recruiters won’t give me any specifics about the jobs I’ve applied for

A reader writes:

I’ve been doing a casual job search for about five months now. I’m employed full time with a decent job, but I just don’t like it. Generally I apply directly to the company, but I’ve seen a few jobs I’m interested in posted through a recruiter/direct-hire staffing agency. When I do apply to these, I almost always get responses that are “We’d like to bring you in to discuss what you’re looking for” or “We’d like to meet with you about some opportunities” — no mention of the specific job I applied to, or even any *specifics* about *any* job. I have no clue if the “opportunities” they want to discuss with me are ones I even want, and I don’t want to take time off my current job for something like that!

I know you’ve advocated being straight-up with recruiters about what you want, but I think of that as once you’re actually working with them on an active job search. Is there a way to respond to their initial invitation to come in with something that tells them I am only interested in that specific job or ones very similar to it, and I’d like confirmation that’s the case before I come in?

If they won’t give you any specifics about the job, it’s because there isn’t one. These are staffing agencies, not true recruiters, and they’re collecting candidates for their database in case a job comes up that matches you later.  You’ll go in to meet with them and they’ll take all your information and still not tell you about a specific job.

There’s nothing wrong with candidate collecting, but there is something wrong with being deceptive about it and wasting the time of people who wouldn’t be interested if they knew the truth. And it’s revealing that they don’t think being honest with people would stir up sufficient interest in whatever it is that they’re peddling.

By the way, these swindlers do the same thing to employers too. Here’s an account of a recruiter who approached me with a supposedly perfect candidate for a job I was hiring for, but it quickly turned out that they didn’t have a candidate in mind at all and were just trying to get in the door to launch a broader search.

Fortunately, if you want to avoid these agencies, you can just stand firm about wanting to know details about the job before you agree to talk with them. A legitimate recruiter with a real job to fill will talk to you about it (possibly not giving you the name of the company, but certainly talking to you about the job itself), and most won’t make you meet with them in person; you’d interview with the employer directly.

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