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I have been working with a recruiter. He has gotten me an interview with a company. Each time he speaks to me he asks things like "has there been any updates from your end like any new conversations with prospects or interviews lined up?" How should I reply? Should I give a number like "zero" or "one"? If it makes a difference the recruiter works for a large recruiting agency.

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"I'm currently in discussions for a number of opportunities"

That's my standard answer for this question. And most of the time, it's true.

Now, discussions is vague enough to include:

  • I've emailed the recruiter.
  • I've booked an interview.
  • I've booked a second interview.
  • I've received an offer.
  • I've sent a counter-offer.

Etc.

A number could be 1, 2 or above.

If they push for more detail, you can choose to elaborate if you wish - I would generally give just a high-level view.

The only time I might choose to divulge specifics is of I'm going to use it for negotiations. E.g. "just to let you know, I have written offers on the table for $X amount and so I wouldn't be accepting anything less than $X"

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All recruiters are different, and will have different motivations for this question.

Some will ask it because they want to see how in-demand you and your skills are. They can use that when talking to clients, "I've got candidate user130167; he's in demand, won't be on the market long, you should move fast"

Some will ask it because they want to know who you're intervewing with; they'll then call that company and try to get a requisition out of them, whether that tramples over your application or not (I once had this happen)

So, the true answer is, we can't answer this one.

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  • That said other than looking "in demand" I can't really think of any circumstances where it is beneficial to you, to disclose who or how far through the process you are.
    – DavidT
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 1:11
  • "he's in demand, won't be on the market long, you should move fast" - wouldn't a recruiter just say this anyway, whether it be true or not?
    – Steve
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 5:39
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    @steve: are you saying that recruiters might lie? Say it ain't so!
    – PeteCon
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 13:46
  • And some will ask simply because they're trying to come across as friendly and interested in you as an individual. Some may even be friendly and interested in you as an individual. Not everything has nefarious motives.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 16:05
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Not all recruiters have the same interests.

An in-house, corporate recruiter asks this question solely to ascertain how close you might be to accepting other opportunities. A recruiter for agencies (head-hunters, body-shops, or whatever you'd like to call them) will also ask this question, but also wants to know:

  • If the skill you're hiring for is trending in demand right now. Agency recruiters work on a base-salary-plus-commission basis. It's in their self interest to know what's hot in the market.
  • Where there's a lot of hiring going on right now, for the same reasons as above.

My response isn't dissimilar to other answers here, but I'd also like to add that agency recruiters who start asking for references even before securing any interviews for you are doing this to find decision-makers via your references to sell to. Again, there's that self-interest at hand.

With all of the, it's okay to not divulge too much information by simply saying something like, "I'm not in a place where I can share that information". That's a generic answer. Sometimes if I'm in the mood I'll even say, "now hey, you know I can't give up that kind of information for free!" That's usually enough to convey that I know what they're doing, and they'll change the subject very quickly. The first approach is safer (smile) and with the second approach, use it at your own risk.

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There's three main reasons offhand why recruiters may ask this, none of which are necessarily in your interest:

  • To avoid proceeding with you if they think you're going to divert to a different job offer elsewhere.

  • To understand whether it's worth doorstepping your current employer, to backfill your departure from existing employment.

  • To gain intelligence about recruitment opportunities being handled by their competitors, in which they may be able to intervene and undercut.

The best way to handle this is to simply acknowledge you've sent a few CVs out or that you're talking about other opportunities, but refuse to be drawn on specifics. If necessary, be explicit in limiting their snooping, "I'm calling to talk about your opportunity (...and not any others)".

Avoid even thinking to yourself that any other opportunity has materialised, unless you have a solid offer.

The only reason for deviating is if you have a specific reason, such as seeking an improvement on an existing offer.

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Mostly I would think they're just fishing for information which might be useful to them. That's their job and agenda, they're not your friends looking for some chitchat, so naturally they'll ask about your work prospects.

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I think everyone here is missing the most common and reasonable reason they ask this: they need to know how quickly they need to proceed with you. If you're in the 2nd round of interviews at company A, then company B needs to step up the pace or risk you having an offer and needing to decide before they're ready (or miss out). Generally recruiters will make an effort to move up schedules in response to situations like that. I'm doing that right now, I have an onsite with one company (likely to be the final loop) at the end of this week while another is just scheduling the first of 3 rounds. If that 1st one with them goes well we'll need to hit the gas on round 2 in case I land the first job.

This applies mostly to in house recruiters, but also to 3rd parties, as they'll need to impress on their hiring manager/counterparts how fast things need to happen.

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