How and When should I negotiate the expected salary with the staffing agent/recruiter?
January 25, 2011 6:51 AM   Subscribe

How and When should I negotiate the expected salary with the staffing agent/recruiter?

I am a SW engineer and I stayed in my 1st job for 7 years until I got laid off recently. When I start the job searching, I am always asked by the recruiter or the staffing agent how much my salary expectation is.

I tried to look up in and the same title(Software Engineer IV) in the same area(Boston) earns about 110K for median salary. And gives me the median as 95K after I input my education (MSCS) and experience information.

From, the same title(no education or working experience included) in the company that I am applying for has base salary 90k-130k.

My questions are:
(1) How much should I tell the recruiter as salary expectation for a full time job?

(2) How about a contract job?
I saw a similar contract job on monster which is in the nearby area and has similar job requirements except that it asks for 3+ yr experience and BS+ degree, the salary range is $50-$58/hr which is about 104K-120K/yr.

This seems much higher than a FT offer. I understand that without all the benefits, contract job should pay more. But when I ask the staffing agent , she told me typical offer is about 90k-100K.

(3) Negotiation strategy: Should I give them lower expectation and wait till I almost get the job offer and then try to ask for more? or Should I give them a higher number to get negotiation margin?

Any advice is appreciated!
posted by kktony to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I never answer that question directly. I say something like, it depends on the opportunity. If I'm working on something really interesting that constantly stretches my abilities and allows to me to learn something new everyday, I might be willing to take a little less for that chance. If it's a fairly static corporate software development gig, I might want more. I really can't give you a number until I know more about the opportunity. But the range will be somewhere from [insert last salary, if you were happy with it] to [30% more].

I'm actually a sales and marketing guy, so adjust the terminology as needed. The goal is to not get screened out of a job you would like to pursue, while at the same time not wasting your time interviewing for jobs that will pay 40% less than your last job.
posted by COD at 7:15 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you pin down a number before you know the details of the job then you're setting yourself up to be taken advantage of. It seems you have already established a range of what's reasonable, so the answer should be, "somewhere in this range, depending on the particulars of the job."
posted by jon1270 at 7:16 AM on January 25, 2011

Don't mix up the agency's needs with the employer's. Agencies work on a cost plus basis or on a fixed price basis. The benefits of the former is the more you get the more they get. So your strategy is to determine how they are getting paid. The question to ask when you are asked about money is "What is the budget for this position". Their answer will be either a set amount or a range. In my experience a set amount means they are working on a fixed price basis, and there is little to no wiggle room lest it eat into their profit. In either case if the money is in your acceptable range you should be asking for 10% to 15% higher than they offer, and negotiate from there.
posted by Gungho at 7:20 AM on January 25, 2011

Although this is not a direct answer to your question, the best thing you can do during a salary negotiation---that's what this is...even though you don't know who you're negotiating with yet---is to create a situation where you can more easily walk away from a low-ball offer. When a company hires somebody who is unemployed, the job-seeker has a weak bargaining position because their alternatives to a negotiated agreement are unemployment or whatever salary the company is offering. In this situation, people usually accept bad salaries because they can't afford to walk away.

If you're able to get any sort of contract work now, you will be in a much better position for any salary negotiation. The company that wants to hire you will try to use your contract salary as a starting point in the negotiation, but that risk is usually outweighed by the fact that you will not have the power to walk away if you need to.

Also: When you negotiate for how much you should get paid, numbers mean very little on their own. If you can explain why you deserve to be paid a particular amount---e.g., Are you an average engineer who should be paid the average salary? Or should you be paid more?---you'll be able to more easily control the flow of the negotiation. If you can provide your recruiter with a coherent story about why you should be paid a particular amount, that's a lot more useful than saying $105k without any context. Providing these details via the recruiter and in-person can also give you the ability to counter any low-ball offers with non-confrontational statements like, "Can you explain how you arrived at that number?"

Enjoy the negotiation!
posted by eisenkr at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

So a few things.

1. As others have stated give a range, not a single answer. If glassdoor says 90-130 I'd say something like 105-140 (assuming your desired salary is in this range, adjust as you see fit). While technically negotiating has started, they really are, at this point, trying to make sure you're not completely out of the ballpark.

2. That contract number is low. Generally I've always gotten a significantly higher rate for contract work as opposed to salaried work. This is the usually how contract positions work. Do NOT make the mistake of multiplying out the hourly rate and assume thats the same as a salary. It looks like you multiplied $50*40hours * 50 weeks. Contractors make no benefits and get no paid leave. Most people I know that can make $120k a year as salaried software engineers can make $100-125 an hour on contract. (This is in SF, but your numbers sound similar to the numbers around here).

3. Give the range and then wait for an offer and negotiate from there.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:30 AM on January 25, 2011

The typical response to those questions is "it depends on the package." You want to avoid stating the number first (by conventional wisdom, ignore if you like), but if forced, you can take the agency's high number and add on health insurance, vacation, and anything else of benefit that would be contained in a compensation package. If they just talking a single number, you need to be talking the bigger picture and possibly condescending to them for forcing you to do so by only considering cash compensation. Agencies aren't serious or good-faith negotiators, they're just trying to lowball you enough that the company thinks it's a good deal. Play hard-ball, be confident, you're the shit.
posted by rhizome at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2011

(1) How much should I tell the recruiter as salary expectation for a full time job?

I'm with COD -- I think you should avoid giving a specific answer to this question, if you can help it. My old boss taught me about the The Noel Smith-Wenkle Salary Negotiation Method, which centers around not giving the recruiter a number, and it has worked well for me. The idea is to have a number in mind (and it looks like you already do), but to keep it to yourself. Don't fill out that blank on the application, and don't answer directly if asked. The idea is to get the recruiter to name the first number, so you can compare it to your number and negotiate from there. If it's too low, tell them it's low, but not by how much -- this makes it impossible to lowball yourself, even accidentally.

COD's suggested phrasing is good, though I would suggest leaving off the salary range. The method I linked to above also has a few handy phrases you can use to put the ball back in the recruiter's court when they ask about salary. I also second eisenkr and rhizome: if you're not getting an offer you're happy with, don't be afraid to walk away if you can afford to (this may actually result in a higher offer, and if not, at least you didn't settle for something that was too low), and keep in mind that insurance/vacation/benefits can be a great way to fill out a salary.
posted by vorfeed at 12:38 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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