What information you must never share with recruiters

Recruiters are great. If you are a qualified professional and are looking for a new job, they make the whole process a whole lot easier than it would have been otherwise.

You no longer have to do all the job applications yourself. And neither you have to spend time doing extensive salary negotiations. The recruiters would largely do it for you.

But not everything is that rosy. Just like representatives of any other profession where commissions are paid for successful sales, recruiters must not be trusted completely.

There are certain types of information that you must not share with recruiters under any circumstances. And there are also some types of information that you must only share with recruiters if absolutely necessary.

In this article, we will examine the most important of these information types and we will have a look at how sharing such information with recruiters may put you under a substantial disadvantage.

Never tell recruiters the names of the organizations you are interviewing at

If you are looking to change a job, chances are that you will be interviewing at several different places. And recruiters will probably ask about the other places you are interviewing at.

Of course, you shouldn’t lie to your recruiters. And there is nothing wrong in telling them how many other places you are interviewing at. In fact, sharing this information may give you an advantage, as the awareness of you interviewing at many other places will put a pressure on the recruiter to negotiate the best offer possible for you.

What you must not share, however, is the exact names of the organizations you are interviewing at. To explain why is it so, I will share a personal story.

I was looking to change a job and was interviewing at a number of different organizations. After a successful interview at one of these places, the recruiter has asked me if I had any other interviews scheduled. I was completely open with him and told him where I was about to have my next interview.

The recruiter has then proceeded to phone the recruiting manager of that company and, in an extremely rude manner, has tried to tell him to “not steal his candidates”. I don’t know what got to him, but he has probably forgotten that we live in a free market society and anyone can apply to work anywhere.

The recruiter has then wrote a letter of apology to the recruiting manager, where he also tried to persuade him to fill the vacancy with his own candidates.

How do I know this? Well, the recruiting manager has decided to share this information with me. But, as you can imagine, not every manager would be willing to share such information. So, any particular prospective employer may ghost you and you will never find out why.

So, there is one conclusion that can be made from this. By informing your recruiter about other places you are interviewing at, you are creating a possibility that this recruiter will try to persuade those organizations not to employ you. Also, the recruiter will then know that there is a vacancy at that organizations, which the recruiter will be more than happy to try to fill with his own candidates, who will be competing against you.

Of course, the recruiters may tell you that the occurrences of this behavior are extremely rare. They may also tell you that all they need this information for is to make sure that they don’t submit your application to the organizations that you have already submitted an application to.

However, what you need to be aware of is that no recruiter is supposed to submit any applications without your consent. Also, even if the occurrences of this rogue recruitment behavior are indeed rare, the risk is greater than zero, while you never gain anything in return. So, even if it’s only one recruiter in a million who engages in this rogue behavior, the risk-to-benefit ratio still clearly shows that it doesn’t make any sense to share this information.

Sharing references from the current employer before you receive a job offer

At some point in recruitment process, you will be asked to provide contact details of people that you worked with, especially your bosses. And once you get a job offer that you are happy with, there is nothing wrong with sharing this information.

However, you should never share the contact details of people who you are currently working with before you receive a good offer of employment. To show you why, I will share another personal story with you.

I was looking to change my job, so I was quietly sending my applications to various companies. I have successfully passed all the interview stages at one of such companies and was asked to provide contact details of people I was working with at the time. That was before I have received any solid job offer from the prospective new employer.

At first, I was reluctant to give the references to the company at that stage of the process. However, I was assured by the company that none of these people would be contacted until I accept the offer.

Needless to say, they haven’t been completely honest with me. As soon as they got the contact details of my managers, they have contacted them. And, as my superiors didn’t know anything about me looking to change a job, my relationship with them was all but ruined. Therefore, when the offer came, I had no choice but to accept it as is, without re-negotiating it.

So, when you are giving the references from the current place of employment to the recruiter, you are making it possible for either the recruiter or the prospective new employer to contact the people you are working with. And if these people don’t yet know that you are leaving, chances are that you will taint your professional relationship with them. So, you will now be under pressure to leave, while you won’t yet have a fully satisfactory place to move to.

Sometimes, companies deliberately ask for the contact details of the current employer before they give you the offer. They do so precisely because they want to put you into a disadvantageous negotiating position. So, be aware of that.

But you may also end up in a situation where the company will insist on you providing the references from the current place of work and will refuse to give you any offer until you do so. You may be wondering what to do in such a situation.

To me, the answer is obvious. I would not continue my application process with that particular place. The organization has no valid reason to ask you for the references before giving you an offer other than to manipulate you into a less advantageous negotiation position. If the company is trying to manipulate you in such a manner now, imagine how much you will be manipulated once it actually employs you! It’s just not worth to continue the application process with an organization like this.

So, you can always provide contact details of your previous employers at any point. But only share the references from your current employer once you have received a job offer that you are happy with and you have already submitted your resignation.

Don’t share your current salary unless absolutely necessary

There are places in the world where even asking candidates to provide their current salary is illegal. New York is one of such places.
In other places recruiters will ask you this question. And they may even tell you that they will refuse to work with you until you provide this information.

Now, there are situations where sharing your current salary is OK. If you are already earning well above the average, sharing your salary up front will ensure that the recruiter won’t waste your time with  average-paying positions that he would have offered otherwise. Likewise, if you know up front that the position you are interested in comes with a similar salary to what you are currently earning, there is no reason not to share your salary.

However, there are also situations where, for whatever reason, your current salary is significantly below average and the main reason you are looking to change your job is to bring your salary up to the market rate.
Of course, in such a situation, letting the recruiter know what your salary is will put you into a disadvantageous position in negotiations, as you would be asked to justify a high salary jump. So, what would you do in this situation?

For me, the answer is simple. I always have a minimum figure that I will absolutely not be willing to go below and I tell the recruiters this figure up front. If they can assure me that this figure is realistic at the prospective new place of work, I continue the application process. If not, then I don’t waste anymore time, both mine and theirs.

One thing to be aware of though is that sometimes recruiters will tell you that the new employer can provide a particular salary, even when they know it’s not possible. They bet on the fact that, after going through multiple stages of interview process, the candidate will not be willing to reject the offer once it’s made.

And I have been in this situation a number of times. However, I have never violated this principle. If the salary on offer at the end of the process is below my expectations, I would always rejected that offer, regardless of how much time I’ve spent on the application process and how many stages of interview I went through.

In most of such cases, the recruiter would try to persuade me to accept the offer, as they have invested a lot of their time into the process. But I say no to them with a clear conscience. After all, I have told them of my salary expectations right from the start.

Don’t be afraid to say no to a sub-optimal job offer when you have spent a lot of time interviewing for it. Yes, you may have spent days or even weeks doing your preparations, and yes, you won’t get this time back. But it’s much better than spending several months or even years working for a salary you aren’t happy with.

On the plus side, every interview process is useful. The time you’ve spent preparing for interviews will pay off at interviews with other companies. Also, any successful interview will boost your confidence and add to your experience.

So, never share your current salary unless you absolutely have to.

Wrapping up

These are the things that I have learned not to tell recruiters. But perhaps you have similar stories that you would like to share? Perhaps there are also some other types of information that you wouldn’t share with recruiters that I haven’t mentioned here?

If so, please let me know in the comments below.

If you are a job seeker, good luck and remember to stay switched on while dealing with recruiters.