I have been pursuing new positions in my field and got an offer for one role and accepted it a couple days ago; I had another role come up suddenly right at the same time and they are considering making me an offer. I've been up front with everyone that this is in play. The recruiter (independent staffing firm, aka headhunter) for job #2 is pressing me hard for "what would it take" in terms of a compensation number to get me in that role. Both of these roles developed quickly and are different from both a short term responsibility and long term trajectory point of view, and my immediate reaction is to just say "tell them to make me their best offer, I'll consider over the weekend, and give you a prompt decision."

But the recruiter isn't super happy with that, they, somewhat understandably, want to give job #2 a "magic number" it would take to land me that I would say yes to immediately upon the offer being extended. I am not really sure what that number is, as comp is only a part of what I look at in a position and since I'm still working job #0 I don't have a lot of "reflecting on life" time during the week.

So I just resisted and said "if they want to make an offer great, I'll consider it over the weekend. That's all I'll commit to." Is this the wrong thing to do? I feel like it's reasonable to get both real offers in hand and not just hypotheticals, talk about it with family and trusted colleagues, etc. I have to admit I started to feel like I was being badgered into buying a used car during hour #2 of the recruiter working on me about this and it started to get my back up about the whole thing, even though I understand their perspective.

Given that I don't like making snap decisions about major life changes, what is a better way to handle this situation, where a recruiter "wants to know for sure you're going to say yes" before getting an offer in hand? Is there an advantage to giving them a number, or to resisting?

  • 3
    I think you played it right. Let them make an offer and go from there. Sep 18, 2015 at 0:36
  • The recruiter has said that he wants to hire you. But the question I would consider is whether or not the recruiter is knowledgeable of the work involved. I say this because I recall somewhere on Workplace Exchange that recruiters might get paid a commission based on the 'talent' they hire. Rather than if the recruit would be a good fit. Its more than just a number!
    – Bluebird
    Sep 18, 2015 at 0:48
  • So they know what the job entails (kinda), more importantly I do. They are of course compensated by landing candidates, so they do have incentive to get me in there (it is a different recruiter than with job #1). In this case when I say "recruiter" I don't mean HR recruiter, I mean whatever the polite term is for headhunter.
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 18, 2015 at 0:50
  • If such is the case, then what would be your reservations?
    – Bluebird
    Sep 18, 2015 at 0:52
  • I don't have "reservations," I have two potential job offers - one concrete and one still hypothetical - both of which have advantages and disadvantages but both seem individually compelling (if I only had one or the other offer I'd take it). Once given a concrete second job offer I will happily decide. I'm just not comfortable giving them a magic comp number for job #2 that makes it automatically win, as all this has developed in like 24 hours and I haven't had a chance to process it all.
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 18, 2015 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


I'm asking how to handle a headhunter who wants a specific "this is exactly how much the offer needs to be for me to automatically say yes immediately" when I am reluctant to give that, as I'm not sure I know the answer without time to consider.

Give him a number!

So you've interviewed, they are preparing to make an offer, and you don't feel like you've had enough time to consider whether or not you'd take the job at all? What are the other criteria that you need to consider? Whatever those criteria are, you need to block out an hour to write out a pros and cons list for jobs 1 and 2, and from this determine the salary that would tip you towards job #2. It sounds like #2 are keen, so be responsive and don't sell yourself short.

With what you determined above, add some extra. Enough to make it a realistic "dream" salary for the position (+20% over the minimum for #2 to be preferable?), and tell the recruiter this number would get him an immediate acceptance from you.

This is one of those rare situations where you have leverage. You've shown the headhunter and both companies that you're in demand, and the headhunter is going to go in and bargain hard on your behalf. This is excellent!

I don't like playing back-and-forth bidding war games - so just name a high number and see what the response is.

  • 1
    I agree, I have asked ridiculous sums for work and been pleasantly surprised when they're accepted.
    – Kilisi
    Sep 18, 2015 at 2:57
  • I think this answer is only ok if the OP gave a very high number, like 300%+ of his market rate salary. The headhunter is playing a basic car salesman's game here, pressuring for an immediate off the cuff answer with no thought behind it...
    – daaxix
    Sep 20, 2015 at 6:13
  • When negotiating as a contractor it makes sense to respond to this kind of nonsense with a painfully high number. As OP is seeking a permanent position he should continue to decline to be rushed into such an unprofessional negotiation. Dec 25, 2020 at 17:48

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