Sound familiar? A headhunter calls you yet they refuse to share the name of their client and other specific details. The good recruiters who say this generally do it out of a concern for having a candidate go behind their back and contact their client directly, thereby cutting out their chance to get paid for their efforts on a contingent search. What is a contingent search? To put it in engineering or architecture terms, it's like a client asking you to compete with 3 other firms for the best design but you only get paid for your effort if they accept YOUR design. You could have 80 hours or more of effort into the design and plan set and yet you potentially will never get paid. A contingent search is the same: a recruiter works on a search trying to find candidates and if the client doesn't hire their candidate, they get paid nothing. This is why they want to screen you, get your resume, and then determine if they want to share the information. For someone who is actively looking for a new job, it's not such a big deal. However, if you get a phone call and the recruiter wants to talk with you about an opportunity, you still should have the right to learn whether or not you want to send your resume to him/her for consideration.
Then there are recruiters who work more on an exclusive and retained model. In this model of executive search, our clients have engaged us and are partnering with us to fill a specific search. In this case we are not competing with anyone else so we can afford to be much more transparent in our discussions with our candidates about the specifics of the opportunity including the name of our client company.
In either of these scenarios, you do not have anything to lose by having a discussion about an opportunity. One of two things will happen: you will realize that another opportunity presents a unique chance to take your career in an upward motion, or it has the ability to profoundly impact the quality of your personal life, OR you will realize that your current situation serves you in ways that it doesn't make sense to make a move. How will you know unless you explore? The answer to that question is, You Won't. The caveat to that is you need to make sure you feel confident in the recruiter with whom you are speaking is one of integrity and ethics and has your best interests at heart. How will you know if they have your best interests at heart? They are willing to start the relationship off with being transparent about who their client is.
I have always found the engineers and architects I engage with to be forthright and trustworthy. If one of them does a dirty and goes behind my back, or if they have no true interest in learning about the opportunity and they are just being nosy about who my client is, that's their Karma, not mine.