I had a short chat with an independent recruitment consultant recently. From the get go, it was all wrong. He started by asking how much I expect for my next position. I then reminded that he did not tell me anything about the position, to which he replied that "It does not matter. Just tell me how much you expect". At this point I asked the title of the role. He replied in 2 words (name of the role) and nothing else. Considering the fact that I am desperately in need of a job, I gave out a figure and mentioned I'm flexible.

Unfortunately, the figure I mentioned is only about 50% of the figure on the table. The recruitment consultant said he will not proceed with me just because of the low salary expectations.

I am fairly sure that I will face a similar situation in terms of salary expectation again where the recruiter will be able to bully me (since I am the one looking for job) into giving a number without describing the position. How do I handle this properly without going into their black list?

  • Remember that, although you are looking for a job, the recruiter's job depends on finding people to fill jobs. My expectations would depend on the nature of the job, the location, the identity of the employer, etc. and therefore would be impossible to state until after interviewing. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 1 '17 at 3:17

The solution in this specific case is pretty simple: get a better recruiter.

You haves Stack Overflow activity which means you are involved in software development. Right now, nearly everywhere in the world there is considerable demand for software developers.

In the future, you can directly ask them, "what is the range for the position so I can know if I am in the right ballpark?" or even say "appropriate market rates." You should know them, so if you don't, read this. Second, don't lowball yourself once you do, as asking for such a low salary conveys all sorts of things. Both the problems I raise there (desperation and lack of understanding of what an appropriate salary) were things your recruiter apparently picked up from you. Last, you can always give a range. Something like, "$40k-$60k depending on the overall package" will always come across better than something like "$52k."

  • Thanks for the answer. I did give a range (a wide range, in fact). But the maximum was far too low. I was quite surprised to hear that number because I did not think my experience in this particular role can bring such an opportunity to me. May be the recruiter did not even check my profile properly before contacting. ( – Sal Aug 1 '17 at 3:30
  • How far were your max? looks like you arent aware of "appropriate market rates". Was that position local or abroad? – Juan Carlos Oropeza Aug 1 '17 at 4:26
  • This is for Australia, where I am living now. I did not ask for a max (not pretending I knew the amount precisely) because my experience would never go with that figure (~150k AUD) , even in a very wide, roughly estimated ballpark asking salary. I assumed the HR consultant picked me because the company does not want to pay a lot for this position. And I need some experience. It's really a mixture of HR picking the wrong candidate and me assuming the company doesn't want to pay a lot. – Sal Aug 1 '17 at 6:13
  • Agreed. If the recruiter doesn't know what you're worth, how can he market you effectively? Is he supposed to take your word for it? A good recruiter knows how to figure out what a prospect is worth so they can get them job offers they're likely to accept. – David Schwartz Aug 1 '17 at 21:22
  • I agree with that. I lost word for a moment when the recruiter mentioned the salary is in the ball park of ~150k. I would never imagine, with the amount of experience I have, anyone will ever reach that band. More specifically, I have ~3 years overseas experience in that domain, half of which is highly relevant to that role. – Sal Aug 1 '17 at 22:41

In addition to enderland's answer above.

Considering the fact that I am desperately in need of a job

Recruiters have targets. They need to hire X people by Y date. In this sense you hold strong cards (your expertise). You already know that an acceptable salary for you is formed by many factors. Re-focus the discussion on them and not the number. If you have to say a figure, then go for a range (dependent on the above mentioned factors), but spend some time and do your research.

I am fairly sure that I will face a similar situation in terms of salary expectation again where the recruiter will be able to bully me (since I am the one looking for job) into giving a number without describing the position.

Consider this. You are looking for a new car. You go to a dealership and the salesman is trying to pull a figure out of you for a car that you have not seen, would you give in and say a number?

  • Regarding the car analogy, my answer would be: yes, I would give a figure. When I'm searching for a car, I know how much I want to spend, even before I have decided what model of car I'm going to buy. (The figure I gave would, of course, be a bit less than I'm actually willing to spend.) – Simon B Aug 1 '17 at 22:16
  • I understand the reasoning. I did not do a great job in this case and I would say the facts responsible for that are 1) the recruited was getting impatient and was showing it in his voice 2) I did not want to come across as a stubborn person. I did give a range that matches with my experience but that's too small for this position. – Sal Aug 1 '17 at 22:47
  • @SimonB Exactly. In this case the recruiter wants a number, before Sal knows the model. – Mariyan Aug 2 '17 at 7:13

I'll give a contrary answer...

Given your knowledge of the industry, you should have a reasonable knowledge of what the salary range is. If you're not sure, look around for posted job adverts.

  • If you go in too low, then either you're desperate (which implies that nobody else wants to employ you), or you don't think you're really qualified. Either will worry the recruiter.
  • If you go in too high, then there's no point in offering the job. Even if you do accept it, you'll constantly be asking for a pay rise.
  • The candidate with an expectation that matches the employer's salary range is more likely to be the right one.
  • That's right. But all the job adverts I saw in recent months, specially for permanent roles, asks a lot more experience than I have and offers that kind of salary. Therefore, I deduced I am being contacted because the recruiter know nobody with lot of experience is accepting the role. I asked for a salary that is reasonable with my experience. – Sal Aug 1 '17 at 22:44
  • nobody with lot of experience is accepting the role. Then you have the advantage, as the supply is smaller than demand :) Go for an above average salary request in that case. – Juha Untinen Aug 1 '17 at 23:52

There's nothing wrong with establishing what you want in a salary with a recruiter. Nobody wants to waste time if they can't meet your expectations. Seriously, they're doing you a favor. It doesn't matter what they pay you even if the job requires just staring at a wall if you can't pay your rent with it.

Now, this notion that you're not a suitable candidate because you don't know what you are worth in a given market, is a little over the top. A good recruiter will educate you in this area and put you into a job you can handle. This is how they get paid. It is possible he doesn't think you're qualified for other reasons, but I doubt he knows a good candidate when he meets one.

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