When independent recruiters are discussing a job with me, they ask if there are any job opportunities that I’m actively exploring on my own. What should I tell them? If I say no, then it seems no one is interested in me. If I say yes, the recruiter might think I am a waste of his time because I’m about to accept an offer. I’m also a little worried about divulging the names of companies I’m pursuing on my own. Is this kind of recruiter pressure reasonable?
Never subject yourself to pressure from a recruiter, simply because a good recruiter will never pressure you.
Some recruiters will ask who else you’re interviewing with no hidden agenda. They’ve already checked you out and they’ve concluded you’re worth competing for. What you’re doing on your own isn’t going to affect their perceptions. They just want to know whether there is a time constraint. In other words, are you close to accepting another offer? That could affect how and when they present you to their client. And that’s fair. If you trust the recruiter, don’t hesitate to discuss your situation candidly.
How to Say It
“If I’m working on another opportunity, will that affect your interest in me?”
A good recruiter will be candid right back, politely. A recruiter that applies pressure is not recruiting. In this business, recruiting means pursuing, appealing, seducing, enticing — not pressuring. If you don’t feel wooed, you’re not being recruited properly.
Other recruiters may be playing games, as you suggest. If they are, well, why worry about them? Let them think what they will. Too much disclosure too soon is risky. Disclose only what you wish and don’t worry about pressure. Remember that the likelihood that any recruiter is going to place you is pretty small. Don’t engage if a recruiter is overly intrusive.
If you’re interviewing with companies on your own, and you don’t know enough about the recruiter to trust them yet, play your cards close. When asked if you’re interviewing anywhere, tell the truth, but don’t reveal enough details that the recruiter can figure out who the company is. Who else you’re interviewing with is none of the recruiter’s business. It should not affect their relationship with you.
What a recruiter does need to know about, if you’re going to work together, are potential conflicts. If you’re already interviewing with the company they’re recruiting for, they need to know that. (So do you.) That’s just common sense.
Nonetheless, you should not divulge what companies you’re talking with. (We’ll discuss the risk in a minute.) Ask the recruiter who their client is, and explain that you will confirm whether or not you have already established contact with that company. That’s more common sense.
Some recruiters will explain that if they disclose the company’s name, you may go directly to the company, costing them a fee for making the introduction. That’s a recruiter who has no relationship with the employer, and a job for which every recruiter in the land is submitting candidates. They’re all just fishing, which is not good for you. It’s one example of why recruiters suck so bad.
Some recruiters will say it’s confidential; they can’t divulge their client’s name. Well, that’s that. The recruiter isn’t willing to trust you. Why should you trust the recruiter? Unless it’s a top-level executive position, or it requires very specialized knowledge and skills, it’s not confidential. The recruiter has to decide whether it’s worth telling you more.
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, and the recruiter and the candidate begin to forge a relationship. Remember that the recruiter called you. The recruiter should “give something” first.
It’s a matter of trust
Unfortunately, there are too many people trying to make a fast buck in the recruiting business. It’s common to encounter unsavory types “dialing for dollars.” You will recognize them from their high pressure tactics: “I’m the recruiter. If you’re not cooperative, it could cost you this job. Tell me what I need to know!” Lots of people instantly cower before that kind of presentation. Don’t.
Unless you know and trust a recruiter, you have no idea what they may do with information about other jobs you’re pursuing. I’ve seen recruiters go out of their way to torpedo another opportunity a person was developing, just so the recruiter could advance their own placement. It’s unlikely you’d encounter that nasty a recruiter, but you must be careful all the time.
Keep your standards and expectations high. Deal only with recruiters who behave like your interests matter as much as their own, because that’s what defines any good, successful business relationship. So answer in whatever way feels comfortable to you, and let the chips fall where they may. In the process, you will learn something very important about the recruiter, well before you need to trust them to negotiate on your behalf.
What kinds of questions do recruiters ask you that make you uncomfortable? How do you deal with this?