8 Things You Should Never Say to a Tech Recruiter

While it’s important to build honest and trustworthy relationships with recruiters, you don’t need to tell them absolutely everything. After all, recruiters are paid by employers, so what you disclose during a casual conversation could impact where they present your résumé, or even their desire to go to bat for you during salary negotiations.

With that in mind, here are some things you should keep to yourself when dealing with recruiters:

“My Absolute Minimum Salary is…”

Never disclose what you’re currently making, or the minimum salary you’re willing to accept, advised Josh Doody, a salary negotiation coach. In fact, this verbal slip-up can cost you big time.

“Once they know the number to beat, a recruiter may demand a salary just above your current or minimum pay, when the budget or range for the position is actually much higher,” Doody explained.

Instead of offering a hard number, explain that you are looking forward to hearing more about the role and how you can add value, then ask for the salary range. Alternatively, you can simply state that, based on your understanding of the job responsibilities and market conditions, you’re sure that their offer will be reasonable; this may push them to cite a number without you needing to ask for one.   

“I’ll Take Anything I Can Get…”

Even if your company has a toxic work environment or is running low on cash, you want to avoid looking vulnerable and desperate, noted Will Thomson, president & founder of Bulls Eye Recruiting, LLC.

“Don’t provide too much detail about why you are looking to leave,” he advised. Once word of trouble at your company gets out, a recruiter might try to take advantage of you—or even recruit a co-worker for a positon you’ve been eyeing.

Whether or not your current company is sinking rapidly, giving an impression of desperation is something you should avoid at all costs. “The optics look bad,” Doody added. “The recruiter or hiring manager may get the impression that you lack discipline or aren’t good at managing money if you appear to be living paycheck to paycheck.”

“That Sounds Like a Pretty Good Offer. I Accept.”

Never accept the first offer on the spot. There’s almost always room to negotiate a slightly higher salary or some additional perks, Doody said. Express enthusiasm and thanks, then ask for a day or two to mull things over. Do the math to make sure you get what you deserve.

“I’m Not Willing to Do…”

You definitely want to share the types of jobs you’re interested in (and not interested in), but don’t give up the opportunity to meet a hiring manager just because you don’t want to perform one or two tasks in the job description.

You want to seem as flexible as possible, especially if you’re interviewing with a startup or company with an Agile environment (where tech pros wear many hats). You may be able to shape your job description or negotiate the amount of time you spend on certain tasks once you meet with the hiring manager, Thomson noted.

“Here’s My List of References and Co-Workers.”

There’s certainly nothing wrong with referring colleagues to a recruiter who has worked hard to earn your trust and respect. But a reputable recruiter will never ask for referrals or references right off the bat.

For instance, if a recruiter asks how much money your colleague earns, or who spearheaded a key initiative, that’s a potential warning sign. Simply tell them that you’re unable to disclose proprietary information. Only provide references once you’ve interviewed and are expecting an offer.

“I’m Planning to Go Back to Grad School Next Year.”

While you need to be prepared to talk about your career plans and hobbies or side projects, you may not want to reveal your entrepreneurial spirit or dreams of backpacking for a year. A recruiter won’t submit your résumé to their high-profile clients if they think that you’re a short-timer.

“I’m Holding Out for an Offer from…”

Be careful how you answer questions about your dream job or the other companies where you’re interviewing. While you don’t want to seem desperate, you also don’t want to come across as disinterested in a “second choice” opportunity.

Gracefully sidestep those questions by saying something like: “I’m currently interviewing for similar types of roles. However, I am extremely excited about this opportunity.”

“Don’t Tell the Client This, But…”

Don’t tell your recruiter if you were fired from your last job for some egregious act, or if you’re going through the hiring process to score a counter-offer from your current employer.

“Your recruiter is not your friend,” warned Binh Wilson, founder of Everyday Interview Tips. “A recruiter is the gatekeeper for the employer, so never let your guard down.”

5 Responses to “8 Things You Should Never Say to a Tech Recruiter”

    • Also tell them to STOP spamming us with the same job posting several times in a row and sometimes from different agents at the same recruiting office!

      Or those that call before they have sent an email and state that they just an email (that hasn’t arrived yet) and want to talk about it.

      Or the recruiters that will call, not leave a voice message, hang up, and call right back 2 or 3 times in a row!

  1. How do I get Jasmeet, Kumar, Mohd, Saurabh, Jyoti, et all to stop sending me “Urget”, “Immediate Hire” emails, when they want me to work for $35/hr in a state half-way across the country. Is there a spam filter for Indian recruiters located in India ?

  2. Mark Agovino

    As a tech recruiter, I actually agree with most of this advice, although I will say that I can do the best job for both the hiring company and the candidate when you are honest and forthcoming with me on things like your desired salary range, the type of position/responsibilities that you are looking for and the reasons for leaving your current position. No, I don’t want you to tell me all the dirt about your personal life, but understanding your motivation helps me work out the best offer from the client as well.

    As for the previous comments about how bad recruiters are, I hear you (and I hear it from candidates frequently). Just know that not all of us are like that, and some of us focus on quality rather than quantity. It’s my job to understand your resume, experience level and location so that I contact you about positions you would actually be interested in. Recruiters who don’t do that really hurt the profession.