What do you say when the candidate asks, "Who's the company?" or "Tell me who they are and I will tell you if I am interested?"
Candidates want to know the client name because they are curious. It allows them to control this call by evaluating the company prior to your process. Many recruiters will get into a power struggle over this. That will usually get you nowhere. This is a question of STYLE, not ethics or character. Some recruiters are not comfortable with the conceptual proposition of the classic headhunting call (i.e., I, a perfect stranger, will now ask you a series of incredibly personal questions, any one of which could get you fired, and, in return, I promise to tell you...um, absolutely nothing).
Decent human beings instinctively don't feel comfortable asking for trust while they refuse to provide it. If you are in this situation, you must MAKE A BIG DEAL OF THIS…
"I will tell you who it is, even though that puts me at great risk. You could hang up the phone, call the company, and theoretically compromise my referral of you. But I plan on asking you a series of pointed personal questions, and that requires trust, and I can't ask you to trust me without trusting you as well. The company is X…"
Now, I said decent human beings aren't comfortable. It's never been a problem for me. Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean I'm wrong. If I am NOT comfortable telling them my client, then I have to make an equally BIG deal…
"I'm not at liberty to discuss that right now, and I'm sure you know why. The [financial] niche is a close knit community and I can't risk the word getting out, and obviously it's not until there has been some mutual agreement to pursue, and I have established the referral, that I can be specific. I'll make you the same promise I make all candidates. I will run your background, not your name, by the client. If they want to know more, I will get their permission to disclose their name, and then I will overload you with information about them, because I know my client inside and out. I hope you can appreciate this confidential process. It's the essence of what we do”.