The Players in the Game of Salary Negotiations

You need a scorecard to keep track of all the players. You probably are familiar with the roles of players in major league sports.  In baseball the catcher calls the types of pitches that the pitcher will throw to the batter.  In hockey the goalie protects the net so no pucks find their way in.  In football the quarterback calls the offensive plays.  Are you familiar with the roles of the people involved in a salary negotiation?  Most people do not even though we all become actively or passively involved in negotiations at some point of our lives.

Here’s the roster for salary negotiations.

Staffing Agency Recruiter

The staffing agency recruiter wants to get the best candidate for the job in front of the hiring manager.  More often than not the staffing agency recruiter will go around the corporate recruiter to interact directly with the decision maker, the hiring manager.

Staffing agencies are paid by the companies not be candidates.  Their payment is based on a percentage of the first year salary of the candidate hired by the company.  Just like you, the candidate, they want to get you the highest salary possible because they will get a higher commission as well.  DO NOT ACCEPT a job offer without talking with your staffing agency recruiter.  S/he will automatically negotiate to get you more than the first offer.  I’m not guaranteeing that s/he will succeed but an active negotiation will occur.

Corporate Recruiter

The corporate recruiter is in charge of finding the right candidates to be interviewed for the job opening.  Typically the corporate recruiter reviews submitted resumes, searches social media for good leads, and screens potential candidates in a phone interview before deciding to bring them in for the hiring manager and others to interview.

The recruiter sometimes is the person who makes the job offer to the chosen candidate. Although the corporate recruiter can make the offer, the recruiter does not own the budget for the job.  This lack of ownership of the budget limits the ability of the recruiter to negotiate salary with a candidate.  DO NOT NEGOTIATE with a corporate recruiter whenever possible.  Ask to negotiate with the hiring manager.

Hiring Manager

This is the person who you will report to should you get the job.  This also is the person who decides whether or not to offer you the job.  Oh, there typically are other people who will interview with you but the hiring manager takes their input and makes the final decision.

The hiring manager ultimately decides what to offer as the starting salary as well.   This is because more often than not, the hiring manager owns the budget from which your salary comes.  Good hiring managers always keep some of the available money for the starting salary out of the initial job offer because s/he assumes there will be salary negotiations.

How does the hiring manager with the help of the recruiter decide on the starting salary? They look at the approved budget, the going industry rates, your salary history (will you be happy with the lower end of the budgeted range?), your credit history (how desperate are you for the money?), and the amount you stated when asked for your salary requirements.  You provide three of the five items considered to determine the salary in a job offer.  Notice I didn’t mention anything about education, experience, or results.  Those are considered to determine if you should get the job offer. Salary offers truly are the answer to “what’s the lowest we can offer to get a person to accept the job.”

The hiring manager IS THE PERSON to NEGOTIATE WITH.  S/he may make a big hubbub about getting approval for more but they are sitting on more just waiting for you to ask.


It is expected that you will ask for more than the initial salary offer.  If you don’t, they may think they could have gotten you for even less! This excellent perspective comes from Mary Jeanne Vincent.

Your job is to do your homework before applying for the job.  Know the value of the job.  Know the cost savings and/or revenue creating contributions you have made to your previous employers.  Know these contributions in terms of dollars. DO NOT offer salary history or salary requirements easily.  Force the hand of the hiring manager or recruiter to state the salary range or ballpark before you do.

Finally, when offered a job say THANK YOU.  I am truly interested in the job but the salary offered is lower than expected.

Budget Owner

Sometimes the hiring manager does not own the budget.  The manager of the hiring manager may be the budget owner.  When this occurs the hiring manager needs to get approval from his/her manager to go above the approved budget for your salary.  Remember most first salary offers do not exhaust the approved budget. Typically, the hiring manager will have additional money at the ready thus it rarely becomes needed for an external budget owner to become involved.

I hope your future salary negotiations become easier now that you know who is playing the game and their roles.

Copyright 2012 by Katie Donovan