As you might suspect, there is no clear YES/NO answer to this question. It depends on two other very important questions, both of which must be answered first:
- Am I a highly informed salary negotiator?
- Do I trust my recruiter?
There are only four possible combinations of answers to these 2 questions and we’ll go over each in detail.
Let’s define “highly informed.” We didn’t use the word “expert” here because the answer would be NO almost all the time. You don’t need to be an expert to negotiate your own salary, but you have to do more than read an internet article to get there. You can thoroughly research almost any topic online, but it takes some time and effort to do it right. There are many very good articles on this topic – we recommend digesting at least ten of the top non-ad Google results before feeling confident enough to know what to say when real bullets are flying. You simply need to get educated on what the common pitfalls are, what questions are asked, why these questions are asked, and where they lead to. You also need to be aware what your market value is – realistically what salary level your background commands. Just like everything online, some information is great and some is, well,…crap. This goes for entire articles or even different pieces within the same article, which makes it challenging. A very reliable piece of advice is to take ANY sweeping statements of fact or generalizations with a huge grain of salt. Many articles do a great job of educating you on the how’s and why’s of salary negotiation, but do NOT believe them when they say “it’s never a good idea to divulge your current/target salary” or “the recruiter is not motivated to get you the best offer” or “the company wants to get you at the lowest salary possible.” These statements are true in many cases, but they are absolutely false in others and if you operate under the assumption that everyone is out to get you at all times, you can say or do something that causes the other side to walk away and miss an opportunity you really wanted.
So, if you’ve dubbed yourself a highly informed salary negotiator (you’ve read at least 10 good salary negotiation articles AND you have a realistic awareness of what salary level people like yourself can expect to make in the open market), then you are probably qualified to handle your own negotiation. But is that your best option? Not if you trust your recruiter.
Assuming your recruiter has your best interests at heart, there are MANY advantages in leveraging their unique perspective and position. For one, they ARE salary negotiation experts, having navigated hundreds of these conversations and they can anticipate what their client will say/ask next and be ready with whatever option is your best path forward.
Your Recruiter Role When Negotiating
This is a good time to bring up a VERY important point that is surprisingly absent on the internet: Your recruiter’s job is NOT to get you the highest salary the market will pay! Their job at the negotiation stage is to get you the best possible salary that THIS PARTICULAR CLIENT will pay WITHOUT causing them to move on to their other options. The recruiter must satisfy BOTH parties and create a win/win scenario. Pushing too hard for a higher salary can absolutely kill a deal, and experience gives the recruiter insight into when they are approaching the limits of their client’s patience and/or interest level. In general, most managers want someone excited about their role and if they start to feel the candidate is all about the money, they WILL move on.
Emotions Do Play A Role
It’s emotional for both the candidate AND the company, contrary to many articles out there painting the company as some modern-day Scrooge intent on squeezing the little guy in any way they can for profit. Please! The hiring manager is a human, too, and was a candidate themselves probably not too long ago. Most times, they want very much to pay a fair salary and they know that someone who is primarily focused on money will leave them as soon as another company comes along willing to offer more. Your recruiter may also have more credibility discussing your market value with the client, as they have placed people like yourself at similar companies. Another reason to utilize your recruiter is that you benefit having a middleman.
Your recruiter takes the emotion out of it, and can ask the difficult questions that cause things to go south if asked directly by you. Lots of assumptions can be made by either side, or offense easily taken by a statement or question which can kill momentum and plant seeds of doubt. Experienced recruiters can smooth out these bumps in the road and make sure both sides are thinking logically and reasonably. Good and trustworthy recruiters know that when they have two sides that like each other, it is their job to broker a deal where both parties get what they want.
Based on our definition of being a highly informed salary negotiator, if you feel you are not one, then you should NOT be negotiating your own salary – yet. Unfortunately, if you don’t trust your recruiter, you may be no better off putting it in their hands. To be sure, the recruiter is highly motivated to get you an offer you might accept, but may not be pushing the company to get the best offer THEY are willing to pay and still be happy about it.
So if you’re not highly educated yourself, and you don’t trust your recruiter, we recommend you become highly educated by doing your own research as described above, so that you can better deal with the recruiter or directly with the company. Understand your market value, be aware of salary questions you’re likely to hear, be ready with responses to those questions, and don’t get greedy. Understand that your best leverage is the willingness to walk away if the offer is not high enough. As long as you’re not being a jerk about it and the company feels you’re the best candidate for the job, you should be able to negotiate a fair offer.
If you’re not confident that you can navigate a salary negotiation and you do trust your recruiter, this is a no-brainer. Let your recruiter handle it and make sure he/she keeps you informed of all the conversations they are having with the company. Ask plenty of questions to make sure you understand what to expect. Good recruiters should be sharing their plan of action with you, what they plan on saying to their client, what the various responses might be, and get your agreement on the path forward. They are representing your interests after all, so they should be communicating different options and what the consequences might be.
If you consider yourself highly informed and you don’t trust your recruiter, then you should call the shots—especially if you feel confident and aware of your market value, possible questions and negotiation best practices. You can either dictate to the recruiter exactly what you want communicated to the company or you can even request to speak directly with the company rep and cut out the recruiter. This isn’t recommended, as the recruiter gets major egg on the face, but you owe it to yourself to promote your interests if you have no confidence in the recruiter doing so.