Is it ok to tell a recruiter why you wouldn't want to work at their company?

A recruiter recently reached out to me, and although I’m sure I’d love their comp and benefits, I could never work there ethically.

Is it weird that I want to explain this to them? In the past if a job would never work due to location, remote status etc., I would always let the recruiter know because I felt this was important information for the company to have about why someone might not be interested. Alternatively though, I’m really not trying to insult the recruiter on a personal level given I understand this is a very different genre of feedback than just saying a location couldn’t work for me.

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Of course it is - a real recruiter wouldn’t take it personally. I wouldn’t work for company X because:

  • I know 1+ members of the management team, and their behavior doesn’t match my personal values.
  • I’m familiar with the industry and am quite confident that X’s business model is flawed.
  • I’ve looked at company X’s Glassdoor profile & see a crapton of negative reviews.
  • I come from the startup world and have no interest in big-company politics.
  • I’ve read about X’s technology stack and have no interest in fixing years of technical debt.
  • X has (IMO) no idea how to do Product Management, as demonstrated by the job functions & influence exerted by their PM community - if they have one. (This is MUCH MUCH more prevalent than you’d think.)

I could go on, but you get the idea.

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I have the same feeling. I interviewed with them couple of years back And didn’t go through and since then the same recruiter reaches out like every 6 months inviting me to interview and for the same reasons as yours I’m not interested. I never replied and the invites keep coming

I have a similar urge, but what stops me is two things

  1. Like the other commenter said, what would I hope to come out of it other than offending the person and reducing my flooding mailbox by one email every 6 months?

  2. Why would I close a door that I may need open one day? Who knows? Maybe they’ll change, maybe they’ll open an ethics department, maybe the recruiter would move to another company I love and I would want them to consider me, maybe I’ll be desperate for a job and money that I have no other option…

If anything, I would reply courteously that I’m not looking for the time being and may be available in a few months, heck, I would actually meet with them and create a relationship (which is what I did), and I would just vent out to friends or on he internet, but I would almost NEVER close a door for a job opportunity no matter what.

FWIW I interviewed for tons of jobs that I was never interested in for numerous reasons. Meeting professionals and honing down interview skills never hurt anyone.

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If you can get a job at a big company like Facebook or Meta now, it’s hard to imagine being in a place where you’d still be able to do that in the future but not be able to find work anywhere else at all. I wouldn’t worry too much about closing that door.

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It’s the closed door thing mainly.

I think of work foremost as a way to pay my bills. I understand that there’s greater things for the end result of what I help produce but I maintain every door be open regardless of how I feel about the person running that area, the company, whatever.

Obviously there’s a limit, I’m not going to sign up to work for the KKK. But you really do never know how things can turn out.

If I got layed off and Facebook was the only ones hiring? I’m taking the job.

I don’t have a big money pile to fall back on. I have a wife and a dog I want to make sure keep eating.

You can always donate your extra money (if you have any) to causes that would offset what you feel like these companies are doing.

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I especially love this last paragraph. If you work at a somewhat unethical company but give the extra money you make there to a very effective organization (like Give Directly or similar), your net benefit would be massive.

Earn to give is a wildly effective way of doing charity that should be more prevalent in our field.

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I have done this before. Recruiter totally understood why it would be problematic for me. If you decide to do so, just do it tactfully. You never know where that recruiter will land next.

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This.

I’ve also done it, and the recruiter still continued reaching out to me every so often for years. I loved her, not the company, and was completely honest about this. Always a fun chat that ended with us both having a laugh that nothing had changed (I still wasn’t interested).

I appreciated her persistence (she was genuinely great to speak with and not a nuisance), and I’ve learned to never say never. I’ve been surprised (for better and worse) in the past, and I try hard to not close myself off completely, regardless of some horrible experiences I’ve had.

Funny enough, after 5+ years of that dance, a different recruiter from the same company reached out with a one-in-a-million role that I was actually keen on…then the stock tanked and they ghosted! Haha

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I think you can do it in a way that’s constructive. And if enough people do that then they have an obligation to report back that they are missing out on top talent, despite high pay, because of these very real issues. It’s a slight chance that it could make a difference. But alternatively I think you can make it known while leaving the door open should things change for the better in the future…

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I once pulled out from an early screening with a very well funded data mining analytics startup after discovering that their product was once used to monitor activists during the BLM movement. I initially gave a vague reason but the recruiter pressed on me and in the end I had to share the real reason.

As for the leaders I would never want to work for (publicly known for creating toxic org culture), I don’t respond to their recruiters.

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All the time. I realize this hurts my maximum earning potential but I’m fine with that. I view this as me boycotting their industry/company and raising their hiring costs. For example I refuse to work for military suppliers.

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You can communicate anything you want so long as you do it professionally. Done well, you may even get the recruiter to remember you when they move on to another company and are looking for talent.

e.g.

Thank you for reaching out to me. I really appreciate it.

Meta has been in the news a lot lately. Some of the facts that have emerged about the impact of its products on youth and their use in the spread of misinformation worry me, enough so that I am not interested at this time in working for it.

These are hard but important problems for our society. I am sure that the company’s leadership is working hard to address them. I’d love to stay in touch about future opportunities once these and other similar issues are addressed.

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You can communicate anything you want so long as you do it professionally. Done well, you may even get the recruiter to remember you when they move on to another company and are looking for talent.

e.g.

Thank you for reaching out to me. I really appreciate it.

Meta has been in the news a lot lately. Some of the facts that have emerged about the impact of its products on youth and their use in the spread of misinformation worry me, enough so that I am not interested at this time in working for it.

These are hard but important problems for our society. I am sure that the company’s leadership is working hard to address them. I’d love to stay in touch about future opportunities once these and other similar issues are addressed.

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I generally reply with a reason only if there’s a chance that (one day) that the underlying issue changes.

eg “only considering remote roles” or “want to work on [specialty, eg iOS apps or B2B platforms]”

If those ever change, they/I can always reach out and say “hey I saw [reason] is no longer a factor, any interest?”

For everyone else: “not in an industry I’m interested in”. Rarely do companies change industries, and so it’s not worth the recruiter’s time to keep me on any sort of “soft no” list. And if I change my mind, I can always reach back out with “as fate has it, I started working [in your industry] and realized how interesting it is”.

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If the goal is for them to never reach out again, then you could certainly be honest when you decline. You can do this tactfully and professionally without being rude to the recruiter. I personally just ignore recruiters, but do what works for you.

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What are you solving for though?

Doubt this will be new info they haven’t heard, and doubt this will change their mind about working there… so what’s the point?

If they press you on it, sure be honest. But if it’s just to share your POV, well, who asked?

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I haven’t been hounded by a recruiter to this length but I’d reply I’m not interested in working at Meta. I’ve done similar when saying I’m not interested in working in a finance/banking environment. Also is closing the door such a huge thing? There’s so many recruiters and they’re constantly moving - you’ll just get approached by a different one lol

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It is ok to say that X company does not meet my personal and professional needs at this moment.

Not working at a place because they don’t match your ethical/moral code is fine but telling others they are unethical seems a bit elitist because not everyone may view it that way. E.g., I won’t work for cigarette companies. However, my uncle smokes, and so does my cousin. Do I see them as weaker beings than me because they can’t control their will not to smoke? Of course not. I have no right to judge them. All I can control is not smoking and working for such a company.

Many companies, sectors/and industries have questionable ethics. It is up to you how you tradeoff between ethics vs. financial freedom vs. costs to the society. But, I would avoid judging others if their choices contradict my belief.

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Recruiting is a career just like any other. Maintain a relationship with the individual, but let them know that at this time, they are part of an organization you are not interested in working with / for.

They will move on to another organization and will not hesitate to contact you about future opportunities. As you become a more senior person, recruiters are useful for referring your colleagues to or pinging them for questions.