Recruiters, pay rates, and client budgets

If a recruiter sends me a job description, the first question I ask is, “What is the pay rate”.  If it is not in the ballpark of what I make, I shut the conversation down as continuing would just be a waste of everyone’s time.  Better to do that then to discuss the position, your career goals, do a technical interview, meet with the client, etc., to only find out the rate the client is willing to pay is not even close to what my normal rate is.

The worse are the recruiters who don’t find out what the client is willing to pay and go out and recruit you and after your resume is submitted to the client the recruiter finds out your rate is too high for the position.  These recruiters appear to not consider my time valuable and prefer to take the lazy way out of finding candidates.  A recruiter should always discuss and close on hourly rates before they expend any energy in trying to find resources.  I guess waiting until you present a candidate is the new way of selling, only prospecting with my and the recruiters time, and then not having the client qualified is a real time burner.  Some recruiters even know that your rate is much more than what the client wants yet still want to submit you.  What a waste of time!  Always remember that some recruiters will do what is best for their wallet over what is best for you.  For example, I had a recruiter try and convince me to leave in the middle of a local contract I was on for a position in another state and a $30/hr drop in pay.  All he cared about was making his commission.

Two things I always ask of a recruiter:

1) It is up to you as a recruiter to assist the client in understanding what the appropriate pay rates are

2) Don’t tell me “the pay rate is open”

I asked my recruiter friend the question: Do you try to get an idea what a client has budgeted before you search for candidates?

Short answer: Absolutely as it saves a lot of time and effort for all parties involved (recruiter, candidate, and client). It also gives me credibility as a recruiter when I speak with a candidate. I personally think it is the responsibility of the recruiter to have this information.

Long answer: Absolutely, but sometimes the client doesn’t know what they are going to spend (the more obscure the skill set, the more believable this is) and they are interested in learning market rates from the recruiter. I press the client as best I can – not in a bad way, but I’ll ask them six ways to Sunday about what they are willing to pay. Do you have a budget? What is your price range? I’ll drop the subject then re-visit it. I’ll try like hell to get the budget because it’ll determine a few things: (1) do I personally want to work on this opportunity? (2) I owe it to my candidates to have this info and (3) is this client a realistic (read: “good”) prospect or should I save myself the time?

If a client truly doesn’t know, then I want them to understand I’m not interested in going on a wild goose chase. I explain that I’ll gladly do their market research but it is with the expectation they’ll be responsive. If I’m going to go do your homework for you, you better give me quick/fair feedback on my candidates. Many times when a client says they don’t know the market rate, I’ll already have a good idea and I’ll educate them. What I hate is when a client does know, but they want to see if I can get them a better rate. I try to get beyond this point saying I’ll gladly try to get them the best rate, but at least set a bar for me so I know what I’m up against. It also gives me credibility with my client if they throw out a really low number and I can look them in the eye and tell them “good luck”. Sometimes you have to level with a client that they are looking for something that doesn’t exist. This sounds cliché, but I want to become the client’s trusted advisor. Part of that is by NOT being a “yes” man. You have to be straight with them and 99 times out of 100 they appreciate it.

When a recruiter calls you and doesn’t have a firm pay rate it would be a red flag in my mind. They either: (1) don’t have a solid relationship with the client to get that information (2) are an inexperienced recruiter and don’t realize that the rate information is VERY important or (3) they are very experienced recruiter and are trying to use a negotiating tactic to get you to name your number first. What if they know their client has a budget of $150/hr and you come in at $100/hr? Bingo! (For the recruiter).

If you look back at our experience (if I remember correctly) you were quick to mention that you didn’t want to waste your time and gave me your number up front. I think this is a good move on your part. You want to be up front with recruiters to save yourself time, almost try to scare them away. You didn’t scare me away and we had a meaningful dialogue (and we still are having meaningful dialogues!). It all comes down to a few factors: How experienced is the recruiter? Are they being open and fair with you? Do they value saving everyone’s time? (Your time, the recruiter’s time, the client’s time).

More info:

How to Spot a Recruiter worth Working With

About James Serra

James currently works for Microsoft specializing in big data and data warehousing using the Analytics Platform System (APS), a Massively Parallel Processing (MPP) architecture. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence/MDM architect and developer, specializing in the Microsoft BI stack. He is a SQL Server MVP with over 25 years of IT experience.
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2 Responses to Recruiters, pay rates, and client budgets

  1. Miguel Quintana says:

    Hello,
    I saw your blog on
    http://www.sqlservercentral.com/blogs/

    Very interesting post, however I would like to add my two cents:
    Interviewing is skill, and as any other skill, you need practice. The problem is that I don’t get enough opportunities to practice… so I take all recruiters calls and at least try get to the interview if it doesn’t requires me to travel or uses too much of my time. Even for those jobs that I’m overqualified or requires relocation. I use those opportunities to practice interviewing and I’m able to relax since nothing is really at stake: I already have a job that pays well and I’m not looking to change jobs… However, I am preparing for when the time comes that I need to interview well, and I don’t botch the interview due to inexperience with the process.
    I guess if recruiters knew this they’ll hate me, but it’s my way of getting free realistic training.
    Miguel

    • James Serra says:

      Thanks for the reply Miguel. I do the same exact thing, going on at least one interview a month. It’s a way to keep my interview skills up and make new connections, as well as keep my finger on what skills companies are looking for. Recruiters don’t mind, as they at least got a qualified candidate in front of the client, and there is always a chance you are made an offer you can’t refuse :-)

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