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Posted by Mindy Thomas on

A Job Hunter’s Nightmare: When a Recruiter Crosses the Line

snoopy2Can you imagine working with a recruiter on your seemingly confidential job search, and you find out your recruiter crossed the line?

When my client told me he was terminated from his job, I wondered why. He was an absolute star performer and had a track record of success that didn’t quit. In fact, he was actively being sought after by multiple companies.

Several things came to mind. Maybe he posted his resume on Monster. Maybe he told someone at work that he was looking for a job and that backfired on him. Maybe he left his resume in his printer.

No, not a chance in hell.

As the story goes, the recruiter he was working with on a job search happened to know the president of the company he was working for. The recruiter sent the president an email saying my client was searching for a new job, in addition to revealing other intimate details of my client’s frustration with his current company. Within the hour, my client was contacted by his boss and immediately fired.

Is there no sacred space or moral code that allows someone to conduct a job search without fear? How can a recruiter divulge confidential information in all good conscience? I understand how friendships work, but at some point, don’t we have to draw the line? My client trusted the recruiter implicitly that he would be conducting a confidential search.

As a former legal recruiter, I am amazed at the breech of confidentiality, lack of discretion and absence of moral code and ethics. How would that recruiter feel if someone disclosed to HIS boss that he was looking for a job?

Watch Your Back

Not only do job hunters have to assess the integrity of their recruiter, they also have to think about confidentiality with their peers at work.

Believe it or not, another client walked through my door last week and announced that he had learned a very hard lesson at work. I cringed, sensing another tragedy would unfold right before my eyes. I knew by the look on his face that something had run afoul. As the story goes, he worked for a company that lacked integrity on every level. The dishonest environment sickened him and he had to get out.

He also knew on an intellectual level that he had to make a smart choice and not let his emotions get the best of him. Transitioning his way out of the minefield was not going to be easy and he knew it. Some of the questions he asked himself were:

Do I quit now and look for the same job at a different company?
What are all of my options? Where do I fit into the market right now?
Should I risk entrepreneurship?
In fact, we had explored these ideas earlier in career counseling while identifying his top strengths. I assumed that he knew not to discuss his feelings with anyone at the office. To cut to the chase, my client had shared with a peer at work that he was actively searching for a new job and seeing a career counselor to determine his next steps.

At the end of the conversation with his “friend,” the peer simply said, “Based on what you just told me, I am going to have to report this to the leadership.” My client was quickly terminated.

I still cannot wrap my head around this scenario, can you?

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Confidentiality aside, there are many arguments for changing jobs every few years, many of them positive. As reported in Fast Company, “Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50 percent less, and job hoppers are believed to have a higher learning curve, be higher performers, and even to be more loyal, because they care about making a good impression in the short amount of time they know they’ll stay with each employer.”

How does this apply to you? If you happen to fall into the job-hopping group that wants to get ahead and strives to be better, continuously learn, develop, and advance in your career, then you need to remember that confidentiality is a critical component of your job search on every level.

In summary, keep everything about your job hunt in the proverbial vault. This includes not discussing any conversation about your dissatisfaction on the job with your recruiter or coworkers. In crafting the next chapter of your career, you will want to make the move on your own terms and not the other way around.

All too often, I hear horror stories from job hunters because of my work as both a resume writer and career counselor. When they land on my lap, I often think about how my clients could have prevented such a tragedy from happening. Sometimes it’s their fault; other times, it’s not. I can still hear my dad, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot, espousing the idiom “Loose lips sink ships.”

Where does that leave this particular recruiter or peer who, more than likely, will be searching for a new position over the next year? If you believe in the law of karma, then you are probably hoping, like me, that the boomerang effect will get into play.