Edited by Nina Miller
Technology is exploding again. I am not sure if we are headed for another bubble, but the jobs for programmers are everywhere. The supply is higher than the demand, and recruiters are trolling the waters looking for likely candidates. Should you find yourself in a position where you have located a good .NET job that fits your talents, but you are unsure about how to negotiate terms for your job, this job tutorial may help.
In our previous article, we talked about how recruiters will approach you and how you should negotiate with them. I recently picked up an issue of Small Business Opportunities and read some great tips on negotiating any contract in an article called Winning Strategies, written by John Patrick Dolan. These tips could easily be applied to a salary or rate negotiation against a very crafty recruiter. Below are some tactics your recruiter may use on you and how to deal with them.
Let's say you are face-to-face with the recruiter and you quote him a rate. The recruiter then cringes or rolls his or her eyes. What do you do? For one thing, you stick with your guns. Recruiters will use all kinds of tricks to get their profit margin a bit higher.
A recruiter may just sit there and say nothing, waiting for you to make the first move. Silence is the best tactic for any negotiation because it often induces the other party to speak, hence whittling away their position. For example, you may be inclined to throw out a rate of $75/hr and then the recruiter says nothing. As the recruiter sits there silently, you play all kinds of games in your head, thinking you've asked for too much, and you bring the rate down to $70/hr. Whenever you negotiate with recruiters, let them do the talking initially. Remember, recruiters are salesmen and a lot of them like to talk. Get as much information out of them as possible, and don't be afraid to ask questions, but don't show your cards until you evaluated all the available information about the contract or job.
Good Cop/Bad Cop
This tactic was only used once on me in a recruiting situation. A very nice recruiter ("the good cop") will bolster you up, make you feel like you're the greatest consultant in the world. In the same room will be the bad cop. The "bad cop" recruiter will say things like that you are not that good, we can get lots of people to fill this position. The "good cop" will be sympathetic with you enough to make you feel like you really deserve the job, but perhaps should settle for a little less. This technique tends to frustrate the candidate, becoming an effective strategy for the recruiter. Don't fall for the "good cop/bad cop" routine, just ignore it so that it has no influence on your job decision.
This technique is used by the recruiter in the following way: Say you cannot settle for a rate below $75, but you really like the job. The recruiter may say something like, "I'd love to get the client to give you more, but they just won't budge. It's out of may hands". The client probably never said anything like this, but the recruiter will tell you they did anyway. This technique, called "Limited Authority", places the blame for the lower rate on the client rather than the recruiter. One way to tackle this technique is to ask to verify this with the client. If this is impossible, you can play the same game by pretending that you don't care what the client says and $75/hr is the only rate you can live on because your wife or husband won't settle for less.
The Red Herring
By far the lowest tactic is the red herring. This strategy focuses you on a minor issue to distract you from the more important issue of the salary or rate. One way recruiters try to get you hooked outside the salary or rate is by presenting you with benefits and bonuses. Although benefits can be really enticing (especially health care), you need to do the math in your head and determine how much the company is spending for you on health care + additional benefits. If the benefits don't add up to the offered amount, consider the benefits a "red herring" to make you blind to the offer on the table.
The Trial Balloon
This is used by recruiters to get you hooked on a job, thinking that once you're in the door you'll stick around. One trial balloon recruiters and employers are offering these days is consulting with conversion to employment. I've been personally subjected to this one. The offer happens frequently in the financial world. The institution does not want to continue paying you a high rate, so they convert you to an employee to save the company the money. The trade-off for you is the "red herring" of benefits. The problem with this tactic is that you, the employee, get burned with lower wages than before the conversion.
This is the recruiters' favorite tactic. They hit you with a low offer, far below what the client suggested. If you accept, then GREAT! The recruiter just made a humongous spread at your expense. Another trick: a recruiter will often give a range (say $45-$65/hr.) Keep in mind that the high end of the range may still be low-balling you, because the actual rate could be as high as $100/hr. Never accept a recruiter's first offer because it will always be lower than the client's suggested rate.
The Bait and Switch
In this tactic, the recruiter advertises a great rate (such as an open rate), but when you actually talk to the recruiter, the rate is very low. Or the recruiter may quote you a fantasic salary, but the salary is actually base + expected bonus. This is a common method used on Wall Street. The recruiter will tell you that you will be getting $100,000, but actually this number is really "total package" including bonus. Keep this in mind: a bonus is never guaranteed by the employer; the recruiter will just make you think it is.
Outrageous behavior can be described as behavior by the recruiter that you would find upsetting. This can include an angry fit by the recruiter or crying, making you feel bad that you are asking for too much. Although I don't think I ever personally encountered this with a recruiter, I wouldn't put it past them. Just ignore the behavior, and realize that it's simply a trick.
The Written Contract
Even after you work out the rate or salary with the recruiter, don't assume everything is fixed until you get the contract. Also realize that you can change anything you want in the contract that you don't like. Many candidates are afraid of contracts and just sign on the bottom line. Read it carefully, have a lawyer read it, and make appropriate changes. I find that recruiters will often hand you the contract and try to get you to sign it right away in their office. Simply tell them that your lawyer needs to read it (refer back to the "Limited Authority" section) and that you are unable to sign it otherwise.
The New York job world is a jungle, and inside the jungle roams the crafty recruiter. Keep a look out for the guerrilla tactics used by recruiters and you may survive landing your next .NET job with a positive outcome.