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External recruiters often don't initially disclose the name of the company when they're looking to fill a position. How can I still learn which company they're contacting me for? Can I ask them? If so, how should I word that request? Are there other ways to figure this out for myself if they won't tell me?

In my case I'd like to avoid applying for a job at a company with a bad reputation.

  • This question is somewhat related to the problem of not knowing the company name. Answers there don't really cover your question but they're useful reading. – Lilienthal Sep 2 '16 at 10:53
  • Lewis, I've made a substantial edit to your question and the title so you may not recognise much of the language. I did so because I believe your question is a very useful addition to the site and I wanted to expand the question somewhat. I think the spirit of your question is still all there though but feel free to edit it again if I missed something. – Lilienthal Sep 2 '16 at 10:59
  • Of course you can ask them - unless you are in imminent need of employment I would ask them and - if they won't disclose - tell them you're not interested in applying to work for anonymous companies. The way I would word it is, "what company is this position at?" – Ant P Sep 2 '16 at 14:40
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    @AntP isn't it too harsh to say `i am not interested in applying to work for anonymous companies"? – Lewis Sep 2 '16 at 15:40
  • @Lewis how about "I'm only really interested in hearing about opportunities if you can tell me the name of the company"? It's not harsh to anyone - it's a term of your further professional correspondence that prevents everyone's time from being wasted. You're not going to hurt anyone's feelings. – Ant P Sep 2 '16 at 15:44
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You can not force them to tell you the company name before they are ready to do so.

You can certainly tell then that you will not discuss the job without that information. But that requires that you be willing to walk away without applying for the job. I have sometimes done exactly that.

You need to decide how critical it is to you to get the company name Right Now rather than later in the process.

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You can always ask, but if there is a non-disclosure agreement between the agent and the company you are unlikely to receive a reply. The job agent is likely more concerned in keeping a good relation with his employer than with potential employees.

If you work in a specialized field you can ask what the company produces, size etc. and try to figure out which company it is. The more general the company the harder it is to pinpoint though. There is a risk that you apply to a bad reputation company in that case you can still use the time to fine tune your CV, presentation etc.

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You can try a Google search for specific terms from the job specification, maybe that turns up the vacancy if the company also placed it online. Not a big chance for a hit though (depends on how specific that job is), and you would have to be really sure of the result.

Limit your search to industry-specific terms, to top level domain with the site: specifier, or to nearby places.

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Can you tell me a bit more about the company?

Typically you'll have a phone conversation with the recruiter when you first express interest or when they cold call you. Very, very often simply asking them for some more details about the company can get them to disclose the name. It's rare for companies to request their name to be withheld and it's usually the recruiters that avoid disclosing the name in initial contacts. But if they get the impression that you're asking in good faith and are genuinely interested in talking further then they'll often just tell you.

Even if they don't, if they give sufficient detail (headquartered in City X, employee count of Y in the US, active in sector Z, ...) you can often put the pieces together. But that typically requires that the company is fairly large and searchable or that you're in a relatively small industry.

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Unless the recruiter knows you're looking to relocate, getting a reasonably close location is normally quite easy. Combined with knowing what the company does (assuming your role would be part of their main business) that can often narrow it down, sometimes to one, sometimes to a few.

Now if you're looking for a role that's common across sectors, that's rather harder. A bookkeeper for example.

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