How Do Recruiters Handle Salary Negotiation? | Job Search Radio

What do recruiters do or not do to advocate for you? How do they generally operate? I answer this and more on today’s podcast.

Caucasian mid-adult businessman and woman staring at each other with hostile expressions.


Let me speak to you today about how recruiters handle salary negotiation.

If you think recruiters go through mortal combat to advocate for you, and demand that employers pay you what you are asking for, you are kidding yourself. Let me walk through the typical process that recruiters go through. This is true of both retained a contingency search terms.

The employer contacts the search for; they contact an agency; I’m going to give both perspectives. They identify a role to be filled in the compensation that might be paid. They suggest a salary range and what bonuses might be like, what the benefits are… A whole host of things.

If the search firm has a relationship with this particular client, do you really think that this recruiter is going to start yelling and screaming at someone from his firm to get the money that you are asking for or are they more concerned about preserving the relationship with the firm that writes the check to them?

Yes, you can argue the case that without you. They are not going to get that check. But, at the end of the day, there is always another “you.” Yes, there can always be another employer, but there is work to open up their relationship and create that relationship again so they tend to advocate for the people who write the check.

For Example

So, starting with the process of your resume being submitted, they have a sense of the range and I’m going to use simple numbers here. $60,000. $100,000. $250,000. Here are 3 different salaries

Let’s say, for a $60,000 person, let’s say the range is $55,000-$75,000. For the $100,000 person, is $95,000-$110,000. For the $250,000 person, is $240,000-$275,000.

They know these are the ranges for these positions. So they may indicate what your current salary is and the sense of what you are looking for, or may just tell them your current salary.

If you attempt to to simply tell them what you are looking for and not talk about what you are currently earning, often (like, always), a firm will turn around and ask, “What’s he earning now?” “What is she earning?

They do that because they refuse to give someone a prohibitively high raise.

Sales may be different. Sometimes, this will be called off. But for other types of positions, this is what happens. It is very very rare that a huge percentage increase will occur. Why? Because they are all operating under budget guidelines where HR is being reviewed and all their behaviors are being analyzed and when there is a percentage increase above a particular mean that is mandated by corporate HR, they turn around and ask, “What the hell was this all about?” It adversely affects them and how they are seen. So they operate within these guidelines basically say, “if a person makes $60,000, you offer them $66,000. That is a 10% raise. That is good enough.


If a person makes $100,000, you offer them $105,000 or $110,000. That is a 5% or 10% raise. That is good enough.”

If a person is making $250,000, or for them to earn $260,000 or $265,000. We don’t give 10% raises at that level. We give X percent increases.

See where I’m coming from?

That is the behavior that starts off. Thus, when the offer comes in, it might be low. Let me go back a step.

You are interviewing along the way and now, if you are out of work, you may be asked in the course of your interviews, “So, what’s going on for you in your search? Are you close to anything?” If you say you don’t have anything going on right now, you just hurt yourself. You have lost your leverage. They can issue an offer to you and say, “Take it or leave it. It’s your choice. We have other people that can do what you do. We’ll go find them and you are out of luck.

If you are working or are asked this question, you say, “I have some other options. Firms have expressed interest and I have final interviews with 3 other firms,” then they understand is competitive and they may push things up. If they ask which firms, you say, “I would prefer to keep their name out of it so that everyone is bargaining with the same degree of knowledge.”

“If I say to you, I’m interviewing at this firm or that firm or this firm, and I do the same thing with them, I think that is unfair. I want to see what your best offer is based upon your assessment of me, not based upon the competition.” But, what you are doing is creating competition because they don’t know what the target numbers.

If you tell them what the target number is it these other firms, that’s probably what they’re going to come in for anyway. No one tends to go much higher.

If there is a low offer that comes in, a search firm is going to advocate for you. They will spend some time talking with the client. The client will counteract that remark, generally with a comment that says, “Well, based upon a comparison with people who we already have working here with that amount of experience in this level of skill, we assess this person would be worth X number of dollars.

Most of the time when it really comes down to is that you didn’t do a good enough job you’re interviewing to demonstrate your value at the level that you are asking for. Thus, they are making a lukewarm offer based upon the opportunity that has been presented.

Your recruiter is not going to go into a death-match with the hiring firm in order to get you the position. They would rather go into that death-match with you, to manipulate you or persuade you to accept the offer at the level that is been offered.

Why is that? The job under is easier to change then the employer is and they know the relationship with the employer can continue afterwards, particularly if they got you to say yes to the low offer.

That’s the scenario that normally comes up.


If you have a question about job hunting, email me at I can’t answer every question . . . but you knew that!

Do you think employers are trying to help you?

You already know you can’t trust recruiters—they tell as they think you need to know to take the job they after representing so they collect their payday.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a career coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. is there to change that with great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.

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