Eva Grabner

Elite Executive

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Elite Executive column: What not to say to a recruiter

The job search minefield is quite tricky to navigate at the best of times, but for anyone re-entering the work force after a break or a long tenure with one organisation, it can be quite overwhelming.

Recruiters are experts in job searching and, in many cases, can help guide you through this minefield, hopefully to the job of your dreams.

They are not just a go-between – the person who organises interviews and the liaison between you and your future boss – they are an integral part of the hiring process.

To overlook or underestimate their influence is a big mistake.

When dealing with a recruiter for the first time, make sure you have done your research and be prepared and turn up for your appointment on time and in professional attire.

Once there, here are a few pointers on what not to say to your recruiter.

“I’ll take anything.”

Regardless of whether your bills are piling up, your current role is at an end or whether this opportunity is with your dream company, avoid telling a recruiter that you’ll "take anything".

This smells of desperation and this is why:

• You are selling yourself and your skills short. You are talented and smart and can contribute greatly to this organisation.

• You appear uninformed. Recruiters want well-researched, highly engaged, informed candidates to apply for jobs. This statement makes you appear as though you have not thought about the role, the company or whether your career objectives will align.

• You are signalling that you will settle. Trust me, job seekers who appear desperate will not command attention nor the best treatment.

“Sure! That salary is fine.”

Never (never!) settle for the opening salary offer; be prepared to negotiate your worth

Make sure to have done your research into what you should earn based on your skills, experience and location.

You should know your worth, but don’t blow it out of proportion either.

Be honest with your recruiter, tell them what you are looking for and what you think you deserve – they will guide you accordingly. 

Remember, they know their clients so will be aware of how high they can negotiate on your behalf.

“My previous company was horrible”

Negativity or complaining is a big no-no and sets the wrong impression.

Barring a really unique circumstance, griping about a former boss, colleagues or work environment can be detrimental to your interview process, as well as your professional reputation.

Instead, focus on how you navigated the challenges of your previous job.

Share how you coped, or thrived, and give some good examples of how you worked around that situation.

This will leave a much better impression!

“I know my interview is today, but can we reschedule?”

Unless there has been a critical emergency, cancelling an interview on the day is tantamount to saying “I really don’t want this job and I don’t value you or your time”.

If you need to adjust the time or are running late, be transparent.

Being late to an interview without calling ahead to provide a valid explanation will knock your application on the head.


Developing a good relationship with your recruiter will only benefit you in the end.

Keep in touch with them, ask their advice when applying for roles and respect their time.