Ten Things Never, Ever To Reveal When You’re Job-Hunting

job hunting

Dear Liz,


I decided to change jobs a few months ago. I talked to a recruiter, “Marcia,” who had a few job opportunities for me.


I had a long conversation with Marcia. I told her what I’m looking for in a new job, and I told her how my current boss is abusive to me and the other employees in our department. Marcia is a good listener. I told her so much that I almost started crying while we were talking.


Marcia arranged an interview for me with a creative agency I had heard good things about.


The first interview went well. On the second interview, the HR Manager at the creative firm told me “We usually pay people like you about $50,000.”


That was startling because I am earning $60,000 now and I know I’m underpaid given my experience.


I said “I’m glad you mentioned that, because I would need a little more than that to be able to join your team. I’m focusing on jobs that pay in the mid-sixties.”


need to lower your expectations around pay.”


I was shocked that she would say that. I have a lot of friends who work in my industry. They don’t expect to get paid less than the market rate just because their boss doesn’t abuse them!


I realized that when I told Marcia the recruiter about the abuse I’m facing at work, she told the HR Manager all about it.


I was really turned off by the HR Manager’s comment, and I told Marcia I’m not interested in that agency anymore.


Now I can see that I should never have told Marcia what I’m dealing with at work.


She told her client my personal stories of being harassed and abused by my boss. I feel stupid, because I knew from the beginning that Marcia works for employers — not for me.


Should I keep it “strictly business” when I’m dealing with recruiters? Should I say nothing about my current problems at work? If so, how do I explain why I’m job-hunting?


Thanks Liz —




Dear Gloria,


A perfectly good answer to the question “Why are you job-hunting?” is “I’m getting stagnant at my current job — I need a new challenge!”


Never, ever tell a recruiter or a prospective employer what you dislike about your job apart from the feeling that you’re no longer learning enough to keep you challenged.


If your company is reorganizing or going out of business, go ahead and say so, but if  you are being mistreated at work, keep it to yourself.


Let’s be honest — when we’re talking about employment and job search, we’re talking about a business relationship, not a social relationship. There is a social aspect to work, of course, and that’s one reason so many job-seekers feel comfortable spilling the beans about their dissatisfaction with their current job. Unfortunately for them, they can tend to pour out their tale of woe on a job interview or in a conversation with their recruiter.


That’s a mistake! It gives the other party to the transaction a big negotiating advantage when they know you hate your job.


The rude HR Manager who said “Sure, you can get paid more at an abusive company” really meant “Guess what, sweetie? You are desperate to get out of your job, and we know it — so we’re going to take advantage of you just as badly as your current boss does!”


You did the right thing running away from that “opportunity.”


A recruiter who deserves your trust will earn your trust, slowly, through their actions more than their words. Never, ever tell a recruiter or a prospective employer these ten things:


  1. Never suggest or indicate that you are desperate to find a new job.


  1. Never disclose the fact that you have conflict with your boss or fear you might get fired.


  1. Never tell a recruiter or prospective employer that you’re not having luck with your job search or that you’ve pursued opportunities that didn’t pan out.


  1. Never tell them which other companies you’re interviewing with, or where you are in the recruiting pipeline with those organizations.


  1. Never tell a recruiter or employer about life circumstances that make it especially urgent for you to find a job quickly — for instance, that your spouse or partner lost their job.


  1. Never tell them that you are so interested in the job, you would take a pay cut. That’s the worst thing you can say, because it doesn’t mark you as desirable, but rather as needy — and you almost certainly will get a pay cut in that case.


  1. Never tell a recruiter or employer that you need a job fast — for instance, to have a steady income in order to qualify for a mortgage. Your urgency to get hired will translate into a less appealing job offer.


  1. Never tell a recruiter or employer if you plan to sue your past employer or file a claim against them. It’s none of their business, and however sympathetic they might be to your plight they will naturally wonder “If we hire this person, will they sue us one day, too?”


  1. Never tell a prospective employer or a recruiter “I’m so glad this company is interested in me, because I just had a good job offer fall through.”


  1. Finally, never tell a recruiter or a prospective new employer that you are tired of job-hunting and just want your job search to be over.


You have to remember that your relationships with employers and recruiters are business relationships, no matter how friendly they are. You are on one side of a negotiating table, all by yourself. The employer and the recruiter sit on the other side of the table.


It doesn’t matter how vehemently the recruiter tells you “I am on your side!” It simply isn’t true. If a real estate agent were getting paid a commission by the person who is selling a house and they find a prospective  buyer (that’s you), are they working for the buyer when they try to make the sale happen? No!


They are working for the seller. They have a huge financial incentive to get you into that job, the same way the real estate agent has a financial incentive to get you into the house they are trying to sell.


That’s why contingency recruiters — the folks who work on straight commission and only get paid when they fill a job opening — are famous for telling candidates “You should take the offer — it’s the best one you are going to get.”


I was an HR VP for millennia. I spent hours on the phone with recruiters. The hiring manager, the HR person and the recruiter have one another to confer and brainstorm with. You only have yourself plus whichever friends and family members you can enlist to counsel you during your job search.


That’s why every job-seeker has to keep their mojo fuel tank full. You will need every drop of your mojo to remember your own value — and to stand up for it when necessary!


Never tell another recruiter, HR person or hiring manager about the abuse you’ve been dealing with at your current job. One day you will write about it in your novel, but until then, keep it in the vault!


All the best,