Another job-hunting question: Recruiters being nosy

As I’ve mentioned in other threads, I’m currently looking for work. [Thanks to all the advice I’ve received previously.] Last week I saw a recruiting agency who seemed normal and above board. However, one of the “team” seemed awfully nosy.

He seemed to be trying to find out if I am desperate for any job (I’m not). One of the questions he asked was about the nature and extent of the severance package from my previous job. I told him that was confidential information (it is) and that I could not discuss it with him, and he seemed both surprised and disappointed.

Today he called (which is fine), and wanted to know which days next week I would be available; I told him any day except Friday because I will be busy on Friday. He wanted to know what I would be doing! Whether I was going on another job interview, or what. I told him that was private information he did not need to know. Then he wanted to know who else I have interviewed with. I understand that he does not want to submit my resume to someone who already has it. I told him that before he submitted my resume to anyone, that he should tell me about the potential job, and who it was with, and that I would tell him whether I’d already spoken to them, and whether the position was one I’d be comfortable with.

To those who are more experience job-seekers: Does this sound like normal behavior? I am starting to not trust this company. Am I being paranoid or unreasonable?

It sounds pretty normal for some agencies, IMHO.

Some agencies really have a hard-on about having you exclusively on their books. Which makes a certain kind of sense, because they get paid by how many people they have on the books and get placed at any time. If you get a job on your own, or worse through another company then they lose that money and they never like that.

The thing about the severence package, I think was just him being overly nosy. You mentioned it was mostly this one guy, and not really the whole group who were probing like that.

I wonder if the recruiter is somewhat inexperienced and therefore overcompensating. It sounds like he wants to have as much information on you as he can get, even if it doesn’t relate to your job experience/training. Just keep doing what you’re doing and don’t tell him anything that doesn’t relate to your job search.

If you don’t feel comfortable working with him, contact his boss at the agency and see if they can transfer you to another recruiter. I wouldn’t write off the agency entirely based just on this one guy.

In my experience, most employment agencies ask where you’ve applied, so they don’t duplicate your efforts or poach another agency’s turf, since some potential employers list with multiple agencies. I’ve had to give a list of where I applied on my own, as well as other agencies I was working with.

That said, it sounds like one of two things. As southpaw pointed out, he might be new and thus a little overeager.

Since he’s wandered into the area of asking directly for confidential information that puts you at legal risk, I’d have a chat with his boss. Oddly enough, I seem to recall there being a question on my agency paperwork about whether I was subject to a non-disclosure agreement through my previous employer or somesuch.


After having delt with over 100 headhunters in the last 8 years or so, I will say this is partially normal. Many are completely professional but you will often run into the behavior you describe.

You can either:
A) Not deal with those. I usually do that but occassionally they will have access to a job that I don’t want to write off immediately. The ones you describe are usually bad news in the long term however. There are plenty of headhunters. Feel free to choose among them just as they chose you.

B) Treat them like a kid brother. You are the one with the power. They just have access to a job listing. Just tell them whatever you feel like within reason. They can’t force any information out of you and it isn’t like they aren’t going to submit you as a candidate just because you won’t give a list of your 5 favorite vacation spots. It is just a little game. You can set your own rules too.

One issue that I had with recruiters is that unscrupulous ones will send your resume to every possible employer (sometimes even your current employer). Some employers won’t even deal with a candidate when they get him from multiple sources. When I was looking for work (and the last time I did this was mid 90s) I used only one (reliable) recruiter and never gave out my resume to anyone else unless I had a personal referral to a specific employer.

Thanks, once again, for the advice. It’s odd – I’ve been working for quite a long time now, but I have only changed jobs twice, and once was through the recommendation of a co-worker, so I’ve really only done the real job-hunt thing once, and that was about 15 years ago.

I think this particular recruiter may in fact be inexperienced as a few have suggested. He does appear to be awfully young. [But then, almost everybody does to me these days.]

I have instructed the recruiters that I deal with to check with me before sending my resume to any potential employer for a couple of reasons – both to avoid duplication and to be sure in advance that it’s a job I really want.

I’ll especially keep in mind the advice that I’m the one with the power and authority. Excellent advice.

You probably are the one with the power, but that may not apply to every job seeker. If you are truly an in-demand employee, then by all means remember you are the “customer.”

He may be asking some of this information to benefit his general efforts to place people, find leads, etc. For example, if you were part of a large reduction in force, for him to know what kind of severance everyone got would be useful (regardless of the confidentiality of it, which you were right to respect, of course).

There are 2 sides of the coin to asking where you are interviewing. 1) It can be a lead for him to get listings with employers who have a vacancy and 2) It is no fair for you to find out from him/his agency about a job, then interview with them directly as if you found it on your own. Not to say you’d do that, but that is a legitimate concern of the agency. If you ask him “What company are you thinking of submitting my resume to?” and he says “Acme Inc.” and you say “No thanks,” then go apply directly to Acme, since you know they are hiring, that would be unethical, and it does happen to agencies unless they act to prevent it.

Best of luck to you in the job search.

Gotcha. Excellent insight.

He sounds like an over-eager newbie. I have worked with head hunters / contractors on and off for well over 20 years now. The ones that act like the person you describe really annoy me. I believe all they are doing is trying to find out as much as they can about your CURRENT employer, so they can approach THEM some day with a sales pitch.

Let’s say my name is Jim. I have had these over-eager headhunters call MY boss, after knowing I was in very good standing and very respected in my position, and tell my boss, “I have people like Jim available if you are interested”. Never underestimate how low some of these people will go.