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I was contacted by an employer who saw my resume from a career fair. The recruiter called me to see if I was still looking for full time employment. After calling back the employer (different recruiter answered), we scheduled an on-site interview (30 minutes + 3 hours of a programming test).

However, when the recruiter mentioned the usual salary for the job (entry-level software developer) of $40,000 - $60,000, he was noticeably surprised that I was OK with it. I had said it was the same salary I was being paid when I was an undergraduate intern (at a different company).

Was the recruiter hoping to turn me off pursuing the job by mentioning the low salary, or do entry level positions usually have higher starting salaries?

Perhaps more information that would be helpful:

  1. The company has no entry level jobs advertised at all (but the recruiter said they do hire entry level on the phone).
  • Perhaps he'd already had a whole handful of rejections from similarly qualified candidates who were not satisfied with that salary package. – Joel Etherton Nov 2 '14 at 3:12
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It's difficult to say for sure without more context (overall attitude of the recruiter, the general geographic area, the job function, etc.) But there are a few likely scenarios.

Most often, a remark like that means they thought your skills and experience might command a higher salary. You should take it as a compliment, but also keep it in the back of your mind when it comes to negotiating your offer should you receive one. You might be able to push to the higher end of the spectrum.

Another possibility is that you're in a location that has a higher than average cost of living. While 40-60 is a great range in Pittsburgh, it would be terrible in San Fransisco. You should do some research into what other entry-level employees make at companies in the area.

Lastly, they may just have been exasperated by candidates before you asking well beyond what they were "worth". In this case it's more of a feeling of relief of finding someone that's reasonably sane in their salary expectations.

As Juha Untinen pointed out, if you're dealing with a contracted or third party recruiter rather than a company employee your willingness to accept a perceived lower pay band affects them directly in the pocketbook and can lead to that type of response.

  • I was thinking of the complement route but the tone of the recruiter sounded almost annoyed/uninterested. But this recruiter was not the same one who reached out to me. I did make the call in the last hour of the work day too, though. – user3898238 Oct 30 '14 at 21:44
  • Yea it can be difficult to get a good reading of someone purely through the phone (that's why more companies are shifting to a Skype screening rather than a phone screening). The person may have been tired, or thought they were wasting their own as well as the company's time. You'll have a better chance of knowing which is true if you dig into the research as I suggested in item 2. – Foosh Oct 30 '14 at 21:54
  • A quick search suggests the average salary for an entry level developer in the same area is $76,000 (from indeed.com). I think the recruiter should have at least had me way to be contacted by the other recruiter who called me back if he was doubtful of me, rather than offer a lengthy onsite interview (which I did not request at all). – user3898238 Oct 30 '14 at 22:14
  • Well at least now you know it was probably genuine surprise :) – Foosh Oct 30 '14 at 22:17
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    From what I understand, recruiters get paid a percentage of what you will get, so if they think you undersold yourself, they will be annoyed about their lost revenue from a successful hire. Doubly so, if the recruiter is paid commission for each "sale". – Juha Untinen Oct 31 '14 at 9:13
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Why would a recruiter act surprised after learning I was OK with the salary?

Most likely there is something in your background or resume that would typically expect a higher salary than was being offered.

Perhaps you are far older than the typical entry-level software developer, and the recruiter's experience tells him that few people in your age group have been willing to settle for that salary level.

Perhaps you have experience or skill that would typically put you beyond the usual entry-level category.

Perhaps the recruiter believes that most undergraduate interns expect to earn more when they leave intern status.

No way to know for sure without asking the recruiter directly.

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