The Three Nevers of Working With Recruiters


I recently read a LinkedIn post written by a recruiter, the gist of which was that recruiters are fully transparent with candidates, therefore candidates should be fully transparent with recruiters, and candidates who are not fully transparent about things like current salary are “cagey.” That was the word the author used — “cagey.” Multiple other recruiters added supportive comments.

Full transparency is not a quality I associate with recruiters, even though I’ve worked with some excellent recruiters that I like a lot.

Recruiters work for clients. They get paid by clients. When they submit you for a job, they also submit multiple other candidates to compete with you because that maximizes their chances of getting paid. I suppose everyone knows this but it’s never mentioned. It’s not something recruiters are transparent about.

Never tell a recruiter your current salary.

In some localities, like my state of California, asking a candidate’s current salary is prohibited by law. Your current salary is irrelevant and will be used against you. The fact that Company A thinks you’re worth $X in your current job says nothing about what you’re worth in a different job at Company B.

Some recruiters will ask where have you already interviewed. This is a big red flag. If you ask why they need to know that, they’ll say that they don’t want to submit you at places you’ve already applied. Which is true, but just because you haven’t applied at Company X as of this morning, doesn’t mean you won’t apply at Company X this afternoon. They still have to check in with you before submitting.

You should then ask, “You’re not going to submit me to places without checking in with me first, are you?” Because the real reason for asking that question is that if you say you interviewed for a job that they’re not currently working on, they’ll call the hiring manager and offer to send over candidates who will compete with you for *that* job.

NEVER tell a recruiter where you have interviewed.

A recruiter will submit you to a position at an agreed-upon salary or hourly rate. If you later get a job offer and try to negotiate this, you are “cagey,” according to the article I read, even though you gave a number before knowing anything about the job, but knowing that the number would be used to eliminate you if it’s too high.

Recruiters will say, “We get paid a percentage of your salary so it’s in our interest to get you the best deal.” True, but it’s really in their interest to close the deal, because X% of something is better than X% of nothing.

The point of maximum negotiating leverage for a candidate comes when the company indicates, via a job offer, that they really want you. Make them want you, then negotiate.

Never give up your negotiating leverage, and never let anyone make you feel bad for not giving up your negotiating leverage.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

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