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I am currently starting to look for my first job, and thanks to my soon to come degree, I have quite a lot of people knocking at my door.

For political reasons, I refuse to entertain any possibility of working with any kind of company that does defense or banking contracts. I am not ashamed of my political views, but as they are quite fringe and not necessarily relevant to most contracts, I don't see the point in talking about those in interviews.

As most of my job opportunities are coming from recruiters that work with several clients, I must always bring that up with them, as otherwise it leads to awkward job interviews where I must pretty much stop the guy talking to me when he talks about their missions 20 minutes into the interview process, saying that I can't work with them.

When I disclose simply that I can't join the company "for personal reasons" I always get pressed rather hard to develop on it, and I at least superficially elude that it is both political and non negotiable. Should I simply say "for political reasons" to get the point across faster? Should I stick to "personal reasons" and refuse to budge when pressed on it, or is my current strategy the one I should stick to?

EDIT: I should make clear that I am asking for the most polite way to disclose that I won't work in said field to recruiter, and avoid having to do to much explaining, as it is extremely awkward to have to dance around the subject when pressed on it.

I am not thinking about putting it into my resume, as it is not relevant to most interviews.

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    You should probably research the company in advance to see if it is objectionable to you. And you don't have to end the interview as soon as you know you aren't interested, because that can come off as rather snobby. You can finish the interview and decline another one, but be aware that recruiters may give up on you if you seem to picky.
    – Esther
    Mar 22 at 14:28
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    Can you ask the recruiter about the companies' policies in advance? And can you tell the recruiter what your requirements for companies are? The company itself doesn't have to know, but the recruiter knowing what you're looking for should only help.
    – Esther
    Mar 22 at 14:35
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    @Old_Lamplighter we live in a society . in today word you are forced to have a bank acount and many other thing that i don't necessarly agree with but have to put up with , at least until i decide to go raise goat in the montain. but it is a very different thing to me to have to put up with some stuff because you can't participate in society otherwise, and actually working to help those area. but this isn't relevant to the question , as much as the discussion would be interesting. Im mainly interested in how to diplomaticly stop recruitor from asking too many question about it.
    – shas
    Mar 22 at 16:14
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    I find it surprising it's closed. im not asking anything political, And i think i phrased it in a way that could be aplied to anybody that won't do certain job for their own reason. im not asking to be validated on my belief.
    – shas
    Mar 23 at 10:44
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    @PhilipKendall the benefit go bothway, aka, i don't loose time doing interview i won't pursue, they don't work for nothing.
    – shas
    Mar 23 at 13:29

12 Answers 12

97

For political reasons, I refuse to entertain any possibility of working with any kind of company that does defense or banking contracts.

As most of my job opportunities are coming from recruiters that work with several clients, I must always bring that up with them, as otherwise it leads to awkward job interviews where I must pretty much stop the guy talking to me when he talks about their missions 20 minutes into the interview process, saying that I can't work with them.

When I disclose simply that I can't join the company "for personal reasons" I always get pressed rather hard to develop on it, and I at least superficially elude that it is both political and non negotiable. Should I simply say "for political reasons" to get the point across faster?

Recruiters who deal with multiple clients want to understand what you will do and what you won't do, in order to see if you would fit in a role with any of their clients.

Since this is obviously important to you, you need to be clear and direct.

Something like "For political reasons, I will not work with any company that does defense or banking contracts. That is not negotiable and I wouldn't want to waste anyone's time." should work.

This does not go on your resume, nor in your cover letter - these are not the proper places for "what I won't do".

Before you accept an interview with a company, make sure you determine for yourself if they meet your criteria. A good multi-client recruiter will do that for you. If you deal directly with someone from a company, you'll have to investigate for yourself.

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    Couldn't it be better to skip the political motivation part? Couldn't it lead to assumptions that maybe aren't true?
    – Hermes
    Mar 23 at 11:49
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    Thanks, @FreeMan, that is precisely what I am talking about. My point of view is that giving inaccurate data such as "it is for political reasons" can lead the recruiter to an unrealistic idea of what the OP wants. To avoid this, isn't it better to get the facts straight (I don't want such and such) and not explain the motivations unless they are negotiable?
    – Hermes
    Mar 23 at 12:46
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    Keep in mind that most multi-client recruiters that I've met are not particularly "good" in the sense of helping you as best they can. Most of the ones I've met will plug you into whatever position they can get away with that they think will get them paid that fastest. Do your own research no matter what! Mar 23 at 13:11
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    @Hermes I agree - it's ethical rather than political. However this answer is just echoing the "political" bit from the OP. The "For political reasons" bit could be swapped with "For ethical reasons", or could be left out as the reasons don't really matter.
    – Aaron F
    Mar 23 at 17:04
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    I would absolutely not use the word "political" or "ethical" at all. "Personal" is far more suitable. It's not unusual for people of some faiths to not want to have anything to do with defence, gambling and banking. Mar 24 at 3:05
46

I hold similar views that I will not compromise on.

I have now worked for, uh, decades as a software engineer. I never added anything like this to my resume, as I feel it encourages others to make assumptions about me, perhaps incorrectly. Adding this level of detail early in the process potentially cuts you off. For example, someone may assume you also refuse to work with Insurers, because in their mind, insurance is closely tied to banking.

When a position comes your way, just vet it yourself. Then you can let the recruiter / company know quickly. I always just said something like "I don't really want to work in [industry-type name]", and left it at that. Recruiters don't care what the basis of your objections are, and it doesn't matter: if you don't like it, you don't like it.

(FWIW: I always enjoy working for big banks.)

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    I too have a rule that I won't work for defence companies. It limits the options in my specific field of expertise, and pretty much rules out my work ever going into space which was an ambition as a kid, but I've kept employed and in conversations with recruiters it's never been a bone of contention - "I have a position with X company that you'd be a good fit for, shall I put your CV forward?" "What do they do?" "Missile systems" "No, thanks, I don't want to work in defence - best not waste anyone's time with that" "OK, I'll let you know if something else comes up"
    – Saes
    Mar 23 at 14:01
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    As a software developer, there are some technologies I refuse to work with. As someone who is security conscious, there are some companies I refuse to apply to because of the apparent way they require recruiters to share access to a single application account and need me to give them access to change the password every time. I gave up trying to explain this to recruiters, as well as softer phrases like "I don't want to", they just try to bargain or plead with me. I simply state "I refuse to/will not work with/for XXXX" and they generally accept it without comment. Mar 25 at 19:15
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    @computercarguy Great point on the difference between "don't want" and "won't"! Takes a while to notice just how much more efficient the latter is.
    – Lodinn
    Apr 3 at 9:14
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I don`t see why, if you so hellbent on avoiding specific companies, you choose to give the recruiters a runaround

You should state your moral compass with the recruiter, this way you would not be considered and processed for positions in that sector.

By not doing that, you come through a bit hypocritical, leaving an option to accept these contracts if you would not get another chance.

But by that time, recruiter may flag you as unstable and not promote you to the companies you like, but the ones he have no other resources

---- UPDATE ----

@shas As far as i remember , with recruiter you state your preference and how concrete they are. Any digging deeper in to whys should not be their business. And, IMHO, you answer to a deeper digging should be This is what i am looking for

You don`t have to apologize for your principles

2 times answering the same question from same recruiter, may show you how much do they listen to you and start filtering :)

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  • i am asking this question over here precisly because i want to get a proper way to make it clear to recruitor that they should NOT send me for this kind of interview. i am already stating that to recruitor, but so far they are rather annoying and keep on snooping around my refusal and i was looking for a way to not have to dance around the issue, nor give ankward explenation of my political compass, which on top of being ankward would most definitly be a problem with my employability
    – shas
    Mar 22 at 15:46
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    @shas, Tell third party recruiters the entire truth. You don't have to do so, but doing so will be much easier. And most recruiters do not care, they just want to earn their commission anyway. And even if they blacklist you over this (which they won't), but even if they did, it wouldn't be the end of the world. It's super easy to find new recruiters. Mar 22 at 15:51
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    'hellbent', 'runaround', 'hypocritical', 'unstable' are all somewhat emotive language that I don't think it's warranted by the question, hence downvote
    – Saes
    Mar 23 at 13:53
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I would advise you to find a better recruiter. A good recruiter will accept your preferences and only introduce potential employers to you that fit your criteria. A good recruiter also wouldn't plan 3 job interviews on the same day.

I have my fair share of experience with recruiters. Most are pretty useless, they just introduce you to as many employers as they can find within roughly 50 km of your house in the hope that one of them is a success. Those recruiters don't care at all about you and your wishes, all they care about is a chance to make quick money. But there are some recruiters that are good. One recruiter asked me what preferences I have and if there are types of companies where I wouldn't want to work for. That's the type of recruiter you'll want to do business with.

As already mentioned in the comments, it's important to do some research into the potential employers that you visit. If you have 3 job interviews on a single day and don't prepare for any of them, you'll come across as uninterested and there's a big risk of being late on the second or third job interview (job interviews can last half an hour, but also 2 hours).

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There are ways of avoiding it entirely without bringing your politics into it.

Simply state that you would prefer to focus outside of the those industries. You don't need to justify anything. Certain industries appeal to certain people. I don't want to work in the financial industry either because I've done that and didn't like it. Same for the news industry.

Things have become so industry specific so that you can easily outline the ones you do and do not want to work for. The more complete a picture you can draw for a recruiter, the better.

If you emphasize what you WANT to do other than what you want to avoid, it will go much easier for you.

Look to industries that have nothing to do with the military or banking industries. Shipping, logistics, manufacturing, agricultural, et cet. are good examples, but there are many more.

Surprisingly, it's far easier to avoid the financial industry than most. They have a bad reputation and are hard for recruiters to place candidates, which is why they push so hard. Make it clear that you don't want to work for the financials and don't explain. The recruiters will assume that you know about the industry.

Again, put it in a positive way. "I want to look for jobs in "X" industry. You will also make yourself more marketable. It will also give you a bit of an edge, because when a job comes up for that industry, they will look at their notes and see that you mentioned it.

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    I recommend not giving a reason at all, and especially not give a reason that requires lying. "I don't want to get a security clearance" is untrue. A reason is unnecessary, and a false reason doubly so. Mar 23 at 17:17
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    @AndyLester examples are for informational purposes. Mar 23 at 17:48
  • Regardless of the example, no reason is necessary. "I prefer not to work in the financial industry" is all the explanation that is necessary. Far too often job-seekers feel that they must justify their every action and decision. It's just not so. In fact, it's usually TMI: Too Much Information. Mar 23 at 19:18
  • @AndyLester That's why I said " Make it clear that you don't want to work for the financials and don't explain. " Mar 23 at 19:57
  • @Old_Lamplighter why do you propose no reason is necessary to avoid working in finance, but suggest defence needs an 'excuse' enough to give one that's not strictly true? Surely "I don't want to work in the defence industry" is equally as good as "I don't want to work in the finance industry"
    – Saes
    Mar 24 at 9:55
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I think you're optimizing for the wrong thing. You are closing off all the positives that might come out of the interview process.

You're trying to make your interactions with these companies as short as possible. You're refusing a job that hasn't been offered to you. I suggest that you still go through the interview process.

You say:

I must pretty much stop the guy talking to me when he talks about their missions 20 minutes into the interview process, saying that I can't work with them.

Why do you think you must stop the guy? Go through the rest of the interview. If nothing else, it's good practice, which is something that you as a new job seeker can certainly use. See what comes of it. See what you can learn.

There are any number of possible outcomes from an interview, and if you cut the interview short, they can't happen.

Maybe you'll get a job offer, and then that's your time to decide if you want to work for the company or not. Maybe it's a really good job that you would love except for the part about working on defense contracts. Maybe the company will work into an employment agreement that you don't have to work on those contracts, if that's a reasonable arrangement. You don't know until you go through the process.

Maybe you'll get a job offer, and you turn down the offer because you don't want to work on defense contracts. The hiring manager might say "That's understandable. I was very impressed with your background. If you don't mind, I'd like to refer you to my colleague at XYZ Company, because XYZ might be a better fit for you." Good candidates are hard to find.

None of these things can happen if you just put the brakes on everything at the outset. You've already gone through getting to the interview stage (an achievement in itself), so play it out and see what happens.

Something else to consider is that if you're often applying to companies that work on things you don't want to work on, you're probably not doing enough research. You should already know going into the interview what kind of work the company does. It shouldn't be a surprise when the hiring manager tells you about it.

Finally, don't frame your preferences as a "moral" objection. You can just say "I prefer not to work in the defense or financial industries." I don't want to work in finance, either, but it's not a moral decision. I'm just not interested in it. You don't have to make it a bigger thing than it needs to be.

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  • If OP absolutely will not work for the company, then they are wasting the company's time by going to the interview, or continuing the process after that particularly to where they offer the job. If the business has already allocated all the people to attend the interview then maybe completing the interview isn't a problem, but OP should tell them pretty quickly afterwards that they have decided against it (no reason to say why). Ideally OP should have already researched the company & dept enough to know to refuse the interview in the first place (or better yet, never apply at all).
    – Dragonel
    Mar 23 at 17:05
  • @Dragonel edge cases are not helpful Mar 23 at 17:50
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    @Old_Lamplighter. I have absolutely no clue what your comment means. Could you explain it more?
    – Dragonel
    Mar 24 at 0:52
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I personally also refuse to do defense work (I've not put much thought into finance but would probably also avoid it), and I always answer with some variant of

"Hi, I see the company you're working with is a defense company, and due to moral reasons, I won't work for them."

Or in response to

"Hi, do you have time to talk about an exciting job opportunity?"

I answer something like

"Hi, provided the company does not operate in the defense industry, I'm happy to talk about opportunities"

Recruiters typically send out large quantities of emails/linkedin requests, and they're not going to be offended if you decline or even ignore their invites, and if you flat out reject the possibility of working for a defense company, you leave them little room to negotiate or pry into your beliefs.

1

Another option worth pursuing is forgoing the recruiter all together and applying to jobs directly with companies. Most companies will have a career tab somewhere on the corporate website. Do some research into companies that you think are swell and see if they are not open to new hires.

Some companies do what is called informational interviews. Which is just a lowstress way to interact with companies and to get a feel for if you may want to work for them.

If you got a list of companies you would like to work for you may even consider reaching out to the head of HR of these companies on LinkedIn. Just a quick question on what there appetite for new personnel is currently. You can always ask and they can always say no, but there is no harm in asking.

You may find that interacting directly with HR of a like-minded company less frustrating. The company may appreciate the recruiter fees you may save them.

I would also advise you not to let your politics effect your work life. Unless you are walking into managerial position you will be in no position to tell management who the company can and cannot work for.

You may get a company who has not dealt with banks or the defense sector but they may apply for such a contract and they may get it.

You cannot expect them to turn away lucrative work just to appease the political views of some random code monkey.

If you where to quit a job that pays well and makes you happy over this then that would be shortsighted.

I don't know what the chances are of you working on a defense contract but software development and the financial services sector have been interwoven for as long as both have existed.

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Before I blurt out my answer: I'm 55 years old. Today I'm a DBA but I've been a developer both 1099 and W2, own my own small company on the side and I've been hired and hired people. I've attended dozens and dozens of interviews over many years from both sides of the table.

With that out of the way, let me ask this: why do you feel the need to EVER "pretty much stop the guy talking to me" during an interview? This is a job interview. One of YOUR responsibilities when presented with an opportunity to interview is to do your research. It takes next to zero effort to avoid working directly for either industry you personally find odious and it takes only the smallest amount more to do the same for companies that services those same industries.

So, if I'm the guy on the opposite side of your interview desk and you were to "stop me from talking to you" several things about you become immediately clear:

  1. You DIDN'T do your research and if you can't be assed enough to do this then what makes me think you'll display any more effort if you were an employee?
  2. You COULD have simply exhibited some small semblance of manners, allow the interview to conclude then exit the building and politely decline any possible follow ups or offers should the be forthcoming. However...
  3. ...because you CHOSE INSTEAD to be rude (because no matter how hard you try, shutting someone else up is simply flat out and incredibly rude) and did THAT in service to your politics tells me that you REALLY think everyone else NEEDS to know your stance on things despite the likely fact that the person you're speaking with has their own opinions and has likely developed them as a product of more life experience than you have.

TL/DR: you could have avoided the situation with the application of just the smallest amount of effort and even if the interview put you in that position anyway, it costs you nothing to sit still, be quiet, endure the experience and leave. If you WANT potential employers to meet your political expectation then put that shit on your resume. But, you likely know as well as I do that if you do that, chances are you won't get all that many interviews because employers of all stripes tend to avoid people who elevate their personal politics above all else. You probably know that too (which is why it's NOT on your resume already) which means you're being down low sly about yourself which is false to a degree...which is what the interview process is there to weed out in the first place. Do everyone involved a favor and straight up tell people in your resume or your cover letter that while you're seeking a position you'd prefer to avoid employment in industries X, Y and Z.

BTW, when you do eventually land a position in an acceptable industry, how exactly do you expect you'll receive your compensation? Avoiding banks is pretty nigh impossible, no?

Seriously, alter your initial presentation to let people know your principles are critically important to you and I promise hiring managers in those industries will respect the hell out of your wishes. It'd do everyone involved a huge solid.

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You asked for how to state your criteria in a polite way. That is, your emphasis is on politeness.

Your emphasis should be on morality.

You would certainly let go of politeness if you have to otherwise let go of morality, right?

Mathemarically its proven that in general you can optimize only one variable.

You shouldn't say "personal reasons". Its not personal to you. Its something you strongly believe in and therefore wants others to follow too. Its not in anyway personal to you.

Something would be personal if it was a disability, a lack of skill, bad experience and worse some big blunder or fraud you did in an industry you are trying to avoid now. Unfortunately its the last one what your interviewer is very likely wondering about when you say "personal reasons".

You want to work in a like-minded company. You should state that you dont work in x, y industries because of moral reasons. This way you get allies.

-1

You need to develop and state more precisely what your limits are.

I refuse to entertain any possibility of working with any kind of company that does defense or banking contracts

This, as stated, would surely alarm any potential hiring manager.

Absolutely every business ever has banking contracts and I cannot think of any business that could operate without them. One way or another you're going to be working for a company with ties to a bank, either by loans or for the absolutely vital purpose of handling money - usually both.

You need to be quite specific with recruiters about what exactly you mean by "banking contracts" (or defense) or you need to be prepared to drop this. It helps you establish clearly with recruiters the parameters you can fill and doesn't mean they waste either your time, their time or their clients' time.

Regarding interviews :

Should I simply say "for political reasons" to get the point across faster? Should I stick to "personal reasons" and refuse to budge when pressed on it, or is my current strategy the one I should stick to

Again making your position as precise as possible before applying (via recruiters) helps them. It may be that you can reach an accomodation by negotiation if they're interested in you, but you need to be crystal clear about your "red lines".

Broad terms like "defense" and "banking" are not as clear cut as you may think. Defense could cover things like riot shields, protective gear and so on with quite necessary applications in policing, etc.. "Banking" taken on face value would mean you'd be unemployable - businesses exist to make money and banks handle money. You need to develop more precise limits simply to help clarify with employers what they can reasonably expect of you.

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    "I cannot think of any business that could operate without them" - there is a huge difference between working for a company which uses banks (basically all of them do) and being a software developer who specifically has to develop a software for a bank.
    – Val
    Mar 23 at 7:24
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    by banking contract i indeed mean "working FOR a bank" i am very well aware that you need to have a bank acount to exist in our society, but that doesn't mean i am ready to work for this industry. i use broad term as per SE guideline, to make it general. i think it is relevent to include those as refusing to work with those field definitly send some message.
    – shas
    Mar 23 at 11:03
  • @Val I worked for a company that made software development tools at one point and realized after a while that these were used by several military organizations amoung other customers although they had no direct application to military tasks. One of the governments then became involved in a military campaignI was opposed to, which raised ethical issues for me. I'm afraid it's much harder to draw these ethical lines than it may seem at first blush. Mar 23 at 12:45
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    @StephenG It's not easy to draw the line. Does it count if you'd have to directly develop a software which runs inside a guidance controller of a missile? Definitely! Does it count if you're a shoemaker who made the shoes of a bus driver who shuttles the employees to work at a software company which develops a controller for an air conditioner which is used in a weapons factory? I doubt anyone would say yes. And there are many layers between them, were would you draw the line?
    – Val
    Mar 23 at 16:11
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    @JonBentley It's more like a guideline for a recruiter. If there is a grey area, and they are a good recruiter they will say: "Hey, I know you said no defense stuff. These guys develop shoes for NASA, but they shoes are also used in the military sometimes. I wasn't sure if this was okay or not, so I thought I'd run it past you". Mar 24 at 15:21
-5

As this is a hard line for you, just put it into your CV.

I'm a software engineering graduate looking for my first role. I will not work in the defence or banking sectors.

Is this direct? Yes. It it impolite? No: you're not being rude to anyone, and in the long run you're saving time for everyone involved - you, the recruiters and potential employers - by making it clear up front there are certain non-negotiable things about employing you.

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    "Tell me you're a potential troublemaker without saying you're a potential troublemaker." Mar 22 at 15:45
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    maybe i should even add a photo of my party menbership card to the CV? :^]
    – shas
    Mar 22 at 15:49
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    No, this doesn't belong on your CV. A company totally unrelated to defense or banking would read it on your CV, and might very well form a bad opinion about you, which might cost you a job. It's something that you tell the recruiting company so they don't propose you for these jobs. Just to safe them unnecessary work.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 22 at 20:08
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    Really don't understand what the problem is here. We are optimising for the recruiter understanding clear boundaries. No need to be indirect, let's just save everyone's time and be factual. Mar 24 at 15:22

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