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3 Things You Should Probably Never Say to a Recruiter

Recruiters have a unique position in the job placement world. In a nutshell, they have to build relationships with both employers and candidates, then they play matchmaker so that it's a win-win situation for everyone involved. Part of a recruiter's job is to get to know you (the candidate) and figure out what you have to offer and the best place to fit you. However, be careful not to make the mistake of assuming that these "get to know you" conversations mean that you and the recruiter are BFFs – because that's when the relationship will take a turn for the worse. Here's what you need to know.

Recruiters have a unique position in the job placement world. In a nutshell, they have to build relationships with both employers and candidates, then they play matchmaker so that it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Part of a recruiter’s job is to get to know you (the candidate) and figure out what you have to offer and the best place to fit you. However, be careful not to make the mistake of assuming that these “get to know you” conversations mean that you and the recruiter are BFFs – because that’s when the relationship will take a turn for the worse. Here’s what you need to know.


(Photo Credit: Jennifer Moo/Flickr)

There’s a fine line between being yourself and being a little too open and honest with a recruiter. Remember, the recruiter is on your side, but you should always maintain a certain level of professionalism during your interactions. To prevent you from unknowingly crossing that fine line, here are three things you should never say during your communications with a recruiter.

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1. Slang Words

As tempting as it may be to shoot off an “LOL” or an “OMG” to the recruiter, refrain from doing so in your email conversations, at least in the beginning. By using slang words or phrases, you run the risk of sounding unprofessional and foolish – which, last time I checked, aren’t qualities employers look for in candidates.

2. Profanity

Ladies and gentlemen, this one should be a no-brainer. However, I do understand that there are always those few questionable candidates who have to go ruin it for the rest of us and drop a casual F-bomb here and there, like it’s no big deal. Suffice it to say, it’s never okay to use profanity when speaking to a recruiter. End of story.

3. Inappropriate Greetings/Salutations

When communicating in email, always use professional greetings and salutations to open and close your correspondences. In other words, refrain from using “Hey, [insert recruiter’s name]!” as a greeting or “With love,” as a sign-off. Instead, stick with the conventional “Dear Sir/Madam” and “Sincerely” for your emails.

The relationship between you and a recruiter is a two-way street and it should remain professional at all times. Consider your conversations with a recruiter as precursor to the actual interview with a prospective employer. If you should have any doubts as to what you should or shouldn’t say, just replace the recruiter with the employer in your mind and you should have your answer.

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Have something to add to the list? Share your pearls of wisdom with our community below, or tweet about it on Twitter.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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19 Comments on "3 Things You Should Probably Never Say to a Recruiter"

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@Kyle, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. An uncomfortable amount of articles, blogs, and other content leave one wondering if they’re written for kids in Junior High. Either the pieces are totally flippant, or they bear the mark of NO EDITING. Alas, the days when something was scrutinized and edited by a professional before it was deemed worthy of publishing are over. It’s surprising to see even supposedly-reputable sites filled with fluff and poorly written pieces with typos, poor sentence structure and bad grammar. The 140-character effect is taking a toll. We’re on a downward slope from… Read more »
Craig S

The same should be said to recruiters. Since I have posted my resume online, I have received from recruiters numerous responses that are full of grammatical and spelling errors. Why would I want someone that lacks basic communication skills to represent me.

Nicholas Whitehead

I agree with Jennifer Reid.
‘Dear Sir/Madam’ looks like a form letter – a standard application someone is sending out to a number of prospective employers and who can’t be bothered to find out the name of the person likely to read the letter. It tells the potential employer ‘I’m not really interested in working for you and I lack initiative.’


If the advice is so obvious, why don’t people follow it?
As an employer, I am amazed at how unprofessional some candidates are, and some recruiters too quite frankly.

Colin Newton

Strangely I have a recruiter that I’ve never met who contacts me with candidates and in emails abbreviates my name to col, I wonder why we’ve never done any business ?

Robert Godden

The first one is arguable, the second is s no-brainer and the last one is flat out wrong. As a recruiter of 15+ years experience, I always put my name in the recruitment advert, and if I get a cover letter addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam”, I see it as prima facae evidence that the candidate is not smart.
Tom Buffington’s comment is right: with hundreds of applicants, don’t give us a reason to rule you out.

Good, common sense tips. I always let the recruiter lead the conversation. I sit back and listen to the recruiter for cues. I don’t offer more then a response that will answer the question sufficiently. I keep in mind to remain pleasant and cheerful with a “smile” in my voice. I will ask a few questions which helps the recruiter determine if I am a potential fit. Ie specific to the job description. I am a seasoned RN with 3 decades of practicing in the healthcare field. I keep it professional during phone conversations and all email correspondences despite how… Read more »

Sounds straight and to the point. It sounds simple but obviously many people have not witnessed many jobseekers at work. It is a different world now when it comes to the way jobseekers operate compared to 5 or 10 years ago. Common sense is not common anymore.


I agree with John. Millenials and Digitals communicate in a more informal fashion where slag is common (not come on).

Others here miss the point. There are a lot of young workers in the market today to whom the obvious is not so clear. Let’s be honest, there are plenty of young people who seemingly cannot string together two sentences without slang, profanity, or unprofessional references. Is that not equally obvious? I agree in principle the points here are very basic. However, we only know them because we heard them from someone, somewhere, at some point in the past. Congratulations. That does not mean it is stupid to repeat it at some point so that others can hear it too.… Read more »

I’m wondering how much $$$ the site pays its writers.
The general formula is: minimum pay equals minimum effort equals articles that could have been
written while you were sleeping.


Far be it for me to criticize, but a graduate of USC probably could have written something a bit more insightful. I wonder if I’m just over-analyzing, but is it a sign of the times that there’s a necessity to write something extraordinarily pedestrian?



Carol V

I agree with the other anonymous comments. This information is so obvious.


When I clicked on this article, I was hoping to learn something I didn’t already about when I was about 14. I mean, common, can these three points get any more obvious? These are not only things you shouldn’t say to a recruiter, but things you should generally avoid in any professional setting – period.


When you find a job via a recruiter , you might want to keep in mind how they make their leaving , Replacing you .
Network is the best solution . Avoid the parasite when you can.
As for 3 words you never said to a recruiter , unless the recruiter is a Computer , it is actually good and flattering to use their name in the greeting or you will fall in the black hole of the hundreds of resume they get .
You want your resume to stand out .


Once again a completely obvious article posted by Payscale, without any real substance or references to support the claims. Don’t swear at a recruiter, that honestly needs to be an article? You could have at least included statistics or quotations to prove your point, if it really is a thing and you didn’t just make it all up for clickbait.

Tom Buffington

Always remember: the recruiters job is to screen you out! Do not give us a reason to do so. Stay professional. Stay mature. We recruiters talk with, and see, sometimes a hundred or more candidates each week, most of those just as qualified as you, so put yourself in the best light always!

Jennifer Reid
I disagree with what you said in #3. Using “Sir/Madam” in place of the full name of the recruiter, interviewer, or department manager who has been charged with screening candidates is not a good idea. It shows the candidate hasn’t done his/her homework about the prospective employer that has a job opening he/she is competing for. If the candidate does not know the name of the contact person who is compiling resumes and cover letters from people who are interested in a particular opening, he/she should call and inquire. Better yet, if he/she already knows someone who works there, he/she… Read more »
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