Candidate Etiquette: Asking About the Name of the Client

Whenever a recruiter approaches you about a new employment opportunity, you more than likely are curious as to the name of the client with the job opening. That’s a natural curiosity.

However, there’s a time and place during the interview process for that question, and it’s rarely at the beginning of the process.

Remember that a recruiter is tasked with finding the best fit for their client’s open position. Confidentiality plays a role in determining this fit.

In my experience, it is a cardinal sin for a search consultant to disclose the name of their client before they and the candidate discuss the fit of the opportunity first. That’s because the recruiter has no idea if it’s a potential fit without conducting an initial interview.

As a recruiter, we have other clients and other employment opportunities, as well, so it would be too early to disclose the name of our client at this point in the process. It’s our goal to respect confidentiality on both sides of the table.

One of the books to which I like to refer about this situation is Be Hunted by search consultant Smooch Reynolds. According to Reynolds, there are two rules to keep in mind:

  1. Never ask a search consultant for the name of their client.
  2. The search consultant will tell you the name of their client when they believe it is appropriate.

If your recruiter doesn’t tell you the name of their client, that doesn’t mean they’re snubbing you or withholding information just to “keep you in the dark.” They’re doing what they believe is in the best interests of the search, mainly keeping certain information confidential until which time they no longer need to keep it confidential.

When does a search consultant believe it is “appropriate” to tell you the name of their client? When you’ve reached a certain stage of the process, namely the point where you’re being seriously considered for the position.

Asking a recruiter to reveal the identity of their client too soon is a “turn-off” for that recruiter, and repeated requests before the appropriate time is a good way to lose your candidacy. Fortunately, the majority of people do not ask. However, there is still a certain segment of candidates that do, primarily those who have not been through such a process or are more junior in their career.

As a candidate engaged in a job search, you certainly don’t have to like the reality of the recruiting and hiring process, but respecting the process is important to successfully navigating it so that you can grow your career.

After all, there is one sure-fire way to make sure that you find out the name of the client: illustrate the value you can bring as an employee, so that you continue to progress through the process and reach the point where it makes sense for the recruiter to disclose that information.

If you respect the timing of the process overall, then you’ll increase the chances that the process will work in your favor in the long run. Even if you are not selected for a current search, the recruiter will remember your professionalism and will think of you again for future opportunities.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of organizations. If this is something you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.