Here's a thought that occurred to me whilst applying for jobs recently. I have been approached by 3rd party recruiter, who offered me different jobs, I have successfully completed the recruitment process for one of them and was given an offer.

When the recruiter originally presented this job to me, it was advertised with 55k-60k salary. By the end the people who interviewed me came to a conclusion that I am a good fit for the job, but my experience is on the lower end of what they were searching, or even that I will need to pick up some skills, but because I showed eagerness they made the offer.

This was reflected in the offer they made me: 45k + "guaranteed" 10+% bonus. Obviously I was a little disappointed by this, but in my error I have mentioned to the recruiter that I would happily take it in case negotiating more, closer to what was advertised - fails. Obviously it failed and I was left with the above offer, which I have since accepted.

I have given my resignation letter, but since I'm still receiving updates about local jobs, another one popped up. Similar experience, same area. The job is being advertised with a salary range of 50-65k in one place in the advert, but inside the body of the advert this changes to 45-65k. It is again advertised by some 3rd party recruitment company.

It all makes me think 3rd party recruiters are manipulating these numbers, either to make the offer more appealing, or perhaps asking the company for a cut. I would like to know what is happening and if it's a common practice? Are these 3rd party recruitment firms taking a 'cut' % of recruit's salary, instead of a referral bonus? And could I have handled this better, to get a salary that I wanted - closer to what was advertised?

For context, this is taking place in the UK.

  • 1
    @MisterPositive In the UK market if the initial contact was through the recruiter then it's irrelevant whether you negotiate with the company direct thereafter. The recruiter will still get their commission.
    – motosubatsu
    May 30, 2019 at 16:43
  • @motosubatsu the first recruiter that I was dealing with made an error and gave me the names of companies and job descriptions before I agreed to be represented by him. would he still get the commission if I applied to any of them myself?
    – kacpr
    May 30, 2019 at 16:56
  • @kacpr that would be an.. interesting conversation between the recruiter and the company, it would depend on the wording of the contract they had and could even end up in court. Although I would strongly suspect most would just end up in a compromise. You'd be in the clear though without a any agreement for representation.
    – motosubatsu
    May 30, 2019 at 17:26

4 Answers 4


Are these 3rd party recruitment firms taking a 'cut' % of recruit's salary, instead of a referral bonus?

Most likely - that's a pretty standard model for recruiters providing for perm roles. It actually works for the job seeker since it's then in the recruiter's best interest to get the wage as high as possible. This is one reason why they will sometimes "bump" the lower end of the range. They would much rather get a candidate in the job at 50k then 45 as they make more money.

And could I have handled this better, to get a salary that I wanted - closer to what was advertised?

Probably not - the employer was pretty up front about why they were making a lower offer. You could have played hardball and refused the offered rate to see if they would come back with a higher one but at the usual risk of losing the job. The recruiter may or may not have tried to negotiate on your behalf (it's usually in their interest to do so as discussed above) but some might just take the "sale" at the lower rate.


Do recruiters try to make jobs sound more appealing? Of course. Just like the hamburger in the TV commercial looks so much better than the actual hamburger you get at the fast food place. You wouldn't really expect a recruiter to tell you, "Hey, we found this job for you. It's real low pay, no benefits, terrible working conditions, and no opportunity for advancement. Sign right here."

When I was young and inexperienced, I had a number of times that I saw an advertisement from a recruiter for some job that sounded like I was completely qualified for, and when I called them about it, they'd say, "Well, we can't place you in that job for mumble mumble reason, but we've got plenty of other opportunities." And then they'd try to sell me on a job with much lower pay or otherwise less desirable. Maybe somebody else got the job before I called, or while I met the minimum qualifications they had another candidate who was better qualified, or whatever. Or maybe the ad was a come-on and there was no such job. It's hard to say.

As to what you can do about it ... Pretty much the same advice I'd give about any marketing pitch: Don't blindly believe everything someone says, especially when they're trying to sell you something.

When a company makes a job offer, if you were expecting or hoping for a higher salary, you have a decision to make: You can accept it, or you can say it's not an adequate offer and you need more. If you ask for more, be prepared for the company to say sorry, that's the best we can do. Depending on how such a conversation goes, you may be able to say, "oh, okay, I'll take the lower number". Or you may have burned your bridges and lost the opportunity. So I'd say, don't ask for more unless you're prepared to not get the job at all.

I had one time that a company offered me a job but I had learned in the interview that their benefits were pretty poor, so considering pay and benefits as a package the offer wasn't very attractive. So I told them sorry, but no. They called me back and asked why I turned them down and I explained briefly. At which point, the company person made a very appealing offer: She said, What if we went through the benefits you'd be losing compared to your present job, estimated their value, and then increased our salary offer by that much? So we had a conversation where I said, ok, I'd be losing $X on company contributions to my retirement, so she added that amount to the offer. I'd have to pay $Y more for the employee share of health insurance. She added that. Etc. I ended up taking the revised offer.

But I had another time that a company's offer was low, I said I was looking for a higher number, and ... I never heard from them again.


The question is what is the average salary for that place (as in, city / country), and for your amount of experience. If the (lower) salary they offered you was in range with what most other companies there would pay for the same, they were in the right, and you need to get more experience first.

If most companies in that same place would pay more for the amount of skills and experience you have, then you politely reject this one, and keep looking.

While it would normally be the recruiter's job to know the salary ranges normal for the place and experience, I have encountered a number of recruiters who have no idea about that (although it should be central to their job...). You need to go through a number of job ads and see what's offered, on average.

That will tell you if the lower salary was correct or not. Also, after you interview for 20 different companies, you can get some idea about what is an average company willing to offer.

You can also check the salaries on Glassdoor, or ask on assorted forums - find the people working in the same industry and in the same city, and ask them.

If the average salary for your level of experience is indeed 45K, there is no way you can negotiate it to 60K or so, that would be +33% above average. No employer will pay that.


This situation actually has a lot in common with Real Estate. Your Realtor gets a commission (usually a percentage of the sale price) when you buy or sell a home. So it might seem at first that your goals and the realtor's goals line up perfectly... until you realize that if your realtor works their butt off and spends 3 extra weeks trying to find the perfect buyer in order to squeeze another $5,000 onto the price... that might only amount to a measley $80 extra making it into their pocket.

In actuality, the Realtor wants to buy/sell a home quickly, so they can proceed on to the next house/commission. Which leads to the funny situation of the buyer's realtor often acting in the seller's best interest (trying to convince the buyer they might have to raise their offers) and the seller's realtor acting in the buyer's best interest (trying to convince the seller that they might have to lower their asking price.) I have some funny stories of the "competing" realtor screwing over their client simply to make the sale happen faster (having a relative that's a realtor that's actually in your corner is incredibly awesome.)

Well, it's the same with your recruiter. They're not interested in getting you the largest salary they can. They want to place you quickly - and while they might (possibly) lose a sliver of commission, it lets them move on to the next placement faster. And if they're in a flat commission regardless of salary? Then they have no financial interest in you getting a large salary.

It's important to understand this: the recruiter is not your friend, they don't have your best interest at heart. The minute you say something to them like, "Well, I'd probably accept an offer as long as it's above $N" - you can bet you're not going to get any offer significantly above $N. Why would you?

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