I found out about a job through a recruiter. I interviewed and got the job and the recruiter told me not to discuss salary during the interview because she handles that. I told the recruiter the exact salary I wanted and she said she would do what she could.

She came back with a lower salary than I told her and a lower salary than was listed on the job description. She now says she can't go back and negotiate for a higher salary because they already decided on the salary.

Is it appropriate to insist she go back and negotiate because I know I'm worth the higher price? Obviously I would sell myself more than that. Or would you just turn down the job?

EDIT: This recruiter works for an external agency, think Vitamin T, Creative Circle, Aquent, etc. This particular agency has been very good to me in the past. My concern is, if I go around her and talk directly to the client I may be blacklisted with her entire agency, not just her. I’m not in dire need of a job but I am trying to go full time freelance so this job would be nice to have since it’s remote freelance. She said pay is based on experience but I have a lot of experience in this field. It’s what I’ve been doing everyday in my other jobs for the past 3+ years.

  • 68
    Does she have any explanation for why it's lower than the job listing? (e.g. you're missing experience they wanted?) I assume she was the one who gave you the job listing?
    – Rup
    Jun 20, 2017 at 16:19
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    3rd party Recruiter's often just want a deal to happen so they can get their cut, mostly regardless of how favorable the terms are to the either party. Jun 20, 2017 at 17:34
  • 14
    How much of a difference is the salary wanted/given? 5% lower? 25%? How strong is your negotiating position? Are you DESPERATE!!! for a job? or are you willing to pass this by and wait for a better deal? Those answers, I think, help decide whether to take or pass...
    – WernerCD
    Jun 20, 2017 at 17:46
  • 39
    This is a negotiation tactic. The recruiters work closely with the company to make negotiation essentially nonexistent. At this point you either go back to the company and tell them your salary expectations or tell the recruiter that you won't be taking the job unless your expectations where met. Jun 20, 2017 at 18:43
  • 27
    When the recruiter said she cannot go back to negotiate a higher salary, that is a red flag that she isn't working in your interest. Tell her to negotiate for at least your minimum salary requirements, or attempt to bypass her an negotiate with the company directly. Direct negotiation may not be possible, however, if the company's contract with the recruiter requires them to negotiate through the recruiter alone (which is fairly common, at least in the US). If you can't negotiate for yourself, and she won't negotiate for you, then decline the offer.
    – asgallant
    Jun 20, 2017 at 20:15

6 Answers 6


Is it appropriate to insist she go back and negotiate because I know I'm worth the higher price? Obviously I would sell myself more than that. Or would you just turn down the job?

Since she came back with a salary that is lower than you specified, I'd politely tell her to stay out of the discussion and stay out of your way. As @SierraMountainTech correctly points out, there's no need to burn bridges with this recruiter. But you still shouldn't let her block your path to success.

I'd bypass her and go directly to the company and negotiate on my own behalf.

And if the company really has "already decided" and cannot meet my needs, I'd decline the offer and move on.

  • 58
    stay out of the discussion and stay out of your way... Why burn bridges by being rude to the recruiter? Just respectfully decline and go directly to the company. Seams pointless to say something like that to a recruiter. Jun 20, 2017 at 15:00
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    Maybe don't burn bridges, but there isn't much value to a recruiter who is so bad at negotiating that they managed to get a lower salary than the advertised and didn't provide an explanation...
    – mkingsbu
    Jun 20, 2017 at 16:38
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    @SierraMountainTech what bridge? this recruiter is terrible at their job!
    – user428517
    Jun 20, 2017 at 16:53
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    @sgroves A bridge to seemingly nowhere useful is still a bridge and could turn out to be more useful than it seems now. Also, being bad at negotiating doesn't mean they're bad at putting the right employees in contact with the right employers. Also, the company being unwilling to budge wouldn't make the recruiter bad at negotiating. Jun 20, 2017 at 17:22
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    @sgroves That is supposing it takes more time to be polite to the recruiter than to be rude. Since that is hopefully not the case, there's still no need to burn this particular bridge. Jun 20, 2017 at 19:01

Short answer: You told the recruiter your minimum acceptable salary. The recruiter came back with a number below your minimum acceptable salary. You decline the offer. You tell the recruiter that you are declining because the offer is below your minimum acceptable salary.

If the recruiter tells you that the company will not go any higher, you say, as gently as you can, that her job description does occasionally include educating Clients on the actual going rates for the skillsets they want/need.

If the recruiter tells you that she and the Client negotiated that number, you remind her, as politely as you can, that you told her your minimum acceptable salary and you did not authorize her to go below that number. You are probably going to upset her at this point. This is OK, because, unless she goes back to the Client and gets you an acceptable offer, you are probably never going to work with her again. (You don't tell her that last part.)

  • 14
    This is by far the best answer. All necessary information has already been exchanged. Pointing to it and sticking to your previous words is the professional approach.
    – Tom
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:32
  • 2
    Not only did she come back with an offer lower than the asker's minimum, she came back with an offer lower than the salary advertised in the job description which drives home the point even more.
    – briantist
    Jun 22, 2017 at 19:10
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    @briantist, I missed the part about the actual offer being lower than the planned salary listed in the job description. This is a huge Red Flag. I'd decline the offer, and I'd probably ask "What's with the lowball offer?" Jun 22, 2017 at 19:21
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    you say, as gently as you can, that her job description does occasionally include That's like saying "tell her as gently as you can that she's ugly" in that there's no gentle way to do that. I don't know anyone who wouldn't be permanently pissed at someone if they were told what their job description is. It is an insult, plain and simple.
    – Chris E
    Jun 23, 2017 at 14:46
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    @ChrisE, not to put too fine a point on it, you don't really care at this point whether she gets pissed off or not. Part of her job is to represent you to the Client, and that specifically includes your minimum acceptable salary. Given that she blew it THIS badly, as briantist's comment points out, you are probably never going to work with her again, and you are going to be very leery of dealing with her firm again. (That may or may not include her Client. It depends on who decided to try to lowball you.) Aug 3, 2018 at 15:07

If the recruiter is saying the company has already decided on a salary then the company has limited the salary range for the recruiter. I would go directly to the company and discuss it with them.

Note: Don't be rude to the recruiter. Just let them know that a lower offer than what was posted for the position is unacceptable and you would be speaking with the company directly to negotiate your own salary.

The recruiter may be against this but if the recruiter can't even get you the amount offered on the job listing then I doubt they will do much better on the next go around.

  • 16
    My gut reaction is "just reject the offer." This approach, while taking the process out of recruiter control, probably can't be opposed by the recruiter vs "I'm refusing that offer, so what's the harm?" Recruiter would still get the commission on the placement, if they are contingency-based. Jun 20, 2017 at 15:47
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    Well, the "all negotiations through the recruiter" might also be an agreed to protocol on the part of the company. Let's be clear, when I say "this approach," I'm talking about YOUR suggestion, not the approach of "just reject." I'm saying that my gut reaction is to just reject, but upon reading your answer, I'm thinking "there really is no downside to trying to personally work it out." In other words, your answer made me re-think my gut reaction. Jun 20, 2017 at 21:05
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    If I'm up front about my requirements, and the company low-balls me anyway, then I'm ready to walk away. Your approach leaves open the very real (& unfortunate) possibility that it was the recruiter trying to close a deal and get a commission through offering OP as a discounted sales item, and not the company trying to cut corners. My brother encountered this at a contract position, where he talked to the client-manager about upping his rate, the manager agreed, and the contracting company rep kept trying to tell him it had to be a lower rate, despite the pre-approval my brother secured. Jun 20, 2017 at 21:09
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    "the recruiter can't even get you the amount offered on the job listing" There can be valid reasons for this, it's not an automatic red flag. The fact that the recruiter was unable or unwilling to explain why the offer came in lower is a red flag.
    – Lilienthal
    Jun 21, 2017 at 8:55
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    If they were apart and it could not be bridged, informally, by me, then I would not take an offer from my client, and if my candidate suddenly upped their price, I'd tell them that I was withdrawing them. There's no way a recruiter should ever bring back an offer below the candidates pre-screened minimum. Jun 21, 2017 at 18:44

Decline the offer. Explain to the recruiter that you are declining the offer because the company reneged on the original job offer by offering a lower salary, also lower than market, without any justification or explanation. Mention (in a completely neutral tone) that you interviewed for the job in part because of the salary offered and are not going to work for a company that seems to have pulled a bait and switch.

Do not sound at all emotional, angry, or irritated when you say this. Just state that they didn't meet your salary requirement, and didn't even meet their own offer. Without an explanation or reason, that's not acceptable to you.

  • Concerning "reneged on the original job offer by offering a lower salary" Maybe I missed it, but did OP receive a prior company proposed salary that was lowered? AFAIK, the company original job offer did not detail a salary - if true, company did not reneging on their offer as it lacked a salary specification - they are declining OP's salary offer and then counter offering. Jun 21, 2017 at 18:05
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    @chux "She came back with a lower salary than I told her and a lower salary than was listed on the job description." I understood that to mean the job description as provided by the company. If that's correct, a lower salary offer should include some explanation, and if the recruiter is negotiating for him, they should have gotten that explanation. "The best I could do for you was less than they were originally offering" makes no sense without explanation. Jun 21, 2017 at 18:29
  • I now see the "... and a lower salary than was listed on the job description". Kudos to you and unfortunately, for me, I need to amend my answer. Jun 21, 2017 at 18:35
  • This is really the only answer worth following. If OP goes to the company, bridges will be burned, guaranteed. It's worse than an insult, it's a slap in the face. I don't understand why some don't get that it's ok to decline a job. I'm frankly shocked at all the advice saying to go around her.
    – Chris E
    Jun 23, 2017 at 14:53

I agree with and have upvoted David Schwartz' answer to decline the offer for its simplicity, but would like to stress one point:

I find it important that you learn this kind of negotiation for your own sake, especially if you want to go full freelance. The key part is

I told the recruiter the exact salary I wanted

I interpret this such that you told her your absolute minimum salary.

Now, there are three facets to this:

  • Never assume that anybody has your interest in mind. As a freelancer, the number of people interested in your well-being is exactly one: yourself. That is what it means to be a freelancer. High risk, high reward, and being the only one to rely on.
  • From this follows: Never enter negotiations with your minimum offer. They will nearly always try to undercut you.
  • If, like in this case, you do have a minimum in your mind, then as soon as that minimum is violated, completely detach yourself and just use the magic word "no". Be considerate of everybody, stay professional (friendly, open, etc.), but just say no. While nobody has your interests in their mind, also nobody can really harm you or force you to do anything, as a freelancer. Your only danger is that you are sitting around without a job, and you already said that that would not bother you too much right now.

In the worst case, you lose this agent, but, frankly, it seems like not a big deal. If you really should get blacklisted for simply declining an offer, then I would take that as a sure sign that you didn't want to be associated with that agency in the first place.

In the realistic case, you lose the job, which you are not totally dependent on, as you say.

In the best case, they renegotiate and the agent remembers your minimum request.

So go ahead, decline, relax, and see what happens. Next time, tell them a higher mark to shoot for and don't tell them your minimum right away.

  • AnoE: as a freelancer I couldn't agree more with your answer; wish I could give you a couple extra thumbs up!
    – markp-fuso
    Jun 22, 2017 at 1:34

Remember that the recruiter doesn't really work for you. They get a commission from the employer when you get hired. Their vested interest is in getting you to accept the company's offer. Sure, a slightly higher offer would get them a slightly higher commission, but for the same amount of effort they could be negotiating another entire offer for someone else (for another entire commission).

So you should expect, and will likely see, recruiters put pressure on you to accept any offer they manage to snag for you, no matter how inappropriate.

The only person who works for you here is you. If the offer isn't acceptable, tell them. Expect a sales pitch back, and ignore it. When its clear there's no movement forthcoming on your end, they'll go back and tell the company. If the company doesn't want to make the offer acceptable, that's their prerogative. Move on.

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