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Recruitment Salaries Stagnate

By October 16, 20143 Comments

Once again, the whiteboard marker is in my grubby mitts today.

This week, Tyrel Oates, a disgruntled Wells Fargo employee from Portland, Oregon, hit the headlines with an email to his CEO requesting a $10,000 pay rise. An audacious move from someone working in the collections department for one of America’s biggest employers, made all the more so by the fact that he also cc-ed his colleagues. All 200,000 of them.

His rationale was simple. Given that the business netted $5.7bn in profits in the second quarter alone, and the CEO in question is paid $19m a year, it would cost only $3bn to give every employee the same pay rise. This would, according to Oates (who arguably has a name better suited to the NFL than banking), “show the rest of the United States, if not that the world that, yes big corporations can have a heart”.

Oates also argues that this would help readdress income inequality in the US, with many commentators now highlighting the perceived salary stagnation hitting corporate American.

Salary seems to be on the minds of New Zealand’s recruitment fraternity also. Overhearing your usual bloggers dulcet tones on the phone this week, both agency candidates and clients have been ringing to ask if they’re paid or paying enough. Likewise, internal recruitment managers have been “picking my brains” regarding what they should be offering candidates. A service I offer free of charge providing they don’t use vomit-inducing clichés like “picking my brains”. Typically, I then have the candidate, occasionally not represented by me, ringing to ask the same question.

Data on the topic is scarce and patchy, with last year’s HRINZ salary survey of internal recruiters garnering only ten responses, with at least one respondent being an agency recruiter specialising in the internal space wanting to get his hands on the survey anyway. Who would do such a thing?

Recruiting across both agency and internal functions, we’ve seen a bigger shift in basic salary within internal teams. What could buy an experienced internal recruiter 3 years ago, can now barely buy an administrator. I would love to believe that this reflects the huge leap in the quality of internal recruitment teams, and I’m sure many agency recruiters would share this view. Right guys?


We’ve seen particular growth in the salaries offered to experienced Internal IT Recruiters, with packages allowing a meagre recruiter to afford a 2 bedroom ex-state house a mere 25km outside of Auckland’s CBD. We’ve never had it so good.

In agency world, basic salaries seem to have flat lined. Without promotion, basic pay increases have been few and far between. It seems that a resurgence in the market has had the trickle down speed of cold treacle on basic salaries. Maybe bonuses are up, but when it comes to those boring things in life – like mortgage applications, mutterings of “on target earnings” are all fur coat and no knickers. A metaphor far more titillating than the actual mortgage application process I’m sure.

Arguably, with an improving market, there’s no need for paying an agency recruiter more. Income, real income is up, and a low basic usually means a low threshold. And let’s face it, most young recruiters are content to rent in Ponsonby anyway. Again, the only exception seems to be within the IT recruitment space, where we’ve seen a $10k uplift on basic salaries over the past 4 years.

The reality is, basic salary does matter. We’ve seen many agencies lose out on top billing talent over five thousand dollars of basic pay. Our clients will often talk of “parity with the team” and “joining for the right reasons”, but in the ego-fuelled mind of the competitive recruiter, having the closest car park to the office can make or break a deal. I always thought us recruiters as a commercially savvy bunch, but missing out on $400k of extra revenue for the sake of $100 a week in wages would suggest otherwise. Similarly, an internal recruitment client recently missed out on converting an awesome contractor to a perm employee for the sake of three thousand dollars. Stop the world, I want to get off.

So do you feel that you’re paid less you’re worth? Does the Pope shit in the woods and is the bear Catholic? Do you hate people who mix their metaphors? I’m guessing “yes” to all the above. And if you’re a hiring manager, are you being competitive…actually, scratch that…are you beating your competitors in what you can offer to the best talent in the market?

Alternatively, you could just wait for the email.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Clarence says:

    “This would, according to Oates (who arguably has a name better suited to the NFL than banking), ”

    Wow – that’s a pretty racist comment there, Jon.

    • How so? I didn’t write this post by the way, read the first line.

      • Clarence says:

        Sorry if you didnt write it, but here’s how: the writer is assuming that with a name like Tyrell the guy is an african american, and is insinuating that because of this he is better suited to sport than banking. It’s kinda like saying “Barack Obama, with a name like that he sounds more suited to blowing planes up than the leader of the free world”