Why it’s wrong: While it may be intuitively your first instinct to withhold any information you see as a detriment to landing a job, it’s not going to help you to keep this information from a recruiter. Keep in mind that there is a specific distinction between a recruiter and a hiring manager; namely, the recruiter has a vested interest in seeing you get the position, while a hiring manager is looking for reasons not to hire you. Recruiters get paid when they place candidates, plain and simple. Hiring managers, on the other hand, are shelling out money in this equation, so they will be keenly watching for any reasons not to do so. You need to remember that the recruiter is not trying to harpoon your chances of getting this job, so any information you give them will be used to help you. If you left your last job on not-so-good terms, it’s going to sound a lot better to a hiring manager with some spin on it from your recruiter than it would from a potentially disastrous reference check.
Recruiters also need to know about your personal information. What’s going on at home has just as much (if not more) of an impact on your career preferences as your life in the workplace does. They have to have the full picture before they can really be of use to you. Head hunters are paid to be discerning, so they will probably be able to tell if you aren’t disclosing everything. Remember that when they present you to a client they are putting their paycheck and their reputation on the line. If they sense anything amiss, they are not going to risk their livelihood with a gamble on you. If what tell them does eliminate you from the running, you can rest assured it would have come out in the interview process eventually, so you’ve saved everyone involved a ton of time and money. What’s more is that now the recruiter is better equipped to match you with positions that would be more in line with your circumstances in the future. The bottom line is that, even if there is a risk that what you say could take you out of the running for a specific job, it nowhere near outweighs the benefit that a recruiter with all of your information has. If your recruiter is well-armed with info, then he or she can anticipate potential areas of concern for the employer and get ahead of them, giving you a better shot at getting in the door.
The fix: Keep in mind that there are some things recruiters can’t ask you, for legal compliance reasons. This doesn’t mean that you can’t provide that information voluntarily. It may feel odd discussing your personal life with someone in an interviewing capacity, but it’s the only way that a recruiter will be able to help you find the jobs you are really interested in. For example, if you have a disabled family member who relies on your current health plan through work, then the benefits package with any potential new employers will have a higher degree of importance than it would for most people. Another common example is for those who have had legal trouble in the past. It’s understandable why you wouldn’t want to make that known, but you can rest assured it will come out in the background check process anyway, and there’s no faster way to ruin a relationship with a recruiter than to lie or withhold information that costs them (and you) the placement. If you’re single and want to stay in the city where you can have a social life, tell them that. If you have kids and have concerns about school systems, let them know. If you’re underwater on your home mortgage and relocation might be tricky, give them advanced warning. If the job you’re considering is an hour and a half away and you aren’t certain that you’re willing to make that commute, disclose it. Essentially, they need to know everything that might affect your ability to be considered for a job or to consider a job. Don’t feel obligated to disclose this right away, but if you are seriously in talks about a role with a recruiter, you need to make sure they are ready to tackle any potential obstacles standing in the way of placement. Don’t balk if they ask you for your compensation information or info on your current employer. It’s ok to make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable recruiter first by asking them some questions about their firm and the nature of their relationship to the employer, but once you have established that trust you need to be ready to spill your guts. Don’t feel queasy about giving them all of the info on your current company – they could get in some very hot water if they breached your trust or shared the wrong info with the wrong people, so they take great care to use discretion.