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Wage War

By April 22, 2022No Comments

You may remember back in early Feb I called it? That instead of welcoming in hoards of eligible employees, we were going to lose most of our workforce to the siren call of an OE. Well, the good folks over at MBIE (The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment) estimate over 50,000 New Zealanders will leave the country over the next year. Hedging their bets, they also said at the very most 125,000 could shoot away. I like when a government department describes 50K as a “ballpark estimate” because later in the piece when I start giving figures, I hope to be granted the same wiggle room. In the same blog, I mentioned a couple of things that could come in handy when trying to retain your staff, there is one big component I missed out that definitely helps with loyalty, money.

We’ve seen a bit of an increase in base salaries in recruitment recently. The obvious reason is the current scarcity of available recruiters in the market, the demand has never been higher while the supply is at an all-time low. With an upswing of 100,000 people from the original 50,000 kiwis potentially jetting off, some golden handcuffs have understandably been slapped on welcoming wrists. Counteroffers have also thrown a salary spanner into pay structures, with those that have been talked down from the edge on inflated bases. Another more natural reason is that it’s getting pretty expensive to live; lunch is $15, a pint is $14 and to fill up your car costs a small fortune. At the start of the year, Sean touched on the economics of recruitment and how we have an industry standard of 15% which again made reference to the lack of talent in the market. Some agency owners may charge more and rightfully so, if they have a skill set and network that gives them an edge in today’s market why shouldn’t they? But what about recruiters?

I went further back in the archives, all the way to September 2017. Despacito by Daddy Yankee ft Justin Bieber was tearing up the charts and Jon Rice was penning the seminal blog Have Recruiters Salaries Stagnated? JR outlined some interesting stats. Things have certainly progressed, not only are we now the 71st most popular recruitment blog (up from 79th) but base salaries are very much on the up. The big guy broke it down by industries and it’s true, like an English player in the prem there is a ‘tax’ on certain verticals. However, an exec search consultant with 7 years’ experience or a contracting specialist with 5 years is a little narrow in scope, it’s the approach that saw us languishing in the late 70s perhaps? I’ve decided to outline a bit more of an overarching structure from what I’ve seen;


Entry level Recruiter: $55k – $65K

Recruitment Consultant: $65K – $75K

Senior Recruitment Consultant: $75K – $90K

Principal Consultant: $90K – $110K


I think what has mostly changed is the gap between each stage of development. In days gone by it would be in increments of $5K, with each promotion you get a little bump. In recent years I would’ve said that $10K was a realistic increase. However, in these precarious times, the margins have increased to a range of $15K for Senior Recruiters, especially those that are billing. Principal Consultants you could easily push beyond the $20K range outlined if you have a network of loyal temps and agreeable clients. What most high performers and business owners agree on is this; the higher your base the harder it is to achieve commission. Even the most hardened of recruiters will concede this. Your threshold is often calculated on your base salary so, so it makes sense not to take the easy money. I’ve left off managers’ packages as it’s a bit of a minefield with base salaries affected by other factors like productivity and performance targets. Above all, a consistent and reliable recruiter with a good process will always be revered. Candidates moving industry in the past have had to accept a loss in salary, in this market it’s more common for them to either remain on their current salary or receive an increase due to the number of options they have. Thankfully the entry-level has increased, my first role as an associate was for $50K. Three years later I was recruiting in rec to rec and some agencies were still offering $45K with an increase to $50 after the first 3 months. Presumably to avoid paying that extra $750 fee to yours truly.

The cost of living will always be on the rise so more money in the pockets of the worker is a good thing. The truth to recruitment is the fee your charge pales in comparison to the revenue that placement will generate for your client. Through your evolution as a recruiter, you will hit that awkward phase, where your candidates have a higher base salary than you do. It’s important to not focus on this because unless you’re placing salespeople, they won’t have a commission component. Its reassuring consultants are being paid fairly for their considerable efforts and knowledge. Currently, there isn’t any hiding from it, finding candidates in this market is bloody tough so recruiters that can do it are demanding, and rightly so, their fair share.