I Pissed Off a Recruiter Today. Is Salary a 4-Letter Word?

by Darwin on September 13, 2011

I have some mixed feelings about pissing off a recruiter today with a pretty good company.  I received a LinkedIn inquiry today about interest in a position with another firm.  I’m not actively out looking to make a move, especially if it entails relocating – heck, I just put in this pool!  But on the other hand, I would be remiss to not at least listen to what’s on the table, especially from a company I respect (hereinafter referred to as XXXXX since there’s no need to mention them specifically).  On one hand, I like where I’m at and I’m content in staying, but on the other, the layoffs are looming everywhere and contractors are doing my job elsewhere in the organization (reminding me that we’re all replaceable), so I’m not so naive to believe I’ll never be targeted for separation.

My initial reply after a few rounds of email courting…

  “Without more info on sal/bonus I can’t commit to discuss further; I’d be looking at the “director or equivalent” level for a move and this sounds like more of a lateral; I’d have to have a feel for compensation to commit to further discussions; I hope you’ll understand, I get inquires rather frequently and I only want to spend additional time on this if initial criteria check out.”

Company Reply:

   “Sorry and I say this with all due respect, but you wouldn’t be considered for Director level ops at xxxxx.  For this opportunity, with your amount of experience and the MBA I could see us potentially considering you for the Principal level (one of the highest technical levels at xxxxxxxxx) is generally people with +15 years of industry experience.  I always hate to have the detailed comp discussions especially with someone that I’ve never spoken on the phone with.  Since this dialogue has really been compensation driven, which I never really like to start off a relationship with, this probably isn’t the best for both of us.  Just to close the loop with you though, comp: base $xxxxxxxK & bonus generally around 20-25%.

My Takeaways and Lessons Learned


  • No Salary For You! Apparently, recruiters and HR professionals don’t like discussing salary up front, as if you need an NDA to even get to the point.  I’ve found this time and time again and today’s exchange was the most direct I’ve been with anyone and, well, the result is I pissed them off and probably burnt a bridge if I tried to reach out in the future for an opportunity.  Why do they hate providing comp info up front?  I dunno, I guess someone like me could go forward on the semi-confidential info, post it online, or whatever.  Or perhaps, like what happened to me, it would be viewed as immediately too low and wouldn’t get me on the phone.


  • Hey, You Contacted Me!  On one hand, I can see the reluctance to share information like that up front, but at the same time, I was the one being solicited, right?  So, aren’t I within my right to inquire a bit further before committing my personal time (and perhaps drawing the ire of my company for replying)?


  • Like You Wouldn’t Ask…As coy and polished as my counterpart would like to present themselves, let’s be frank.  Were the table turned, they probably get job inquiries now and then too…don’t they also want to know about compensation before spending time replying to somewhat frequent inquiries?  Who has time for it?  I only want to spend my (and their) time on something that might make sense!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  Well, if I were looking, I wouldn’t just wait around letting recruiters come to me; I’d seek out the highest paying jobs and get market intel on what similar roles that I’m in are paying elsewhere.  How?  Well, I’m already signed up with a free account from The Ladders, which is the best.  I get 6-Figure Job info only (weeding out the zillions of random job postings that aren’t a good match) and they deliver info by region, by job title, etc. the way I like to see it.  But I never act on the info at the moment.  I just digest.  It’s good to know where you stand either way, as I had outlined in this article on the benefits of informational interviews.


Anyway, interested in your thoughts on how you’ve dealt with recruiters, if you’re a recruiter yourself and if you can enlighten me on what the hangup is with talkin’ salary?!?


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents September 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I hate recruiters! They do not care about you. They just want their commission. They are salesmen with very few exceptions. I am glad I am no longer vulnerable to recruiters. No one recruits teachers!


Darwin September 14, 2011 at 12:03 am

Ah yes, the Paradox of the teacher. My wife’s a teacher (currently home w the kiddos). Anyway, she was awesome; parents raved about her, loved her. But there’s no such thing as “poaching” teachers or jumping jobs for more money. Regardless of how good or bad you are, it’s all based on seniority. So, even if another school really wanted her, they’d never bother contacting her. Because she already had a few years in at the first school and would start over and they couldn’t pay her more than what the contract allows.


Financial Samurai September 14, 2011 at 12:04 am

Talking salary with a recruiter/head hunter should be no problem. Talking salary with someone directly from the employer who you might report to is.

I wait until the last rounds of the exchanges to potentially discuss, and have them bring it up first.



Darwin September 14, 2011 at 8:01 am

Well, this was an employee of the company – some HR guy.
But by “waiting until the last round”, I will have waster hours of time to find out that a salary stinks or something.


Revanche September 14, 2011 at 12:40 am

Interesting. I’ve spoken about salary with recruiters before and they weren’t insulted or upset. Rather, they agreed we might as well figure out if my expectations were in range with what they’d offer since it’s a huge part of the decision-making especially if a relocation is part of the deal.

Even as a hiring manager, when relocating is necessary, I’m ok with giving a range to candidates early in the process. Heck, I’ll give it to them up front before they ask to make sure they’re taking that into consideration along with the rest of the comp package as they interview because I really don’t need to waste my time interviewing anyone in the dark and then having them back out at the point of offer because of compensation.


Darwin September 14, 2011 at 8:02 am

That’s what I thought!


Moneycone September 14, 2011 at 6:30 am

That was a rather rude email from the recruiter. He was the one who contacted you; why does he act otherwise?


Darwin September 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I guess someone was a bit sensitive… wanted a phone call before popping the cherry?


20's Finances September 14, 2011 at 10:27 am

I agree that this seems a bit harsh and unjustified. For example, I received a salary notification on my current job before the round of interviews for interested candidates. It was phrased something like, “this position pays X amount. Is this agreeable to you?” It was the first time this happened, but I am sure it was intended to weed out the people asking for too much money. It was a pay increase for me and no relocation required. Win-win!


Darwin September 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I’ve had other inquiries come through with the salary range right in the description; not sure why sometimes they’re hung up on a phone call and possibly even an on-site interview before discussing. Big time sucker.


101 Centavos September 18, 2011 at 5:21 am

Nah, recruiters are motivated by their fee first and foremost. I don’t think twice about their feelings. I recently had an cautious exchange on salary with a headhunter, of the show-me-yours-I’ll-show-you-mine type. I’m think well compensated for my position and my industry, and our conversation confirmed my thoughts. The recruiter, on the other hand, got a rude wake-up call at how low his customer was setting the position salary. Rots of ruck … 🙂


Super Frugalette September 18, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I think the recruiter was trying to get a “deal” on you. He would present you as the “most” qualified candidate for this position and while having you accept a low salary and title offer.

Some people with commensurate experience would have to take the offer because they are currently are out of work and do not have a better situation. I think the recruiter failed to realize that you are employed and that you won’t fall for his bait.


Kimberly July 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Darwin: As an experienced Executive Recruiter, my advice to you is, don’t worry about the salary upfront. Have a few conversations. Salaries are negotiable and you sell yourself short and actually show your naiveté, when you prioritize money without understanding the responsibilities and the company in depth. As a Recruiter, sure, we know the monetary parameters of a position. But if I’m talking with a ‘Michael Jordan’ caliber person the game changes. Talk to a few Recruiters, in depth, tell them up front, you may be shopping, and keep an open mind. They may call you with one position in mind but once they understand your credentials and if you don’t have the personality of a doorknob, they have the contacts and the power to call about anyone in the industry and place you in your dream job. WIth your approach you’re not getting what you want and certainly not advancing your career. Let the Recruiter lead and ask you questions. You’re eliminating yourself from a very large pool of possibilities and Recruiter’s believe, if money is all you care about, you’re not as sincere or as credible as you think. You’re seriously limiting your options. Kimberly Schenk


Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: