Money Talks: Discussing Salaries with Recruiters

Your offer negotiation really starts at the very first interview with the recruiter.  An experienced recruiter will be knowledgeable about how your current compensation compares to similar people in your area of expertise.

It’s important to tell the recruiter all of the details of your current compensation package, not just your base salary.  The recruiter will know their client’s preferred compensation range as well as the stretch compensation for a star candidate.  There is no point in investing hours in interviewing to learn that the company’s hiring budget is lower than what you are making currently.

If you trust the recruiter you are partnering with, I recommend having an open discussion about compensation.  After all, the recruiter will be negotiating on your behalf just like a sports agent negotiates for a star player. If you don’t tell the recruiter what you make, it’s nearly impossible for the recruiter to advise their client on what would be an appropriate offer.  In most instances the recruiter’s fee is a percentage of your base salary (so the recruiter earns a higher commission if they negotiate a higher salary.)  It’s then a balancing act for the recruiter to get the best offer for you while representing their client’s interests.

Make sure to tell the recruiter all of the details of your compensation package (and email them with those details).  This information is a great negotiating tool.  Remember that your compensation is made up of more than just your base salary and bonus.  Benefits and job perks can add 15-28% to your base salary.

You need to factor in

√  Base Salary
√ Bonus
√ Company car or mileage
√ Reimbursement for home office set up
√ Cell Phone
√ Medical and Dental Benefits
√ Stock Options
√ RSP Matching
√ Gym or Golf Club Membership
√ Extended Health Programs such as an annual Executive Physical
√ Vacation
√ Childcare subsidy

There are also non-financial perks such as Friday afternoons off in the summer or Christmas shutdown, flex hours, the ability to work from home a day or two a week, free food and onsite gym or yoga classes. It’s harder to attach a monetary value to these perks, but you should definitely factor them in the total value of your package.

While there is a lot that has been written about salary negotiation, the reality is much less complex.  Most companies will have salary bands for certain roles and the number of years of experience that you have compared to their existing employees will be used as the benchmark for their offer.  If you want a sense of what people earn in your field, you can go to websites like, and

That being said – I recommend negotiating! You can usually pre-negotiate the verbal offer with the recruiter as the intermediary before the written offer is extended.   And it’s fair to ask the recruiter – “Am I pushing too hard?”  “Do you think your client will be open to this request?”  You can ask the recruiter to “test the waters” or “run an idea by their client” to see whether the client will be receptive or not.

You should also think of your offer like a good pre-nuptial agreement, and try to be protected in the event of layoffs, just as you would in the event of divorce.  Especially if you were at your last company for 5 or more years, it’s important to negotiate your exit package up front.  Negotiate a guaranteed severance package (written into your contract) should the company lay you off through no fault of your own.  You don’t want to find yourself downsized through acquisition in a year with only a few weeks of severance.

It’s also important to look at your do-not-compete clause.  Get it waived if you can.  Don’t assume it’s non-negotiable.

When the economy is healthy, it’s typical to see 8-10% plus increases in compensation when you move from one company to another. When the job market is tight and the economic climate is uncertain, that average increase is lower and is somewhere between 6-8%  Both are still higher than the average 3-4% annual performance review increase if you stay at your current company in the same role.

A survey by revealed that only 37% of people always negotiate their salary while 18% never do.  (Newer grads and women are often in this category.)   A study done by Linda Babcock for her book, Women Don’t Ask, revealed that only 7% of women attempted to negotiate their first salary, while 57% of men did.  Researchers at Columbia Business School  say that you should ask for a very specific number rather than a round number when you negotiate your offer. For example, ask for $94,650 rather than $95,000.  The employer will assume that you’ve done extensive research into your market value to arrive at that number.

Here are some easy things to ask for up front:
1)    Ask for your benefits to start immediately.  Have the company waive the 3-month probationary period.  Most companies will say yes to this.
2)    Extra vacation.  Especially if you were expecting add more vacation time in a year due to your tenure.
3)    Ask for a salary review sooner than a year after hiring.
4)    Ask for a signing bonus to cover the current bonus that you will be leaving on the table.
5)    Tuition or education reimbursement.  (Everything from courses and seminars all the way up to an MBA)
6)    Flexible hours. Or the ability to work from home 1-2 days per week.

So how do you deal with the question when your company you are interviewing with brings up salary?   You can answer it like this.  “My current base salary is $X but there are a number of factors that make up my total package.  I’ve reviewed my complete current compensation package with the recruiter including benefits and non-financial perks.  I would be happy to e-mail you that information.  And while compensation is important there are a lot other things to consider.  I think you have an amazing company.  I know that there is a lot I can contribute in this role and I would certainly entertain your best competitive offer.”

It’s easy to become intimidated or think that the client holds all the cards, but negotiating for the best compensation you can isn’t “pushy.” It’s just recognition of what you deserve and what you have to contribute. Here’s wishing you great success in your negotiations and in the advancement of your career!

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Author: Shanna Landolt

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