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The one sentence that makes recruiters think you’re overly desperate


It’s one of the hardest things to do: being unemployed and desperate for a job yet appearing self-assured and not overly needy. Unfortunately, pulling off the “con” is as important as it is difficult, and not just in interviews with hiring managers. You need to keep your guard up with recruiters, too.

In the three-and-a-half years I spent as a recruiter, there was only one main reason to not send over a candidate’s resume when they had all the pre-requisite skills needed for the job: if you thought they were going to make you look bad. You must remember, a recruiter’s reputation is built through the people who they submit. Poor-performing candidates tend to be represented by poor-performing recruiters who miss certain tells. That’s just a fact. And it goes for internal and third-party recruiters. Outside headhunters don’t get paid when their candidates flop; internal ones eventually get fired.

One of the main reasons to steer clear of a candidate is if you don’t, for whatever reason, feel you can trust them (this goes both ways, obviously). The other is if they appear broken, for lack of a better term.

Candidates who have been beaten down by a lengthy job search and who are outwardly frustrated and cynical fail in interviews more often than they succeed. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. You’d want someone who exudes confidence too, especially on Wall Street.

It’s therefore recommended to bring your A-game in every aspect of the hiring process, even during a chat with an internal or third-party recruiter. Attitude is the key, obviously, but there are also a few red flags that recruiters look for. Talking about how difficult you find the market and how much trouble you’ve had landing a job, for starters. Even if it’s true and more than understandable, which right now it likely is, every employer wants people who appear wanted.

But perhaps the biggest, most obvious tell is one particular sentence, usually offered after a recruiter asks what a candidate’s looking for. “At this point I’m willing to…”

It doesn’t matter how the sentence finishes – drive 140 miles to work, move to North Dakota, take a 200% pay cut. The sentence not only reeksof desperation, it also makes recruiters and hiring managers fear the long-term future. What happens when the market improves, or if another opportunity pops up a month later? At “that point,” you’re likely to move on, leaving recruiters (who wouldn’t get their full fee) and hiring managers with egg on their face.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with taking something that is otherwise beneath you, even if it is just for the short-term. Just don’t vocalize it to those on the other side of the hiring desk.

Comments (13)

  1. Thumbs up!

  2. The percentage of the work force that has simply given up is well understood.

    LEI Home Office Reply
  3. This article is a gross oversimplification. There are many great candidates who’ve been ground down by the spotty job market and recruiters that treat them like cattle. Desperation is often a temporary feeling and not a trait inherent in someone’s personality. If someone is qualified I refer them, but I also take the time to get them fired up about their own background and how it fits with the opportunity. When they’re not qualified I call and tell them why and make suggestions about the types of positions they can pursue to have the most success.

    A good recruiter isn’t just a filter; they’re a coach for the candidate, an adviser for the client, and an advocate for both insuring that everyone wins. At the end of the day you can’t help all candidates, but you can give them the respect and honesty everyone deserves.

    ajpalumbo@val-group.com Reply
  4. I am in a unique position. I walked away from my role and moved to another country because of family and personal issues. now I am having problems getting back into the market. how would a recruiter view me as a candidate?

  5. “wreaks of desperation” –> “reeks of desperation”

    You can’t be serious about this grammatical faux pas.

  6. These recrutiment companies really dont care where they place you its all about making money no matter how professional they seem in fact the more professional they wish to represent themselves often the worst they are particularly in London.

  7. Would be a better article if edited properly.

  8. Dear Study English,

    Reek was used purposely you fool. The person reeks of desperation, as if to say he exudes the strong unpleasant scent of a desperate person. It’s a literary device called synesthesia. Synesthesia involves describing something using the senses that do not detect the object being described.. It’s like saying “a heavy blue sky” or “a colourful character” or even “he reeked of hypocrisy”.

  9. “Reek was used purposely you fool” Really Beecher? I would have thought as an editor and an educated man you would have explained yourself gracefully rather than call him a fool.
    In your three and a half years as a recruiter, tell me you didn’t just bypass everyone who was not 90-100% fit for the role? In my 25 years as a recruiter I have picked people up, dusted them down and brought out the best in them and happily told the client the background. Recruitment is not just a commodity market. There is a human aspect to it and it seems obvious to everyone that you have missed that part.

  10. Beecher you stupid recruiter !!! Without us or human you wouldn’t have your job!!!!
    Think and talk sense!!!

  11. So, according to the article, the moral of the story is: to nail that job, you must lie, bullsh*t, lie to everyone’s face, shamefully fib, deceive, lie lie lie lie and lie. all the way to the bank. Just like the LIBOR manipulators. Lie = rewards and riches; truth = poverty and worse. Yes, this is the sick society we live in.

  12. Who can’t pass on the ideal candidate or the apparent ideal candidate? If that was all a recruiter did then all the rest of us mediocre candidates have no hope. A recruiter should earn his keep by reviewing and tweaking the CV for presentation, assess for fit, then assist the candidate in interview techniques. So what if a candidate makes you look bad, if you did your due diligence, some times people let you down. Or perhaps you only have a short employer-client listing, Mr Tuttle?

  13. Nobody is an “expert” basing on their self-accreditation. It is always a 50-50 situation and the “shopping” trial & test between candidate and scout at interview is mutual. A few years in the job and you claimed honour to know all there is about recruiting. Champion head-hunters don’t even dare to generalise the “unknown’s potentials” which are often the intangibles and couldn’t be discovered within the first few minutes of close encounter, even after thorough research into the background of the short-listed “ideal” subject was carried out previously. It was already proven over the years that recruiters too are human, and they also made mistakes overlooking the best of candidates who were available for their picking, just because the unknown greatest achievers are never good enough in “selling” themselves in those few minutes. A great talker is never a great servant.

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