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Ask the Headhunter: Did I give this staffing firm too much private information?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: I interviewed with a staffing company in March 2017. I was asked to fill out all the employment documents including an application, and I had to provide tax information. I gave them copies of my driver’s license and passport. I did the whole employment package. I was told I had been chosen for the position and that they were just waiting on confirmation and a face-to-face interview with the “right arm person” of the firm, whose place I would be taking.

Now, four months have gone by, and every time I email the president of the staffing firm, he once again assures me that they want to hire me and are very interested. My last contact with him was a month ago. I have not heard anything else.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Why recruiters aren’t always good for the economy

Should I contact them and tell them I’m no longer interested and to destroy my paperwork? I was extremely interested in the position to begin with. Now, after waiting all these months, I’m not so sure. However, they have all my paperwork. Thanks for any advice.

Nick Corcodilos: People too easily confuse their “extreme interest” in a job with the real odds of getting it — which are small. That extreme interest often leads people to discount their reasonable doubts and to fall for possible scams. I’m not saying this is a scam, but it doesn’t smell good.

There are two big problems (among many) with staffing firms. First, they want too much private information before they place you. I would never surrender tax documents, my Social Security number or my passport until I have a bona fide offer in hand. That means in writing with a firm start date. (See “How employers help scammers steal your Social Security number.”) They just don’t need such documentation until you are actually hired. Getting all this information from you in advance is their way of getting a big commitment from you, without one from them. I think that’s unethical, and frankly, it’s dangerous for you. Recruiting has become a popular vector for identity theft.

Second, I’m always skeptical of any firm that starts a hiring process then keeps making excuses about how “we want to hire you,” but “it’s going to take longer.” It’s been four months. Do you really think these guys are serious? You have had no meetings with the actual employer, so you really know nothing about the company. (See “I’m still waiting for the job offer!”)

I’d send the staffing firm a very strong letter demanding they destroy all your information, because you have no idea how they will use it. Did you research these guys? I’d check your credit card and bank accounts for possible problems, just to make sure. I’m not trying to scare you, but this just smells bad. Err on the side of caution.

If you really get worried, it may be worth a small attorney’s fee to have a formal demand and warning letter sent to them.

READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: 5 tips for avoiding terrible employers

I know you want the job, but unfortunately, that’s not what determines the likelihood of getting it. What I’d do now is focus on your next opportunity. I would forget about these people unless and until they offer you something concrete.

Please be careful. Use your good judgment. I wish you the best.

Dear Readers: How would you advise this job seeker? How much private information do you tender before you’re hired? Has it worked out alright, or have you had any nightmarish experiences?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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