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A Technical Recruiter Talks Salary: The Art of Negotiating

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Joe Van Tassel 24 Jun 2020
Orange County, California

I’m going to start by saying this: at Integress, we’re way more about transparency and keeping you from having to negotiate. Honestly, it’s not about how much anyone “gets”, it’s more about if you’re starting out paying what you should, or earning what you should. Also, keep in mind that we are in the engineering/IT/ manufacturing industry, so the following is standard for that space (as opposed to sales or marketing for example). 

Negotiating Salaries in the State of California

Be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Inland Empire or San Diego, one challenge that first needs to be overcome when getting into salary negotiations here in California is the law that states that you can’t ask a candidate in the interview process how much money they’re making. They can ask you the salary range for a position, and you have to give it to them, but companies don’t get to ask the same question. The law was built to protect candidates from getting low-balled, and we understand that. When working with a recruiter (in our case engineering or technical recruiter) however, it starts the money conversation off with a low amount of trust, which we don’t like or recommend. 

What Is Win-Win In Engineering or Technical Recruiting?

For the recruiting industry, that law creates an unnecessary barrier because it can infringe on the win-win we are always looking for. Everybody needs to feel like they’re getting something. The company and the candidate should walk into the new role feeling respectively like they’re happy with what they’re giving and getting. Full transparency is always the best option in my mind, and that requires disclosure from both parties. 

Let’s talk numbers

So, that all being said, let’s talk numbers. If you remain in your job with the same company each year, then year over year you will typically (this is an average) get a 3% raise. Just about each year you get somewhere from 1% – 5% of an increase, usually about 3%. 

If you leave your job to go somewhere else, the average increase in salary to expect is 10%. That’s three times the typical increase, so it’s a healthy amount. We do view that as a pretty on target number, though of course there can be variations. The reason for the increase? There is risk and unknown for you in leaving a job, so that is reflected in that raise. More risk, more reward. And yes this applies to engineer and technical roles as well!

Is it possible to get more than 10% increase on salary?

Can you get more than that 10% increase when going into a new job? Yes. If you’re working with a recruiter, we’re open to hearing why you think you’re worth more. In fact, the beauty of working with us is that we know salary averages, so we have a good idea of what you should be making. Many times we find an underpaid engineering or technical candidates and push for an increase above 10% so that we can get candidates to make what they deserve. We fight for that fairness (for both our client and the candidate) at Integress always. 

Alternative Salary Offers

Can you get less than a 10% increase? Maybe. If you get a low offer, it’s typically with a plan at the outset to get you up to that 10% increase, with an agreed-upon path to achieve that. Typically this scenario happens when there is a better long term route for growth, but you have to start within the company’s budget. We’ve seen this workout many times, so don’t be too wary of it. However, having that agreed upon plan is crucial to protect all parties and create expectations that are aligned. Remember if you want the right engineering or technical talent, you have to weigh your options up!

Speaking of expectations, we use these averages to create realistic expectations for everyone, as opposed to allowing anyone to live in this fake world of what you want/ think you deserve. That may sound harsh, but very few people are so incredibly exceptional at what they do that it deserves them a 50% increase in pay. When major jumps in salary happen is when a candidate can come in and help a company increase their own income drastically. 

Also keep in mind that this is the standard for employed people, not necessarily someone out of work. There is a lot of leverage when you’re still employed, and when you aren’t currently in a job, that makes negotiating a bit harder.  

Let’s talk about the actual negotiation: 

What can be negotiated? There are different levels that you can negotiate: salary, bonuses (starting bonus, end of year bonus, performance bonus), benefits, remote work days, and vacation days are all on the table. However, the size of the company you’re working with will determine how flexible they can be. The larger the company, the less flexible typically.  

When it comes to “playing the game” and what number to start at with negotiating, that’s not really our style at Integress. We’re not game players. It’s way better to approach things with curiosity and honesty, seeking the best mutual outcome. 

We set the client expectation always up front at that 10% raise number, so that’s built in. The “game” would be for you to come in high, resulting in some back and forth on numbers, and settling at 10%. However, that’s just not our approach. The benefit of working with a good recruiter is not having to deal with that back and forth, and there being a lot of transparency which creates a high conversion rate. Part of why this is so effective is that it helps us weed out candidates who aren’t going after a job for the right reasons. When someone we talk to is a potential for a job but arbitrarily wants a 25% increase in salary, we know they could just be in it for the money. That’s not really a great fit usually, and those placements tend to turnover quickly too. We don’t want to represent someone who’s got a single track mind.

It’s important for people to know this 10% number, because no one on either end wants to get taken advantage of. That’s a real common sentiment “I don’t want to get taken to the shop!” But no one ever even knows what would be fair vs unfair because they don’t know average salaries or typical increase amounts. 

The main reason negotiation falls through and may lead to someone not getting a job is commonly due to a bit of ego. That’s why we start with transparency and trust – to diffuse the ego. Usually when that gets in the way, then the job isn’t a right fit anyways and the alignment is off. 

Keep in mind this is a universal concept, we don’t want clients to undervalue talent either. It’s all about reaching a number financially that makes both parties feel motivated and respected. 

A fair and easy negotiation really should be less a negotiation and more a settling on the right number openly. You have to be able to justify your cost and know your numbers. As long as that genuine interest and your personal and justifiable story is there, then people will go to bat for you. 

Integress provides contingency fee based recruitment for all types of engineering and technical roles. Our approach is consultative and we provide consultations throughout the USA. Our office in Orange County serves the manufacturing sector in Los Angeles, Inland Empire, San Diego, San Fernando Valley, and we can either provide virtual or in-person meetings in industrial locations like, Monrovia, Pasadena, Ontario, Corona, Temecula, Santa Fe Springs, City of Commerce, City of Industry, Glendora, La Verne, La Canada Flintridge and more….our mission is to help as many companies gain the right engineering and technical talent. Contact us for more information HERE

A Technical Recruiter Talks Salary: The art of negotiating
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A Technical Recruiter Talks Salary: The art of negotiating
At Integress, we’re way more about transparency and keeping you from having to negotiate. Honestly, it’s not about how much anyone “gets”, it’s more about if you’re starting out paying what you should, or earning what you should.
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