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EP 1768 Is the recruiter being honest or trying to scam me? How do I answer?

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Someone messaged me in dismay asking or commenting that a recruiter had asked her where she had been on interviews so far. She was uncomfortable answering the question. What should she have done?

I have two ways of addressing this and one is your guard being up with an agency recruiter is calling you is a good thing. I’ll simply say part of the reason is some of them are actually being forthright. They actually want to know if you've met with your client and they are reluctant to share who their client is, for fear that you're going to take that information and go directly to their client and apply for the job. I understand that. I got screwed multiple times until I've got it through my thick head that not every person I was talking with was consider it of me or honest with my services. So, I stopped being willing to tell people who my client was.

Conversely, for you as the job hunter, you certainly don't want to waste time talking to a recruiter when you've already been presented to their client. So, there this kind of a bind here and, after I address how to answer the question, I will add to the binds . . . not every recruiter is honest and, like I gave the example of some job hunters who take my information and apply directly, there are some recruiters who will take that information and try to get the job to work on and try to fill so that they can earn a commission. Hence, the bind.

What you do? How do you address this kind of situation?

The answer is, “no disrespect intended, but I don't know you from a hole in the wall and I'm uncomfortable telling you where I have interviewed.”

“Well, I can’t present you.”

“Well, given me an idea of what industry they are in and what town they are in.”

“They are in banking in New York.”

Obviously, in New York, there are a lot of banks. So, I’m trying to give you a way that you can kind of break this down.

Now, understand, if you're a junior individual, you're more likely to be in a commoditized job. By that I mean a job where a firm has lots of people who do what you do. On the other hand, if you're in a more senior role, you start to recognize the job description and you might just simply say, “is this a position with so-and-so. If so, someone has already spoken with me about this role.” They will respect you for handling it that way because they can then turn around and say, “it's not that job,” or “yes, I have that job but I also have one very similar to it.”

Notice how I played this? Once you know the industry and in the city, you can then say, if you're senior, “ is this the position with such and such where they’re looking for a manager of whatever?”

Now, if this is a large firm, it's hard for an agency to get on the vendor list to be able to get paid if they steal the lead. If it’s a smaller firm, it’s different. They might be able to do it, but I digress for a second.

Let me go back to the less experienced person who's in the role for which the organization has lots of people, whether that's a developer job, an accounting job, an admin job. Whatever it is, there are just lots of them in the organization. We’ve now gone “bank in New York.”

“Okay. Can you give me the first letter of the bank's name?”

They say, “B,” just for the sake of argument.

“Could you give me a couple of choices of banks beginning in ‘B’ and I'll tell you which ones I've spoken with or know I’ve been presented to.”

Now, what would you trying to do is narrow the scope from them where there offering up choices and the idea becomes they have to ultimately open up and then get to match you. At the point, you're playing “the guessing game” with them, where you're asking them to do this kind of stuff, be honest if that's a firm that you have been presented to or a recruiter has spoken with you about.

Why? This is probably a contingency recruiter. As such, they’re only paid if they refer you, and that you get hired. If you've already been presented, the likelihood is that they won't be able to get the interview for you anyway. It's a waste of their time and effort. It's pointless. There's no benefit to you. All you are doing is screwing them out of time, which is the only thing that they have-- the time to work on these job leads.

So, the way to play it is, if you're a senior, you identify where you have been presented after you've narrowed the scope possibility. For the junior individual, you're looking at it from the standpoint of, “Okay, we’ve got the industry and the city (I’ll use the New York example), first initial of the firm (“B.”) Okay, bank of what. Give me the next part of it. The next letter in that title.”

“It is not Bank of whatever it is. The first letter is a ‘B’ of this organization.”

“Great! I haven't been presented to any firms to any banks that begin with a ‘B.’

Thus, you have a been able to respect one another, as uncomfortable as the dance is, but you also avoided risking the potential being cheated.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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