Should I tell my recruiter I'm talking to other companies?

Congratulations! You’ve found a job that you’re really interested in and you’ve made it to a phone screen or live interview, or maybe you received an offer already. You’re also talking to another company and aren’t sure which way you’re leaning yet. Should you tell the recruiter or interviewer that you’re considering other opportunities?

I think there are really two ways to ask this question, so I’ll start with the first: Am I obligated to tell the recruiter that I'm talking to other companies? 

The short answer is no, you are not under any requirements to tell them that you’re considering other jobs or offers. I think most recruiters will assume that you are considering other opportunities unless you were not actively looking and they reached out to you directly about this specific job. If you contacted them, they probably assume you’re shopping around, so it’s to be expected. Typically I would only ask a candidate if she is considering other offers if I’m going to make an offer or if I’ve already made an offer because I want to know what we’re competing against. Are the offers comparable? Do you need to accept or decline by a certain date (in which case I might need to fast track your offer so we don’t lose you)?

The second way to ask the question is, Is it appropriate to tell the recruiter that I'm talking to other companies? 

Again, your recruiter probably assumes that you are shopping around for the best opportunity unless they know you were not actively looking and they reached out to you directly. I wouldn’t advise you to bring it up unless you need to, so this might be fitting if you have another offer on the table and a deadline to accept or decline. It would be appropriate in this situation because you’re letting them know they need to make their best offer by a certain day or time if they’re really interested in you. As a recruiter, I want to know if I have those limitations around our discussion.

A word of advice: Some recruiters might question whether or not you really have another offer and might think that you’re just saying that to rush an offer or to get a higher salary. Being the ethical professional that you are, you would never do this, so most will take your word for it. Particularly if your skill set is in high demand or if you’re a really stellar candidate, they’ll take you seriously and do their best to get you an offer in the timeframe that you need to consider it.