In the past I've worked with recruiting agency A. Today I was contacted by recruiter B, whom I knew through recruiting agency A but has now left and is now working for recruiting agency C. The conversation was mostly amiable and normal, except that he asked a couple of times that I keep our dealings hush-hush from agency A. That raised warning bells with me, just because trying to keep things hushed-up can mean that something inappropriate is happening. My suspicion, or best guess, is that B is using some information in violation of agency A's confidentiality or non-compete agreement. I know that not all legitimate job endings leave on friendly terms, but I'm having a little difficulty thinking of a legitimate reason why he would contact me after knowing me through agency A and then ask that I keep his contacting me hushed-up from agency A.

Two questions:

First of all, is this suspicious, in line with my guess-work, or are there straightforward and perfectly believable reasons why B would contact me while working for C and ask me to keep this a secret from A?

Second of all, where do I go from here? Has he shown himself a breaker of trust? Is this a regular recruiting relationship which I should take at face value? Is it something else? What should our dealings (if any) be from here?

  • 3
    To be honest, if he is doing something underhanded, that pretty much is "a regular recruiting relationship which you should take at face value". Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 7:22
  • If I had to wager a guess, I'd say that there was some agreement in his leaving A, that he could not contact clients he met through A.
    – David K
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 16:53

4 Answers 4


This does seem a bit suspicious to my mind. I'd likely call B back to confirm what are the parts to be hidden. If it is just his name, then I could understand that part of him not wanting you to call up A and tell them, "Hey, you remember this guy B? Now he is working for C..." which is just gossiping and not that productive. On the other side, if he is telling you not to tell A that you are working with C that would be a big red flag to my mind. I've often had recruiting firms ask if I'm working with other firms and I believe it is fine to disclose the name of the firms.


Unless you have a non-compete with Agency A or some other obligation that you require disclosure, or prevent your working with Agency C, or the recruiter, then you have no obligation to Agency A in this regard. It is more likely that the recruiter could be in violation of his seperation agreement by working with you since he originally made the contact through Agency A.

More likely the recruiter wants to avoid the appearance of impropriety where that is involved. If the two of you talk about your professional relationship you have had in the past then it could look as if the recruiter was targeting the contacts he made with Agency A, which while probably not illegal, is definitely on the shady side of the morality fence as far as the agencies are concerned.

If you are concerned about the potential issues ask the recruiter directly. If after that talk you still do not feel comfortable you have several real options.

  • You can ask your recruiter to disclose the prior relationship to his company and get them to sign something that they will accept the risk
  • You could contact Agency A and ask them if they have an objection to your working with the recruiter. (If you choose to do this I would make it clear that regardless of their answer you do not intend to work with Agency A at this time)
  • You can ignore that feeling of concern and take what is probably a very low risk to you but could cause some complications you have to deal with down the road.
  • Or choose not to work with the recruiter now.

You have to choose what you are most comfortable with. For me when the whole thing starts off with a shady feel, I have found that I wish I had listened to my gut at the start. Every one of my horror stories involving consulting started with a something that gave me that feeling that something wasn't quite right. I do not really know how many times I have thought that and been wrong either, but it was more than once.

  • I'm not sure that the OP needs to get anything in writing from this recruiter regarding "risk". It boils down to what agreement, if any, the OP has signed with the original firm. If that agreement says he won't work with former employees then he needs to not work with the recruiter. However, if he hasn't signed anything then any issues that show up are entirely between the recruiter and the former company. Either way, 1+ for the first sentence and on the part about having a bad feeling. Regardless of the situation, if you have a bad feeling about it then don't do it.
    – NotMe
    Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 15:05
  • I have found in consulting that it is better to practice CYA where its not needed than risk failing to when it is. I have felt my own share of burn, over companies trying to compete with each other at the cost of their consultants. Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 18:35

It doesn't sound like there's any harm on your part in getting any of this information out in the open (that is, open to the 2 recruiting agencies and you), unless you have a prior agreement with agency A prohibiting that very action.

Thus, I would contact agencies A and C to see first, if agency A knows who B is and what his reputation is (without mentioning specifically what action recruiter B is pursuing), and second, if agency C knows what recruiter B is doing. Worst case, recruiter B gets canned (and potentially sued) for violating some agreement, and you aren't stuck in a job obtained illegitimately. Best case, everything checks out, and you can feel free to pursue a job worry-free.


Contact the recruiter and tell him you are not going to lie. it is not in your best interest to go into any interview with this sort of worry-they're hard enough as it is.

I don't think you can trust this person to give you a legitimate reason. Maybe he doesn't want to burn any bridges at the old firm, but there could be contract issues as well.

Chances are his name won't come up. it's a stretch, but this could be some sort of ethics test by the recruiter. Either way, don't play this game.

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