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Is it unprofessional of me to ask the rate?

I am being considered for a contract, and the hourly rate they continuously quote me seems low ($40).  I keep insisting on my #'s (50-60), but they say that they just can't give me that.

So, I get this email Friday stating "We will give you $40 an hour and your resume is in front of the client".  Whooaaa, I didn't think that we were finished negotiating numbers and now the resume is in front of the client?

I think 25% would be a fair cut of the rate. Is it unprofessional for me to ask what the rate is for the contract?  Is there a tactful way of doing this?  Secondly, what should I do about the "already presented to the client" situation?

Thanks for any help.
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Either they can't afford it (unlikely) or they are trying to low ball you... what do you think you will do if you aren't forced to deal with them?

Li-fan Chen
Sunday, May 02, 2004

More than likely, at $40 an hour I will just stay at my present job.  I've told her repeatedly, that I was unemployed for 7 months up until August, and with this SIX month gig, they're going to have to pay me something significantly over my current salary to even consider it.

Part of me is so pissed off that they went ahead and submitted my resume, that I want to hold off, do the interview, hopefully get the nod for the job, and then complain about the money. That would put them in a real bind.

Thanks for any help.
Sunday, May 02, 2004

It doesn't matter what the recruiter is getting on the contract. Period. Forget that interchange even exists.

*All* that matters is the rate you negotiate with the recruiter. If you want 50-60, then tell them you want 60, period. If they say they can't do that, thank them and go on your merry way. Hopefully they would at least *try* to negotiate, though my experience seems to be that *that* fine art is dead in recruitingville.

Well, not quite. Recruiter negotiation seems to work like this:

"We've been trying to fill this position for months, and you have a pretty unique skillset the client is looking for. We can offer you 40."
"I really need 60 to consider the job."
"We can't really go higher than 40."
"This kind of position should pay 60 if you want the right candidate."
"Yes, but you know, with the recession and all, rates aren't what they used to be."
"I know - I used to bill 120. I'm asking for 60."
"Let me talk to the client..."
[next day]
"We can offer you 42."

[shrug]

BTW, the recruiting agency really shot itself in the foot by putting your resume in front of the client before you'd settled on a rate. Now I'd *definitely* stick with 55-60 and hope the client really loves you, because that puts the recruiter in the wonderful situation of either trying to pay your rate or piss off the client.

Did I mention it doesn't matter what the recruiter is getting? Whether they're getting 45 or 120, if they won't pay the rate you want, walk away.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, May 02, 2004

It is actually the professional thing to ask what the recruiter is getting, but they will do everything they can to avoid telling you.

Tell them the rate you require and, if they don't provide it, leave. They will probably come back with some small compromise, at which you could leave again. Up to you. Only do this if you are prepared to miss out on the job. It sounds like you are.

Philo, it matters a great deal what the recruiter's cut is. If the employer is paying a high rate, he will expect appropriate recognition and effort from the contractor. Thus it's vital the contractor knows whether he is a high value expenditure. (If so, the recruiter will fight even harder to avoid revealing it.)

More important is to be responsible for your own presence. Only a dill would happily let someone screw them out of a lot money.

Inside Job
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Recruiters usually emphasise that the rates are confidential and will intimate legal action if they're discussed. That's absolute baloney. Imagine the court case. All the details would come out. No recruiter wants that.

One way to find out your rate - if you're already working - is to say to your boss: "I get paid $40 per hour." Is that significantly less than you're paying for me?"

Uusally it will be.

Inside Job
Sunday, May 02, 2004

No, you're not being unprofessional.  In fact, I think you're being VERY PROFESSIONAL, because you're negotiating from a hard stance.  So, if they even so much as HINT that you're behaving unprofessionally, when in fact, you are not, then find another agent.  If you know what you're worth, then what they think doesn't matter.


What you're trying to do is get your max rates.  Isn't that what contracting agents do?

  :)

Unless you're in the business of losing money, then I say, stick to your guns.  No one else will ever try to represent your best interests, if it takes from their margin.  So, as a free-agent, make them value your time.  And, be willing to walk away, if you feel it's unfair.

Good luck..!

Joe
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Like Philo says, there's no need to ask the rate they're getting, it just clouds the issue.  Not your worry.

They sound like weenies.  Keep that in mind as you decide whether you want to start working for them.  If they're acting like weenies during the interviewing, they'll probably find ways to be weenies down the road.  Make sure any rate you accept makes up for this.

I'd be ready to walk away from this one.

Matt Conrad
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Well, since the placer started the ball rolling by presenting you to the client, I'd go through with any interview that might be scheduled.

But DO NOT suggest to the placer that this rate issue is settled.  If the client wants you after an interview, you will hold ALL the cards when the rate negotiation resumes, and further, you will know the client's name and how to eventually contact them if rate negotiations with the placer collapse.

gladiator
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Ultimately, whether going through a recruiter or not, you need to know what cost the customer is incurring having you, because in the end you need to give them a feeling that they're getting value. If the customer is paying substantially more than you're getting, they'll be under much higher expectations of returns than you might believe the position entails (and hence reduce your personal effort accordingly).

Dennis Forbes
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Gad, nothing is new. Read this. 

http://www.it-proletariat.com/HowToBeAnIC.html

The entire reason for existence of a contract technical recruiter (broker) is to optimize his income by finding the lowest billing person that meets the client's stated needs for a contract. They need VB and 2 years of experience, you have 5 years of VB and 9 years of C++? Doesn't matter. In fact, the broker will probably consider the less experienced person because they won't demand as high a rate.

It's not unprofessional to ask the rate, but negotiation in this domain is futile unless you're willing to walk away from the deal entirely.

As far as the billing rate "not mattering", it DOES matter because if the bork is marking you up by 100% or more (say charging $80 while paying you $40) the client will expect a much higher level of expertise  than is indicated by the rate you're being paid. IE, a high markup can make the contract relationship unstable.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, May 02, 2004

It's important to recognize that the placer's rate is not the negotiating point, but a decoupled piece of trivia.  Don't get too focused on that number.  You are negotiating the lease of your skills and time for a rate that makes it worth your time.  Your aim is to beat your opportunity cost (albeit, by as much as possible).  The placer's rate serves only as a guide for how much your services are truly worth to the client, not a negotiating point.  Learn the rate when you reach the client, it's easy enough to discover.

What's relevant to you right now is not settling for less than your minimum, whatever that might be.  The lower you go, the shorter you should allow the term of the contract.  If you're hard up for the work, then maybe take a low rate for a short term, and renegotiate harder when they'd like to renew.  But don't let them screw you.  As others have said, be ready to walk away.

Ultimately, your goal should be to build a network, so you and your clients aren't reliant upon the pimps.

gladiator
Sunday, May 02, 2004

I think you should know the rate you are being billed
at because it has to do with client expectations.
If you are at 40 and they are getting billed at 120,
they might have different expectations about your
skill and productivity.

son of parnas
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Not only will the gross rate the client pays affect their expectations, but it will also influence who gets chopped when things get tight.  The guy who makes $40 while being billed at $60 will have less to worry about than you who are making $40 and being billed at $100.

T. Norman
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Lots of good advice here, pick your ground and stick to it.  You stated if you don't get your price then you stay with what you're working on.  You also stated that your resume is with the potential client and they are interested.  This is the best spot to be in with your negotiations.  Just remember, what's the point of moving if you're not the one getting benefit from it.
On professionalism - my general rule of thumb is that when someone starts mentioning professionalism in negotiation, it's a good sign that I'm already exhibiting it and they're trying to get me to make a choice that is NOT professional.  Specifically one that benefits them and not me.
And on the rate thing - definately know what the client is going to pay - that's the level of work you're going to be exptected to deliver.  There are lots of other items to consider, but that's the factor that you should keep in mind at all times.

Unfocused Focused
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Given that placement agencies prefer to place underqualified persons willing to work for the lowest rate, while billing them out as subject matter expert's for a king's ransom, why do you suppose it is that companies use placement agencies? They are paying a premium to get the most desparate bottom of the barrel candidates? Wouldn't it make much more sense to pay that ransom to the contractors directly and thus attract a much higher caliber of professional?

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Yes, it would make more sense.  But the powers that be in this industry aren't driven by logic.  It's driven by CYA and hype.

There is better (perceived) CYA safety when they deal with an agency than with a contractor directly.  Just like there is more CYA safety when they spend $10 million for supported proprietary software instead of using "unsupported" open source software to do the same thing.

T. Norman
Sunday, May 02, 2004

>Wouldn't it make much more sense to pay that ransom
> to the contractors directly and thus attract a
> much higher caliber of professional?

Would ebay have made it if this was an easy thing to do?
Middlepeople have a role in economies.

son of parnas
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Absolutely, CYA.  Companies don't make choices, individuals do.  They're not spending they're own money, but if they make the search themselves, they *do* risk something of their own: reputation.

Also, they're generally too lazy or stupid to do the legwork to make a search that they would feel safe to attach their own name to.  To lazy or stupid to do anything but follow the common practice where they work.  Etc.  The higher-ups are often too stupid or careless to realize that a lucky placement here and there doesn't justify an exclusive placing deal, or else they're just doling out those deals to firms owned by their friends as part of the driving force of the corporate world: deal-trading among the boys networks.

I've found the most diligent clients were small business owners spending their own money.  Especially when first considering the use of paid consultants they tend to be very timid and noncommital.  With them, it's sometimes wise to offer a discount or weekly terms until they feel safe, because they're frightened to risk their hard-earned money or blow the business opportunity they need your help with.  Your corporate middle-manager types just flippantly request the company-sanctioned body-finding firm to send an X, Y, or Z for three months, perhaps with a single short interview to feign diligence.  Nice and safe.  Stupid too.

gladiator
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Thanks for all of the great advice.

I think I will hold out three days as if I didn't receive the email regarding that she had presented my resume.  After the three days, I will ask what the going rate is for the contract.  A few days later, I will restart the negotiations arguing expectations, my incurred risk of leaving a salaried position, etc.

She sounded pretty firm, for everytime I have rebutted with my numbers, she has come back that 40 is the max. But we'll see....

Thanks for any help.
Sunday, May 02, 2004

By the way, if she didn't get your permission first before presenting the resume, that is considered by most to be quite unethical behavior by a broker. Something to consider if you are wanting to predict what sort of tactics she is likely to use in the future.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Sounds like this recruiter b*tch is treating you like their current employee.

Recruiters lie and are scum, and stupid techies without integrity or loyalty to their own kind lambast anyone who speaks this truth.

Contractor who knows better
Sunday, May 02, 2004

You won't be able to "talk" her into anything reasonable. She does this all day every day and knows every trick in the book.

Your only leverage is to refuse the job, so you must simply set limits and leave if they're not met. No stuffing around.

Inside Job
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Dennis

> Wouldn't it make much more sense to pay that ransom to the contractors directly and thus attract a much higher caliber of professional?

The reason recruiters exist and continue in business is that they spend all day on the phone finding jobs and then offering candidates to fill them. It's the path of least resistance for employers.

Inside Job
Sunday, May 02, 2004

I'm with Philo:  their premium is none of your business, and asking them for it only makes the discussion more complicated.  You can probably find out once you decide to take the job, but the only thing that really matters to you is what they pay you.

Don't bother "holding out" or pretending you didn't get that email -- because that *is* unprofessional.  Just call the agent on her BS.  Personally, I'd go to the interview as a courtesy to the client, but make very clear to the agent that $40 is not enough, period.

Having a job already gives you a very nice position to bargain from. As "Inside Job" points out, your only leverage is to refuse the job... but what a lever it is!  Either you don't get the offer, in which case it's all moot, or you do, and then the agent -- not you -- is in a tight squeeze (and best of all, it's one she put herself in).  At that point, assuming you don't cave in, she can either keep the rate she quoted to the client so she can pay you extra, or she can change the rate on the client (which may cause them to bail, leaving you with... a decent job you've already got).

Doing that would probably make this the last job you got through this particular agent, and that too is a good thing, because she doesn't sound like someone you'd ever want to work with.  No matter what happens, you win!

Treat it like buying a car -- you have to be absolutely prepared to walk out the door at *any* point during the process, even if you're two minutes from the end.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Sunday, May 02, 2004

My, limited, experience has been that technical recruiters are young, attractive women.

I've known two of them personally. Nice girls, but didn't know squat about technical matters. They were very cheery and positive.

Is this common?

Mr. Analogy
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Philo and Sam, I will sell your house for you. You don't need to know how much I actually get for your house; I will give you something you considerable acceptable. OK?

You might not understand market rates in your area or for your house, in which case I will pocket $300,000 above what I pay you. OK?

Mr Analogy, a lot of recruiters are attractive women, for obvious reasons. There are also plenty of guys though. Generally these people will be your best friend until you question or challenge them. Then they reveal another side.

The bigger recruiting firms are the worst. They don't become big by being honest or nice.

Inside Job
Sunday, May 02, 2004

I think it IS unprofessional to ask that. This is the rate customer pays to placement agency, not to you, and you have no business being curious about transactions you're not a participant of.

Speaking of customer expectations, these should be 100% clear from the contract you sign, and I don't think that rate they actually pay should be taken as a point of reference. You and your customer may have totally different ideas of what can be expected for $XX/hour.

Egor
Monday, May 03, 2004

>You and your customer may have totally different ideas of >what can be expected for $XX/hour.

Then you are in trouble.

son of parnas
Monday, May 03, 2004

"I think it IS unprofessional to ask that. This is the rate customer pays to placement agency, not to you, and you have no business being curious about transactions you're not a participant of."

How bloody inane. Saying that its not imperative for you to know it, or that the agency doesn't have to dilvulge it is one thing, but saying that it's unprofessional/not your right to at least ask is the height of absurdity. Saying you're "not a participant" is even more inane given that you are the resource being traded.

Even ignoring the difference that you're a real, live human being, everyone from resource manufacturers to popsicle makers is always completely aware of what their products are sold for. The reason is to ensure that they're getting a fair shake in the marketing, but also because overcharged customers get pissed and take it out on the company. GM wouldn't be happy if a dealer sold a Cavalier to an unsuspecting consumer for $30,000.

.
Monday, May 03, 2004

I bet the Nazis used to tell people it was unprofessional to ask where they were being taken and what would happen to them.


Monday, May 03, 2004

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