and has been told to find bodies or else.
  • The job is being posted by dozens (hundreds?) of recruiters all over town, and they're trying to disguise it somewhat to either make it look unique, or post it at a lower rate.
  • The client is contractually exclusive to specific recruiting agencies, this agency is not one of them, and they are trying to horn in on that action.
  • The recruiter is evaluated on a quota system to engage a certain number of new candidates, and this is a clever way to do that.

So in those situations, enforcing your policy is the equivalent of telling them 'don't engage with me until you have a JD', which is good.

( +1'd both of the above good answers)

  • Would a recruiter post at a lower rate, considering that they get paid a percentage of the rate? – JGNI Aug 21 at 14:40
  • I've seen it happen before where a large company without an exclusive agreement with recruiters post a position, and within a couple of hours I get four emails from different agencies all posting the same job but word-smithed slightly differently, with slightly different rates. Yes it happens. Maybe the thinking is they can make more money paying the contractor less. – Jim Horn Aug 21 at 15:26
2

Recruiters need to earn their money and our trust. There's plenty of other recruiters that will do you the minimum courtesy of sending a JD right away, which should include a pay range as well as a job location. The same goes if the JD doesn't even come close to what's in my resume, as they obviously haven't bothered to read it.

If it's an email, I generally don't respond to those queries. If they are too lazy to include a JD up front, they are likely too lazy to work for me to get the job. If they are just trying to fulfill quotas or there really isn't a job & just trying to get leads, I'm not wasting my time.

If it's a cold call, I wait for their email with a job description. If they never send one or it's not in my resume, I don't bother calling back. Again, if they don't do the minimum of their job, I don't feel the need to let them get paid for my work.

The reason for this is to not be desperate, or at least not to look desperate, for a job. If recruiters even think you are desperate, you'll get a low ball offer or they will deliberately hide something from the JD that makes it undesirable until they think it's "too late" for you to back out. I've gone to interviews and found out about deal breakers, like massive overtime, lots of unpaid on-call, considerable amounts of distractions, and more from jobs. I flat out told the recruiter it wasn't in the JD and I'm not interested. Don't fall for their tricks, it'll only cost you, not them.

You need to work from a position of strength, not weakness, to get a job. Even when you're junior, you need to sell yourself correctly to get a job that isn't demeaning, decently paying, and isn't going to kill you or your work ethic. Sure, there's plenty of things you can negotiate and concede to, but you can't just let people walk all over you, either. I've let that happen to myself too much, and it hasn't gotten me anywhere I want.

1

I'm honestly shocked that recruiters are recommending you a job without one. How on earth do they expect you to make a decision without the relevant information.

My advice is to simply make your requirement clear. Something like:

Dear Rec Ruiter,

I'd like some more information before engaging this company. Could you send through a job description before I make any decisions?

Yours,

Bob

If they start prevaricating at this stage, don't start haggling over the info, just be clear, polite and walk away.

Dear Rec Ruiter,

I can't make any decisions based on the information you've provided, so unfortunately I won't be able to work with you on this occasion.

Regards

Bob

0

You don't have to justify asking for a job description. I never have and in all but one case the recruiter sent me the JD I asked for. If they cold call me, I sometimes will talk to them for a minute or so before asking for it.

You say you tell the recruiter, "I won't go behind your back". Okay, but that's really not necessary. If a recruiter is afraid of that they won't give you the name/contact info of the hiring company until they've already sent your name to the employer. In some other cases, they're the exclusive recruiter for the hiring company so they have nothing to worry about.

It's in your interest to give feedback to the recruiter for jobs you don't want or can't do. This can be done in email.

0

It's a frustration I recognize all too well. I have tried putting in my profile: "Only concrete information and/or offers please". I have tried responding with: "Could you send me more concrete information about the offer?". I have tried going along with them. It just doesn't work. I have found out after years of recruiter harassment and spam that getting a decent job description before being goaded into joining some recruitment agency's candidate list depends on the recruiter and the agency they work for, not on your method of asking for more information. They either provide it up front or they don't provide it at all. My current strategy is to simply ignore any and all "offers" that don't include certain pieces of information I want, it's an uphill battle to try and get anything useful out of these morons.

0

I do not work to persuade a recruiter: they're applying to me to be my agent. They need to fulfill my job requirements for that role. I have one good one and two sufficient ones whom I contact when needed, but I'm always interested in getting another good one. There are enough avenues to apply for jobs, that I don't need to coddle any one petitioner to get me in the door.

The critical point is that the agent must demonstrate how they will add value to this employment transaction. Most of the fail: they're simply spamming contacts made through an unintelligent set of search criteria. I have no compunctions about keeping them at arm's length, anywhere from simply deleting the email to blacklisting their domain, depending on the level of offense.

I've been a realtor; I understand the need for an agency agreement. As a contractor, I will not enter into such an agreement until the agent has shown to be effective. Too many of them ask for the exclusive representation agreement before presenting proper credentials and a credible job opportunity. Checking out the contracting company's web site is no guarantee -- I've encountered two agencies with a lovely web site and horrid communication practices.

My filter for an agent includes:

  • Initial contact is written in acceptable business format and presentation. For instance, presuming an existing connection immediately relegates the email to the spam folder.
  • English mechanics (grammar, semantics, and diction) are correct and concise.
  • The job description suggests that I qualify for the position.
  • Other material suggests that I'd want to work in that position.

If any of this is missing, I explain the deficiencies to the sender. If they don't wish to provide the required information, I drop the contact and go on with my life; they're not a match. Before they get any additional information from me, they need to explain why they think I'm a good match for the position. "Send me your latest resume, and we'll talk" tells me that they expect me to do part of their job for them.

  • You may be in a different situation but the recruiter is usually paid by the company not the candidate so they're really working for the company. I am just nit-picking here. The advice provided seems sound. – Stephen Rasku Aug 22 at 16:08
  • In my situation (USA), the recruiter makes a percentage of the total billing. Yes, the company issues the check and technically pays the recruiter, but the payment is, for all practical purposes, a proportional deduction from my paycheck. The agent has a continuing responsibility to both parties, and is legally covered by dual-agency fiduciary responsibility laws. In short, the agent works for both contractor and company. – Prune Aug 22 at 16:13
0

Other answers have covered why the job description should be available. But your "job description" includes something else too, which is the name of the company.

You will not get the company name from a recruiter until you've agreed that they put you in contact with the company. When you agree to be put in contact with the company, you've started their contract with the company where if you take the job then they get paid. If they tell you that this company is recruiting, there is nothing to stop you going directly to them and cutting out the recruitment middleman. Even if the recruiter discovered this and sued, it would be very difficult for them to prove their case.

Of course you say you won't go behind their back, but nothing would stop you doing exactly that.

From the recruiter's point of view, the job description and location are enough for any candidate to decide whether they're basically interested or not. If you want to go further, they'll tell you the company name when you say you pursue this. If you check and find that company isn't somewhere you want to work, you can always cancel then.

But you will never, ever, get a recruiter to tell you the company name before you agree to start the recruitment process. This is a cast iron guarantee. Or if they do, they must be so new to the job that they don't know the rules yet, in which case they're likely not the best people to be in contact with. No competent recruiter would ever do this. So if you try to hold out for the company name, you're essentially ruling yourself out of every job found by every recruiter.

-1

As a Recruiter, I can share the reason even a very good recruiter is unlikely to send a job description- this is the equivalent of intellectual property to us! This information is what we use to feed our families, and many people will Google phrases from it and apply directly. This makes us unpaid search engines. If you want to know if a Recruiter is worthwhile, look at his/her profile- is he/she a specialist in your industry? Does he/she have some tenure? If the answer to these questions is "yes," you should be talking. Even if the role they originally presented isn't a fit, this is a person who is likely to get other roles that will and can serve as a real advisor in your career.

  • 1
    So what's your answer to the question? – Cypher Aug 20 at 23:18
  • 2
    @Cypher the answer seems to me is "Don't try to persuade them from giving you the JD" (in other words, don't foo the bar). – DarkCygnus Aug 20 at 23:44
  • So change the wording without changing the content...Take the hour it takes to rewrite the JD, include it in the message and I bet your recruiter spam will get a lot more hits – Mars Aug 21 at 0:52
  • 2
    What do candidates gain from cutting out the recruiter and applying directly? – Mehrdad Aug 21 at 1:23
  • 14
    My CV is my intellectual property, that I use to feed my family. It's unreasonable to expect me to hand over my information if you are unwilling to reciprocate. If you're truly providing added value for candidates, then they won't want to bypass you. It's sad to say but in the modern recruitment world, I think you're less likely to lose someone to a direct application than you are to lose someone because they think you're one of the thousands of fakes and scammers out to take advantage of them. – bta Aug 21 at 2:31

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