Title vs. Salary – Knowing When to Ask for More

man looking at money
As a result of my earlier blog post, Title vs. Salary, I was contacted by someone (I will call him John) seeking advice regarding an interaction with a job recruiter. During a call, the recruiter provided John with the job salary, title and benefits information which he said was acceptable. After thinking about it later that evening, John contacted the recruiter the next morning to ask if they could increase the title to one step above. He explained to the recruiter that it would make him feel better knowing that he was at least making a lateral move.

John reached out to me because he was worried that he ruined his chance at an offer by asking for a more senior title.  At the time of his email, he had not heard from the recruiter for two days.  This was my advice to him.

Hi John,

Regarding your question, there are a few things to consider:

1) Third-party recruiters usually do not have the power to offer alternate titles or salaries. They may be given instructions to look for someone who will accept a particular salary range but it is usually at the point of final interview where offers will be made. At that point, if the employer wants the candidate bad enough, they may be willing to negotiate the  job title and/or salary.

2) Working with recruiters is very tricky. Recruiters want to know you are flexible and open to considering options. That is the best way to be added to their call-back list. Here is an article with more on this topicOn the other hand, if you are too eager to accept lower titles or salaries, that is also a red flag. So, it is a delicate balancing act. Also, page 6 of this document by TheLadders has a great diagram explaining the roles of candidates and recruiters during each step of the job search process.

3) There are many moving parts during the interview process. Since you are dealing with the recruiter and not the employer, your chances of getting a call-back at this point are lower. If you do get a call-back, it is likely that this time of no-response is due to the employer deciding if they are able or willing to modify the position for you.  Due to the economy, many organizations are placing greater controls around hiring. So, it may not be as simple as requesting a salary increase or title change.  My employer now requires all staffing requests to go through a hiring committee review process.

4) Titles are more coveted now than ever before.  At a time when many employees have worked without a raise or promotion for two years or more, moral is at an all-time low.  Some estimate that 30% or more of the currently employed are actively seeking new jobs.  Because of this, employers are being more careful about handing out job titles. Especially since a title increase may be all they have to offer their best performers until the raises start again.

5) Competition is fierce. There is an abundance of unemployed and underemployed, highly qualified people willing to take less pay and responsibility just to get their foot in the door. Because of this, recruiters may be tempted to move on to the next candidate when they are presented with resistance to their offer. Again, this probably only applies if they have a great pool of job candidates to choose from.  If not, the recruiter may be just as desperate as you, which gives you more leverage.

Next time, if the salary is in the zone but the title is off, go through with the interview. You can always negotiate titles later. Think of potential employers as your customer. You need to gain their confidence and intrigue them with your offerings before you ask for a bonus. Ultimately, it becomes a trade. You give them a feeling of confidence and success in finding the talent they need and they reward you with the salary and title that reflects that vote of confidence.

I hope you get a call-back. If you do not, chalk this up to a learning experience and keep moving forward. I hope my input helps.

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Categories: Career, Job Hunting

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