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So I just recently switched companies as a contractor on a very short term contract. The contract is ending in approximately 7 weeks and I figured I might as well look for something else even though the contract is highly likely to be extended.

During a recent interview with a recruiter I was asked:

"You just got a 50% increase in pay 2 months ago and you want another 30% increase in pay. How can I justify that?"

I felt like saying 'Because I am worth that much' but I simply answered that I have a unique skill set and a very strong background, which I believe that I do. Honestly, I am not concerned about how much I get offered and if what the recruiter said is accurate than I am happy with my current role.

Anyways, the question is essentially how would I explain why I want to double my income in a 3 month period other than 'Because I like money' or 'I am worth that much'?

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    Don't give the employer/recruiter enough information that they're able to say "You just got a 50% increase in pay 2 months ago and you want another 30% increase in pay" in the first place. Tell them what you want, not what you had. Or say "market rate is market rate, no matter what my previous salary was". – aroth May 31 '14 at 2:21
  • I avoided the question but after being asked about 10 times for it I gave in. I typically stick with the 'I am not permitted to disclose that information' – Paul Muir May 31 '14 at 2:30
  • Unique might be a bad term here, rare or strong probably fit better. I am most likely going to just wait as time is a luxury that I do have. And if this recruiter can't justify it there is plenty of other who will. – Paul Muir May 31 '14 at 12:42
  • gnat, thank you. I have actually researched using the methods posted there and I am in the ballpark of typical market value according to them. The issue is I am 'below' market value due to what I considered an internship and then just accepting a position in order to get into the region I wanted to live in. Now I am facing the question of 'Why such significant pay raises so quickly?'. – Paul Muir Jun 2 '14 at 21:45
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"Because I like money" is probably not the best response. "I am worth that much" is entirely reasonable if your research indicates that that is the going rate for your skills in that area, though you should probably be able to cite sources if challenged. I am going to assume that your skills and the position are in close alignment, such that you are not offering high-value skills for a low-value job, and expecting to be paid for the skills.

One of two things are happening (or maybe a combination): the recruiter thinks they can convince you that you are worth less than market rate; or the recruiter needs to feel better about purchasing your services at market rate, when they know that you previously worked for less. I think that both can approached with the same strategy, which would be to provide reasons why you previously worked for less. Possible examples, if they are true in your case:

  • I gained valuable skills and experience in my last job, and my research indicates that that this is the market value of my current skill-set.
  • My personal situation when I was last searching for work was such that I needed a contract sooner, rather than holding out for my actual market value.
  • Due to the short duration of the contract, the additional pay would at best have covered the cost and risk of extended negotiations.
  • I was looking for a shorter contract, and most of what was available was longer than I was looking for. To get a contract of the length I was looking for, I adjusted my ask.
  • The last contract offered a number of non-pay features which are not currently included in this contract. They were _; would you be interested in negotiating them?

You should be looking to address both possibilities, showing that you know your actual market value and showing some reason why you last accepted a much different rate.

The recruiter's question is interesting ("How can I justify that?"), because it would seem to indicate that they need to justify the pay delta to their management. Assuming the recruiter asked the pay question and is negotiating pay (this seems to be your case), the easiest solution would just be for them to report the results of the negotiation, and not go into the details of your previous rate(s). Of course, it could be that the recruiter is using I to make you feel empathy for them as a tactic, but I don't think confronting them on that possibility is a path to successful negotiations.

Justifying the 50% increase is may be harder simply because it means finding another (and preferably different) reason why you accepted a below market rate two contracts ago, if it was indeed below market rate. Maybe it was a longer contract? In which case maybe you had much less experience, or you could have learned a lot, or its rate was calibrated based on a different time in the market, etc.. Sticking to just your previous rate, and not two contracts previous, would probably be best if at all possible.

  • Amazing answer Matt and a lot of great points to hit on. I will definitely mention my reasoning for accepting less last time rather than why I am looking for more now. – Paul Muir May 31 '14 at 12:44

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