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I have recently applied for a job through a recruitment agency, and had my interview last Thursday. On Friday the agent called me and said that the company is keen on giving me an offer. He said he will send me an email later to confirm, and instructed me to write back to state that I have withdrawn my other applications at other companies.

I felt uncomfortable doing so, and I asked for some time to consider. He did not like this answer, so I added that this is a life-changing decision to make (being my first job ever) and told him to at least give me the weekend to think this through.

I did not receive his email until today (Sunday) morning. He stated that the company has given me an offer, but he gave me literally no details on the offer - no salary, no start date, no work hours, nothing. He instructed me to (1) confirm that I am happy to accept, (2) (once again) asked me to withdraw all my other applications (even asked me to BCC him when doing so), and (3) provide my home address so that the company can draw up the contract.

Later in the evening (a few hours ago) he sent me yet another email again asking me to withdraw my other applications.

Being a first-time job seeker and a foreigner I am not sure whether this is standard practice in the UK culture, but this appears to be very suspicious to me. I have never heard before of anyone accepting a job offer without even knowing the terms of the contract, and I feel really uncomfortable putting all my eggs in one basket that isn't even my first choice.

So my question is, is it normal for recruitment agents to send out job offers without any details? If not, what details should I expect in a proper job offer? And is it normal for them at this stage to require me to withdraw other applications? Or is something shady going on with this agency? It felt really coercive and pressurizing.


Update: Thanks to all the answers and comments. A brief chronological list of events that happened:

  • I contacted the company directly, and was told that the agent's instructions are "in line with what [they] would expect during this stage of the recruitment process."
  • I informed the agent that I will not withdraw other applications without a formal offer letter.
  • The agent sent me the offer letter. Very brief though, only one page long, mentions salary (a decent amount) and benefits, but not work hours.
  • I interviewed at another company, and received an offer from them. They were a lot more professional. After calling me to tell me the news, they very swiftly sent me an offer letter and the full contract, with literally every detail there is, from who I'll be reporting to, to how long my notice period will be. This position has also been my first choice even before all that ordeal.

Happily working now, should be obvious which company I ended up at.

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    What was there in the offer, if virtually everything that normally constitutes an offer is omitted in theirs? – Pavel Sep 9 at 7:10
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    @Pavel To summarize: "Congrats on getting this offer from [companyname]! [General description about company]. [The three instructions I mentioned in the post above]." – ace_HongKongIndependence Sep 9 at 7:24
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    Have you considered that the recruiter may have simply forgotten that the email with the formal proposal has not been sent yet? Or maybe he did send you the email, but you overlooked it and forgot about it? – Mefitico Sep 9 at 14:00
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    For this interview, did you have to travel to the bricks and mortar offices of a reputable and known firm? Or was this all by telephone? What sort of position is this? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 9 at 17:44
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    @ace - This does not seem to be the company/ hiring people's doing, it seems to be your Recruiting Agency trying to lock their "commission" by having a guarantee commit before you even see your offer. Please out this Agent & Agency. Very bad practices. I've seen some people pull this kind of "compulsive & coercive" behavior; esp when they know they can arm twist a desperate Job Seeker. If you weren't they wouldn't be able to pull such crap – Alex S Sep 11 at 14:26
378

So my question is, is it normal for recruitment agents to send out job offers without any details?

In my experience, that is not at all normal. I've never encountered it personally, nor have I ever heard of it before. As a hiring manager, I never required anything like it from applicants.

If not, what details should I expect in a proper job offer?

I expect to see all the details, in writing, before I am willing to accept an offer. An "offer" without salary or work hours isn't a real offer at all.

And is it normal for them at this stage to require me to withdraw other applications?

That is not at all normal.

Or is something shady going on with this agency? It felt really coercive and pressurizing.

It might be something shady, it certainly is coercive.

I would tell the agency and company that I would expect to withdraw all other applications if and only if I accept a formal, written offer. Otherwise, I intend to leave all of my options open.

If they cannot accept those terms for some reason, I'd thank them for their time and move on.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Sep 10 at 15:40
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    If it turns out to not be shady, it's still incredibly odd, and that might be reason enough to run the other way. – DonBoitnott Sep 11 at 17:41
179

Don't do it!

No, it's not normal. Seeing how likely an offer is to fall through (better candidate found, bad fit, etc.) you should never put all your eggs in one basket, even if you actually had been given a full job description.

Best case, the job is real and something that interests you and something you're qualified for and you actually get an offer. Even then, they know you gave away all your bargaining power (no other offers) and can lowball the salary they're willing to offer you.

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    Good point about bargaining power which I didn't think about. Follow-up question: Intuitively I would expect, when getting an actual job offer, that the salary would be included as part of the offer, but upon reading your last paragraph you seem to suggest that getting an offer and discussing the salary occurs as separate processes - would you mind clarifying that? (Sorry it's my first job I really don't know how it works.) – ace_HongKongIndependence Sep 8 at 20:13
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    @ace the job offer should include a proposed salary. You can accept it as is or make a counter offer, saying that you'd be happy to accept the offer for X+Y%. – Celos Sep 9 at 6:11
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    A good answer. Keep your calm and wait for the full details of the offer. I would simply not give any answer to the request to withdraw other applications, simply answer something like "I look forward to receive the full details of the employment offer". Understand that the recruiter possibly simpy wants his Commission. – ghellquist Sep 9 at 13:37
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    This is a great answer. I personally like hearing the recruiter squirm a little when I mention I have other interviews recently or scheduled in the near future. This is your negotiating foundation, so don't give it up! – computercarguy Sep 9 at 19:19
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    This exact situation happened to me. Once I withdrew from other (actually real!) offers, they lowballed me on salary after stringing me along for so long while unemployed that I had no savings left and had to take their miserable job, where they continued to change the terms of employment arbitrarily. The year that followed was the worst of my life; I ended up walking out. This is a cult recruitment tactic-- once you give up your outside connections, you become dependent on someone who will only exploit you further. Don't do it. There's a reason they're being evasive. – Ivan Sep 11 at 22:23
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I worked previously as a recruiter including with a couple of staffing agencies.

Yes, it is common practice for agency recruiters to request that you withdraw from any other positions, including to ask to be BCC'd on messages to those other opportunities/recruiters/hiring managers. They are trying to do everything they can to land the deal, which includes asking you to sabotage your processes with other potential employers. This is standard practice and new recruiters are trained by upper management to do this.

It is also common practice for candidates to lie to their recruiters about competing opportunities. Quite often candidates would tell me they have no other ongoing search activity, but then when I attempted to schedule them for a next round interview or let them know of an offer from an end client, they would decline letting me know they have moved forward with something else.

In case of asking to BCC, almost no candidates were OK with this, and it almost never happened. Especially if the agency is aware of one of their clients intending to hire you, they are highly unlikely to withdraw you because you aren't willing to withdraw from other opportunities. They understand that what they are asking is unreasonable, yet they are doing as they were trained, and they expect you to refuse or to lie. Worst case is that they really don't have an offer for you, but they want to get "leads", or the names of hiring managers at other companies, so they can solicit them for business.

Unfortunately you will have to trust your intuition on how much you can trust what they say. But just that they are asking you to withdraw from other positions shouldn't be justification to not work with them, as this is standard practice.

You absolutely should not withdraw from other opportunities. Numerous times I have had end clients withdraw an offer last minute, sometimes the day before the scheduled start date. You don't want to be left with nothing.

Yes, unfortunately it is also common for offers from staffing agencies to be without much detail. The communication pipeline within staffing agencies is often quite challenging. There are usually a number of recruiters per account manager. The account manager owns the communication with the hiring managers of multiple end-companies. The account manager is responsible for relaying information back to the team of recruiters, and to forward communication from the recruiters back to the hiring manager.

It isn't necessarily the fault of the account manager or the recruiter working with you to have few details. It very well may be that the hiring manager isn't very interested in being clear with the account manager, as often there is a strained relationship between the end company and the staffing agency.

A common scenario I encountered was for the account manager to inquire with hiring manager after the final interview, to ask if they would like to proceed with onboarding the candidate. Replies can be as brief as: "they were OK let me know if accepts." Then, the account manager tells the recruiter the hiring manager wants to move forward, and to go ahead and let the candidate know, and to let them (the account manager) know if candidate accepts, then will contact the end company that the answer is a yes.

It's a big game of telephone, if you know the expression. Many layers, significant delays, frustration from all parties, missing details, etc. The hiring manager usually isn't interested in having a conversation with the account manager about start date, workspace, or any conditions unless they know that the candidate accepts. The account manager is juggling multiple offer processes with other clients, your recruiter has 30 other candidates they are working with at various different phases of the process (scheduling interviews, etc.), and nobody has time to spend on what they perceive as hypotheticals.

In terms of no salary information, that is very uncommon, if not impossible. An agency typically cannot formally submit a candidate to an end client without specifying the financial information related to that candidate. More-so it would be highly unlikely for a hiring manager to be able to make a hiring decision without knowing how it would fit into their budget.

The agency can't specify the financial information unless they have discussed with you about your rate or at least an acceptable range. It wouldn't make any sense for the agency to submit you, get you an interview, get the client interested in hiring you, and then find out that your salary expectation was too high to allow for the deal to go through. That would waste everyone's time, so perhaps sometime earlier in your conversations with your recruiter you did agree at least to some range?

With that said, at least on the contract/consultant/temp side which was most of my experience, the vast majority of the offers I extended via a staffing agency were verbal offers only. Definitely no official offer letter, no information on parking, no information about the work environment, dress-code, work hours, perks, etc.

I would bet UK law requires an employment agreement which the agency will send to you to sign, which does stipulate the rate, title, and other required legal information, but that is usually the last step after the candidate accepts the verbal offer, and the account manager has finalized the deal with the hiring manager. Verbal offers were typically worded along the lines of "...the exact rate is TBD, and it depends on how the client wants to level the role, but as long as the rate meets the range requirements we discussed previously, do you accept this position?"

In case of having only discussed/stipulated a rate range, once the staffing agency has secured the deal then they will crunch the numbers and see where your final pay rate lands. It isn't always at the bottom of the range. Sometimes the contract with the end clients stipulates a set mark up, and the resulting pay rate might be higher than what you were expecting. This happens because the agency wants to maximize the rate they are charging the end client, so if they know that the end client was prepared to pay a rate higher than would be required to meet your salary expectation, the agreement may stipulate that you have to payed an equivalent rate.

I've extended offers of $80k to candidates who were only requiring $60k+. Of course if there isn't a set agreement, the agency will bill the client as much as they can, pay you as little as possible, and pocket the rest. Within reason: the agency doesn't want you to quit as soon as you secure a better position. Despite all the bad press about staffing agencies, and all the waste and misinformation in a horribly inefficient process, I have found that for the most part pay rates do align pretty well with the greater market, because if they didn't nobody would agree to work with them or at least stay working with them for very long.

In summary, as a new worker, I would suggest working though a staffing agency as a last resort, as the process of going direct through an employer's HR department is much easier, more transparent, typically better paying, and more secure. If sometime in your career you want to explore being a contractor or consultant, then you will unfortunately have to work with staffing agencies. At that point it is beneficial to find a few agency teams/companies who you can work with and who won't drive you crazy.

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    If in fact this is standard practice within UK recruitment agencies, then I don't think that does anything except lower my (already low) impression of them; it certainly doesn't change the primary advice being given to OP, that withdrawing from other opportunities is vastly premature, and that he ought to seriously reconsider working with anyone who would ask him to do so. In my experience (in the US, in the tech industry) this is absolutely not standard practice. – BradC Sep 9 at 19:50
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    "the only employee/employer relationship is between you and the agency" -- I don't think this will be true in my case, the UK Government clearly states that the employment agency will not be the employer in permanent positions. (And in fact I have now received an offer letter from the company - not the agency.) – ace_HongKongIndependence Sep 9 at 20:29
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    @blakemade I upvoted your answer as a useful contribution to the discussion, and I'm not doubting that these tactics are common within some agencies. But there is no way OP should see "prove you've withdrawn your other applications, even though I can't give you any details about my offer" as a reasonable request, just like "add a few more buzzwords to your resume, they'll never check them" is not a reasonable request. At some level, candidates need to trust their recruiter is at least communicating accurate information in good faith; this kind of request immediately calls that into question. – BradC Sep 9 at 20:37
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    @BradC thanks for the upvote! Reasonable? Definitely not. Trust me, even recruiters know it is absurd. Normal? Absolutely. It sounds like at least you were consulted about your resume edits? You would be amazed (maybe not?) by how common it is for edits to happen without your knowledge. At no point should a candidate trust that their agency recruiter is being transparent with them. It is almost always predatory to some degree. Some candidates are good at playing the game, and can even exploit the system to their gain, but education should happen to help everyone know what is going on. – blakemade Sep 9 at 20:55
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    +1 for honesty and giving us the insider view. – Scrontch Sep 10 at 13:21
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Seems fishy. It could be incompetence or it could be malicious. Most likely it is an incompetent attempt at being malicious.

You've got three choices:

  1. Politely ask for more details but make it clear that you will not cancel your job search until you have a clear and complete job offer.
  2. Cut ties with the recruiter. Send an email saying that you are no longer interested in the job, do not wish any further contact and would like them to destroy all personal information including your CV and contact details.
  3. Lie. Tell the recruiter you have withdrawn your other applications and see where the rabbit hole goes.

You absolutely shouldn't withdraw your other applications until you are certain that you have a legitimate and detailed offer of employment that you are happy to accept.

Personally I'd opt for option 1.

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    Me, I would go with Option 2, there are other, better, recruiters out there. – Solar Mike Sep 9 at 6:11
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    I'd start with 1 and move on to 2 depending on the result. I would strongly advise against 3. You don't want to get a reputation for dishonesty, even if it is due to dodgy practices by someone else. – mcalex Sep 9 at 6:56
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    "Most likely it is an incompetent attempt at being malicious." - Well said! – Fildor Sep 9 at 7:56
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    I’d do #2 sort of. I’d send him a letter saying I am not interested in ANY more contact from someone so unprofessional and dishonest. – WGroleau Sep 9 at 13:14
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    @Geronimo The issue is if other people find out that you lied to that recruiter. This can happen in all sorts of ways; it's best just to stay honest all the time if you want to maintain a reputation for honesty. – Curt J. Sampson Sep 10 at 4:47
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This is really, really weird.

Asking you to withdrawn from other companies is already a big red flag, but this mystery offer is even worst. You should demand to see the offer, as you have to consider a lot of things before accepting a job. Even so, you should really focus on getting into another job.

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    This particular behaviour is weird, but it's not unusual for agencies to be coercive and a little shady. Their commissions are large and permies may not deal with the same agent twice in their career. – Robin Bennett Sep 9 at 15:01
  • "withdrawn""withdraw". "worst""worse". – Peter Mortensen Sep 10 at 18:50
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If you wish to continue working with this shady recruiter then your next response should be something like:

Hi Recruiter,

Withdrawing my applications from elsewhere is not something I am comfortable doing unless I have signed an official offer letter from your client.

I assure you that if I choose to sign your client's offer letter then I am not one to entertain any other offers which may shortly follow.

Thank you


Do NOT sign any declarations about withdrawing applications elsewhere. You are completely entitled to job hunt for a position which suits you best.


My guess is that you were too honest with this recruiter. One of the very first questions which recruiters ask me is:

Are you currently applying or interviewing with other companies?

The answer should always be a simple "No".

They claim to ask this so that they don't try to double-apply you to some position. This makes sense but why would a reputable recruiter apply you for a position without asking you?

If they present a possible job to you which you did apply for then you can just say it doesn't sound like a good fit. If they double-apply you to somewhere then the hiring manager should inform them and if the recruiter asks you about it then you will know they didn't have your best interest in mind by applying you without consent. This would be a good enough reason to no longer do business with that recruiter.

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    The simplified flux for any recruiter question is: a) is this information they are requesting relevant to performing the position I'm applying to? If YES, answer truthfully. If NO, dismiss the question and move on. The recruiters does not work for you, they work for themselves. You are the product they are selling. – Mindwin Sep 9 at 16:22
  • You are definitely correct in assuming I answered "yes" to the question, lesson learnt. I have already replied to the recruiter a few hours ago, similar to your first paragraph but slightly stronger worded. I didn't have anything like your second paragraph, instead I insisted on my legal right to review a contract before agreeing to it. – ace_HongKongIndependence Sep 9 at 16:28
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    @ace I'm sorry to hear that you are dealing with such a subversive recruiter. Their goal is to get you to burn all of your other bridges so that you have no other choice besides accepting whatever low-ball offer the recruiter told the client they can offer you; this assumes that the client actually does want to hire you and doesn't find someone better before the offer letter is written. A more sinister situation would be that the recruiter is trying to hire someone else where you have already applied so they are trying to increase the chances of the other person getting hired. – MonkeyZeus Sep 9 at 16:53
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    @MonkeyZeus Luckily just half an hour ago the agent sent me an offer letter (dated today). I think I'll keep having it under consideration while attending interviews in the next coming days as well (they were scheduled quite a few days prior). Just to keep my options open. – ace_HongKongIndependence Sep 9 at 17:02
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    @ace Well that's good to hear that they actually have an offer letter to present to you. If the job actually interests you then I would recommend waiting no longer than 3 days to accept it. If you're okay with not acquiring the job then you can just let it sit around for a bit but I assume the recruiter is going too keep pestering you the whole time. – MonkeyZeus Sep 9 at 17:08
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Consider doubling down

If you get the question

are you pursuing other positions?

This should be translated as

How do you present your position and what setting would you like negotiations to take place in?

The answer should depend on your preferences:

  1. If you want to be flexible, show dedication, and allow for delays without losing credibility or power, then the answer can be you are not looking at other positions.
  2. If you want to be in a strong position, and are willing to break with them if they don't make a good offer in a reasonable time. Then the answer can be there are other options in play.

It seems you have opted for scenario 2, on purpose or by just telling it as it is.

Now you have some options:

  • Withdrawing all applications while you literally have nothing in hand. This puts you at risk, weakens your negotiation position, and allows them to do whatever they want from here.
  • Imply that you withdrew all applications (avoid lying where possible, but you may have to in this scenario), without doing anything. This does not put you in direct risk, but does weaken your negotiation position somewhat.
  • Indicate the other companies (whom you will not name) really like you, and you have or expect to get a reasonable offer from them. However, you really would rather work for this company so please come up fast with an offer you cannot refuse to make sure things can close quickly in the best way for everyone.

I personally have used the last option, and it was actually true (I had a comparable offer, but wanted to work for the company I joined). However, even if you don't have the actual offers yet you can choose to go for this line to strengthen your negotiaton position as much as possible.

Of course, be aware that if you would go for a bluff, they might call it and you may not be able to join this company any more. However, I would typically rather join something under good terms, than anything under bad conditions.


As this is a negotiation, you will note I have not added the option: "Ask the recruiter to please not be mean as it makes you uncomfortable". I don't think there is much to be gained from that from a person who just asked you to drop everything that is competing with him.

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    Not downvoting, but you really should tweak your third bullet point to make it clear that you're not identifying specific companies. Because if a recruiter/company is shady enough to pull the stuff OP is talking about, they're definitely shady enough to follow your other leads and try to tank you. – Kevin Sep 11 at 18:38
  • @Kevin Of course, have added it explicitly now. – Dennis Jaheruddin Sep 12 at 8:37
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Just lie to that recruiter that you have of course withdrawn your other applications. He is just a cheapskate who desperately needs the money he only gets if you sign a contract.

  • The request is unfair and unreasonable, and imo very close to criminal coercion.
  • So he cannot do anything about it if you lie
  • That recruiter has no reasonable or legitimate way to find out about your other applications
  • If he has inside information from some other company, he also lands his informer in legal trouble
  • That company with the alleged offer will fire and sue him if they find out, because if that gets out in the public, it is a rare piece of PR which is worse than no PR.
  • Lastly its an empty threat, unless that guy is a real, certified moron. Would be idiotic to not give you the company contact even if he thinks you did not retract your other applications, because in that case you cannot sign a contract and he will definitely not get any money.
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    Eh, this is a bad idea simply from the perspective of negotiation leverage. I mean, if the company thinks "This guy retracted all his other offers", they're going to be less inclined to budge on a salary negotiation - they're going to think you don't have many good alternatives to taking the position. Sure you didn't actually retract the offers, but the company won't know that, and so the company will be negotiating from a position where they believe you don't have alternatives. You'll either then have to admit to your lie or be put in a weakened bargaining position. – Kevin Sep 11 at 18:36
  • @Kevin I see your point, but firstly, thats better than not negotiating at all, secondly, Im not sure the company knows about this coercive scheme, and thirdly, Id just flat out tell them I still have other offers. That might backfire if they actually want some form of amoeba for the job, and that Id count as a lucky escape for me. ;) – Karl Sep 11 at 18:49
  • I think you might need to clarify/rework your answer. The first sentence of your answer is "Just lie to the recruiter that you have withdrawn your other apps" - and your comment is, "I'd just flat out tell them I still have other offers." Those are two wildly different courses of action. Worse, if your plan is "lie to the recruiter, tell the truth to the company", just know that the recruiter is going to forward everything you send to them onto the company... and then the company's going to realize you're lying to at least one party. – Kevin Sep 11 at 18:56
  • @Kevin You mean I should put the last sentence of my comment into the answer? – Karl Sep 11 at 19:52

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