Twice I've received e-mails from recruiters with wording along the lines of this quote

... your name has come to me highly recommended by one of my contacts in the ...

I'm of course curious who the recommending party is. The first time I asked in my reply, the question was simply ignored.

Before I ask this second recruiter, I'd like to ask if there's a general rule that such information is secret, for some reason?

Should I just be grateful and not pry?

  • 4
    I will be honest. I have recieved many of these types of emails and in most cases, they were "cold calls", in that sense its just a line they use to get you to reply. Furthermore often is the case, when asked "what skills percisely caught your eye" you won't get an answer, funny how that works.
    – Donald
    Jul 12, 2012 at 12:07
  • 1
    @Ramhound is right. I set a filter for such mails - send them to thrash..
    – Ashwin
    Jul 13, 2012 at 5:18
  • I once completely confused a headhunter by insisting on knowing who she got my name from. Apparently she was expecting me to be so eager for the CTO position she claimed to be recruiting for that I wouldn't ask questions. My best guess is that her entire story was false and she was just making a cold call without any particular job in mind.
    – keshlam
    Oct 11, 2015 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


There's no reason not to ask. If they're telling the truth, they'll tell you, and you have a right to know -- especially if you're not actually looking for a position but some of your recommendation-givers (or co-workers or friends) think you are and you're not.

However, "your name has come to me highly recommended by one of my contacts" typically means (in my jaded experience) "I scraped your address from somewhere and am spamming you with my positions". In other words, their statement is unlikely to be true.

  • 5
    Agreed, it's probably BS. I've seen that opening salvo more than a few times. Jul 11, 2012 at 14:11
  • 6
    Indeed, a recruiter may "have heard great things about you" even if you are fictional. ewherry.com/2012/06/the-recruiter-honeypot Jul 11, 2012 at 16:04
  • I was called once by a recruiter using the same line. I asked cheerfully, "Oh, who recommended me?" After the short, uncomfortable-to-them pause, they mumbled something like, "Oh, I think it was [unintelligle mumbling]," and I said "have a nice day." Jul 11, 2012 at 16:53
  • 5
    As it turns out, you were all right, which he admitted when I asked.
    – Letharion
    Jul 11, 2012 at 16:53
  • 4
    Oh, and one possible reason not to ask (or to respond) - it's really just another form of Spam. Responding confirms your address. Jul 11, 2012 at 16:55

I would assume that this is maybe just a set phrase recruiters use to get you interested, if your question is ignored. If it is for real then you have a right to know who recommended you (and passed along your personal data).

  • It is generally "small talk" when recruiters say this. They'll also throw in, "Your reference wanted this to be confidential." You can't get offended by this. It's like the doorman at the Four Seasons - do you really think he's sincere when he makes it seem like you made his day by giving him your luggage? Of course he's not sincere, but you appreciate it anyway.
    – MathAttack
    Jul 12, 2012 at 1:52
  • @MathAttack - Depends on what you mean by sincere. Its perfectly possible to actually by happy in a situation like that, perhaps you didn't ACTUALLY make his day, but he could be perfectly happy to carry your luggage for you.
    – Donald
    Jul 12, 2012 at 12:09

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