As a software developer, I get a lot of e-mails from recruiters. Last time I changed a comma on my LinkedIn page I got about a dozen inmails moments later. I answer something polite about not being in the market for new work, but can't help but feel like I could be missing out. When I do ask them about salary, they stay quiet or give me the generic "we need to asses your skill level, blah blah blah." In other words, the company they're hiring for isn't going to spend a penny more on their new recruit than what they need. (You do see management positions with salary though... double standards if I've ever seen any. Sorry, rant over.)

My question is: is there a way to ask, politely and convincingly "hey, show me dollars or I walk"?

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    Simply say, "Well, please call me back when you're prepared to talk about specifics." Let it go at that. A serious recruiter knows his numbers before he calls/emails. Only clowns try to dance around the issue. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:09
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    These flood of automated emails are likely from recruiters who aren't recruiting for a specific company and are just looking for your permission to spam every posting with your resume. I wouldn't bother wasting time on them.
    – Myles
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 22:17
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    They don't have jobs. They just want your CV. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 8:10

5 Answers 5


I don't bother with most recruiters but it helps to have a feeling for what you're worth. If a position interests me, I often respond with:

"Thanks for contacting me. The position looks interesting but I wouldn't be willing to leave my current job for anything less than $XXXXXX-$XXXXXX... gotta pay the bills! :) Is that the kind of salary range you're looking at?"

Naturally this might end with you getting an offer at the lower end of your range so you should be honest about what you'd consider. Remember this isn't binding, you're under no obligation to accept an offer in the range you said you'd consider.

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    This is my go-to response. "I'm happy, but always willing to talk if the compensation can beat x base and y bonus." That sets the expectations and allows you to start negotiating from a position of strength. Keep in mind that the rate you quote to a recruiter should be the rate that would make you happy with leaving your current role (assuming you're happy), it doesn't have to (and shouldn't) be your current salary. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:20

My question is: is there a way to ask, politely and convincingly "hey, show me dollars or I walk"?

It's not hard. Just try something like: "Thanks, it sounds interesting, but I'm not willing to put time into a job application without first knowing the salary involved."

You'll certainly lose a lot of recruiters quickly that way. But the few that will proceed will give you the salary information up front.

Use the same approach for any basic information that you feel you need to know before you pursue the job. For each addition pre-req you will end up with fewer and fewer opportunities, but it sounds like you care more about specifics than quantity and you aren't actively in the market anyway.


My question is: is there a way to ask, politely and convincingly "hey, show me dollars or I walk"?

Hey, show me dollars or I walk.

More seriously, something like:

My time is limited, I'm not willing to invest time in a position that I can immediately know isn't going to be a good fit.

This could be a response to getting specifics on any aspect of the position: salary, company, product, location, etc.

Recruiters are sales people. Both can be vague for a variety of reasons, but remember that you have most of the leverage. They work on commission, so if they aren't willing to make it easy for you, don't waste time on them. Good ones are an absolute pleasure to work with, while bad, sleazy, pushy ones make your skin crawl. Don't encourage or reward the bad ones.

  • I like your joke. If I had edit powers here I'd have put it "Hey, please show me dollars or I walk." :)
    – MPelletier
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:42

Job looks interesting, what salary range are they offering?

Seriously, in IT, if the recruiter doesn't have a salary range then it's either below market rates, OR its an imaginary job!

If the agent asks about your salary expectations, confidently ask for $5k more than you think you are worth. If the agent goes quiet, and doesn't sound so keen to talk to you, then you are probably worth what you expected. If they keep talking, next agent, add another $5k till your phone goes quiet.

  • What is the reason for this? What would they behave this way in those 2 scenarios?
    – bolov
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 8:50
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    The reason recruitment agents recruit for imaginary jobs is to boost their candidate database. This database is their key marketing resource when they are approaching companies to ask to be able to supply potential candidates, likewise some companies sign exclusive contracts with recruitment agencies, with performance clauses. The recruitment agent needs to supply 5 CV's suitable for the role within 24 hours. If the rate is low, then they still need to get CV's across, even if they know the candidate is not likely to agree salary terms. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 9:08
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    Companies that are good ones to work for may still not provide a salary range and I would think you would still want to consider them. No two candidates are exactly the same so they can't tell you how much they'll pay you until they know you. We might hire someone with 3 years or 7 years for the same job listing. Both very good candidates but clearly we might pay them differently because their worth to us isn't the same. Posting a salary range would be pointlessly broad and potentially misleading.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 15:14
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    I've been working as a software developer for 20 years and have used recruiters many times. What you're saying is generally false. The issue is that the salary a company is willing to pay depends on the candidate they hire. For example, a company may just be looking for a good developer without being picky about experience level.
    – 17 of 26
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 20:07
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    Yeah, I agree when it comes to job offer time, the salary offered depends on the perceived value of the candidate. But that was not my point. Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 20:26

You can ask for a range of salaries for different levels of skills and experience. If you see yourself as a Senior Developer, just use that as a starting point. Determining where you are on the scale is another matter. It's important to let recruiters know you don't want to waste anyone's time.

Most management salaries are going to get negotiated, so I wouldn't put too much stock in a posted salary. At least I always hope my manager has strong negotiating skills when it comes to requesting my salary increase ;)

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