I am a talented software engineer student with background in finance. I have been offered several positions at company X with different independent teams and I have also been equally successful interviewing at dozen of other companies.

I picked company X because they have a reputable business ethics in the engineering field, but with the assumption that the salary will be competitive (co-op prohibit me to discuss salaries at interviews) and that my time will be valued there, but their third party talent recruitment company later tells me that they do not negotiate on salary based on individual talents (same salary for all co-op students per level).

The salary they offered me is less than advertised on Glassdoor, and 40% less than my previous part-time position.

I know the managers at company X want my skills and see potentials in me: they ranked me first in all positions I applied after interviewing perhaps hundreds of candidates and they are having a hard time finding candidates for the positions I did not chose. They invested time and energy into securing me over dozens of other offers.

Is there a way to negotiate around a non-negotiable position from a recruitment agency?

  • 1
    Can you apply to the company directly? Or does it have to be through the recruitment agency? Sometimes if you can apply directly you might have more negotiating power.
    – jumper
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:37
  • What the recruiter said is a joke, just state what you want. (That being said, why should interns be paid anything? It's either priceless experience (in which case ignore the $) or it's a rubbish position (in which case leave!)) Purely one man's opinion: perhaps you should have nothing to do with them, if that's their attitude, even if expressed through their recruiter company.
    – Fattie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:37
  • 1
    In my experience, internship salaries are even less negotiable than standard positions. Every level is budgeted at a certain amount, and only so many interns at each level are budgeted for.
    – David K
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:43
  • That's a reasonable point, @DavidK - arguably, it's a bit different in the sort of companies at hand.
    – Fattie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:45
  • 2
    Have you turned down the other companies? Negotiating power comes from your ability to walk away. @Fattie Never seen that work. People ask on wp.se all the time things like "I'm 3 month into a job, how do I get a pay rise". The answer is always that they have no negotiation leverage at that point, and should wait or quit.
    – Nathan
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


Everything is negotiable - it all depends on your leverage.

Are you willing to walk out of the table if they don't improve their offer? If so, then you have enough leverage: Just turn down their offer and explain them the reason (the offer is not competitive). That leaves them enough space to either improve it, or forget about you and go for another candidate.

Just be mindful of the risks: They can always tell you no, and then you would may need to look for a different company. But if that is fine for you, then, by all means, do not let the recruitment agency stop you. Their client is the company X, you are just their resource.

  • 1
    All quite true.
    – Fattie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:45
  • Yeah, we basically answered the same at same time :D Jul 7, 2017 at 18:48
  • it's because we're both so clever dude
    – Fattie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 18:49

I guess the literal answer to your question

Is there a way to negotiate around a non-negotiable position from a recruitment agency?

is straightforward. State:

"I would want $X for the position."

Understand that "negotiating salary" - in any context whatsoever - simply shares an identity with "you can walk away".

If you can't walk away, you can't negotiate. (At all, in any way.)

If you can walk away, use the language "I would want $X for the position."

(Regarding the fact that the recruiter said sentences like "they don't negotiate", just treat it as an interesting set of sounds :) )

The only tip you need on the language per se, "I would want $X for the position," is that you never ever, in any way, explain yourself, add reasons, "argument" or anything else. Just state what you want. If you don't get it, walk away. Be super polite and "minimalist" as it were. Be very mentally prepared that when/if the recruiter comes back to you with "Sorry, they wouldn't go for it" the response has to be at hand for you, something like "Understood! Thanks for your involvement, cheers".

  • 1
    "I want X" is in my experience rarely effective. It comes across as inflexible and rude. Your chances of success are much better if you can provide a data based rationale and good argument.
    – Hilmar
    Jul 7, 2017 at 19:01
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    I strongly urge being "overly polite", @Hilmar. But note that anything one says to a recruitment company, per se is, literally, irrelevant, They simply don't pass it on: it is a complete waste of breath (or, ascii characters!!) They recruiter will type a sentence with four words "John Smith wants $X". If you carefully and laboriously express why, etc, to a recruiter, it just literally achieves nothing; it's a complete waste. Maybe you were thinking in the case of directly talking to the company in question.
    – Fattie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 20:12

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