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The recruiter says the salary is non-negotiable. Is this true?

"Is the salary really non-negotiable?" I get this question a lot from the men I coach and mentor. Before I say anything else, note that I said, men ask me this more than women. For whatever reason, men are more willing to negotiate, ask for raises and promotions than women. So, if there's one advice I provide to my fellow women, it is this - ask for more because men do. And if you don't ask for more, the gender pay gap isn't going to go away anytime soon! Rant over!

But when the recruiter says so, is the salary really non-negotiable? I'll say it depends on a number of things:

1. The recruiter and their relationship with their client: The recruitment industry is an interesting one. Some of them charge commissions as a percentage of salary paid. So the higher your salary, the more the recruiter gains. In this case, it is in their best interest to get you the highest salary. However, there are sometimes that this isn't the case. Many recruiters try to get the hire they get their clients at below the budget the company has kept, either because they're on a retainer agreement, or because they want to maintain a goodwill relationship with the client. If this is the case, the recruiter has an incentive to undersell your value. How do you know? It's difficult to know without being offensive. So, irrespective of the recruiter telling you that the salary is non-negotiable, I'd advise on negotiating.

2. The company you've interviewed for: The company you're interviewing for also has a role to play. For example, the current company I work for will put forward it's best offer from the get go because we don't believe that our time spent in negotiating is worth the £5k we'd have given you after long deliberation. When the company you work for is a no B.S. organisation at the top, chances are likely that you won't get very far even if you believe you're worth more. But again, how do you know what sort of organisation it is unless you've worked for it? You wouldn't. So, negotiate irrespective.

3. Your hiring manager and the demand of the role: The hiring manager actually has more say than you imagine on your worth. I always say pick a manager, not a company. A hiring manager who is also a genuinely nice person will have your corner right from the moment you interview with them. And if they're really struggling to hire for the role, the brownie points tip to your favour. As an example, as a hiring manager, I've sometimes gone back to candidates I liked with more money than they asked for.

4. Your performance in the interview and your competition: This is a no-brainer. If you've blown off the socks of your interviewers, and your competition hasn't, obviously you will get away with negotiating a higher salary just by the virtue of being better than your competition. But, you need to do the hard-work first!

5. What you want to define as your salary: This has to be my favourite one of all! Now, of course when people think salary, they think base compensation. However, there are tons of other things to consider and for which I've previously declined apparently higher paying offers. What are these? Glad you asked!

There are other components of the salary like pension match (or 401K if you're in the US), number of holidays, healthcare insurance (and how much you need to pay as a part of a group scheme), travel reimbursements, parental leave, bonus payouts, salary revisions within the year and finally - the work hours. Even if you can't negotiate your base, you can negotiate a number of these other components of your salary. You can ask for a higher pension match, a better parental leave policy, or a higher bonus that is tied to your performance. In fact, I know people who have done exactly this to get much better overall packages from well reputed firms in consulting, banking and tech.

What's the takeaway?

Irrespective of whether the recruiter tells you that this is the final offer, negotiate the salary. If you find that negotiating on the base isn't getting you anywhere, negotiate on other things, including flexible hours. Because remember, money is just one of the many things of an abundant life!

There are more things you can negotiate on. Remember that there's a lot more to salary than money. Think about the whole package. Here are the word-for-word scripts I use with recruiters to make sure you get the salary that you are actually excited by!

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