How much do recruiters make? How much should you pay a recruiter? What about bonuses and commissions? We break down all your recruiter salary questions.

The economy and job market have changed a lot over recent years. 2021 is no exception. Recruiters are often at the front line of job placements and salary negotiations for people across the employment spectrum, but what is the state of their employment and salary?

Before making that judgment, there are a number of factors to consider, including the type of recruiter and their specific industry. The region where the recruiter works or if they’re remote will also impact the salary they can earn on the job. And many recruiters earn money based on commission.

In this article, we will take a closer look at all of the things that can influence salary ranges for professional recruiters.

How Much Does A Recruiter Make?

According to Glassdoor, the United States national average for a recruiter salary is just shy of $50,000 per year. But that does not take commission structures into consideration. We will explore some of the individual differences below.

Average salary ranges depend on a number of factors. Years of experience, different skill sets, the specific industry, and location of the job will all affect the salary. There are also different categories of recruiters such as internal HR recruiters or agency recruiters, and we’ll get to that a little later in the post.

How Do Recruiters Get Paid?

It is important to discuss some of the nuances about the recruiter jobs, job titles, and the recruiting industry. Many people are unclear how recruiters get paid. Here, we need to differentiate between two types of recruiters: internal and external recruiters.

Internal recruiters work for a specific company or organization. In that sense, they are paid a salary by their employer and they may get bonuses for reaching certain goals established by their HR department.

External recruiters can come in many forms. The type of recruiter most people are familiar with are agency recruiters. There can also be independent recruiters, who will often be called headhunters. Many agency and independent recruiters will make money based on a commission structure.

Independent and agency recruiters are often paid by their employers just like internal recruiters. However, the agency itself makes money through the placements at their client sites. While rates may vary by a number of factors, in general, the rates that companies pay agencies are a percentage of the salary or a markup based on employee costs and administrative fees.

For example, a direct-hire recruiter will only get paid when they make a placement and their commission is a percentage of the salary. That arrangement could be anything, but 20% is not uncommon. If a recruiter places a professional making $80,000 per year, they’ll receive a payment of $16,000. If they can constantly do that each month, it will add up quickly.

Do job seekers pay recruiters? The short answer is no.

There are employment coaches and other job search professionals, but they’re not the same thing as recruiters.

How do recruiters get paid?

What Is The Average Salary for an HR Recruiter?

For internal HR recruiters, the median salary can be around $60,000 per year. An HR recruiter, which is different from some of the other roles we’ll go over, is often synonymous with an internal recruiter. This means they work for the company where they are conducting the hiring process.

Not only will they develop talent acquisition strategy, a pool of candidates for open positions, but they will also be responsible for tracking the metrics of hiring. This could include reporting on anything from the source of hiring to retention rates.

According to, an entry-level recruiter who brings less than a year experience to the table can expect a total compensation package, including bonuses and even overtime pay, of $40,000 annually. Mid-career HR recruiters may expect closer to an average base salary of $55,000.

How Much Do Senior Recruiters Earn?

Once a recruiter in any industry has experience under their belt, they can see some growth in their position. A senior recruiter is someone who has worked their way up through the ranks, often starting as an agency recruiter or working within a corporate environment. They are able to take their experience to other organizations with proven success.

Many will have a variety of certifications including the Society of Human Resources Management or SHRM. There may also be local certifications or specialized certifications, such as those for healthcare recruiters. These can increase the yearly salary potential for recruiters.

What can someone earn if they’ve been in the industry for quite some time? A senior recruiter can expect to earn around $60,000 annually depending on the specific specialization and location of their job. It’s also important to note that many recruiters also earn commission and the bonuses they make can raise their annual earned income significantly. Commissions are common in sales-related jobs, and recruiting is no different. They are most often a percentage of the total fees earned by the parent company or they can be a flat fee. This structure is generally established by the employer. Some employment agencies, like we’ll discuss below, pay recruiters entirely by commission.

How Do You Determine How Much to Pay a Recruiter?

How do companies determine what recruiters should make? As we’ve seen, a variety of considerations need to be made. These include:

  • Location of job: New York City, San Francisco or Des Moines?
  • Cost of living
  • Commission or salary-based compensation
  • Company-size
  • Additional bonuses
  • Specializations, such as a technical recruiter
Factors to pay a recruiter

The recruiting industry is not a one-size-fits-all career choice. And today, with the addition of the gig economy in the mix, recruiters are seeing some changes to their roles. Technology, such as on-demand staffing platforms, can help recruiters focus more on sourcing candidates than placement and management of short-term employees.

We always recommend that hiring companies do their due diligence when negotiating pay rates with potential recruiting candidates. The same is true for recruiters in the job market. With information available online through resources like Glassdoor and, everyone should be in the right position for fair salary negotiation.

What’s the Difference Between A Recruiter And A Headhunter?

Recruiting is a specialized industry, but what makes recruiters different from a headhunter? If you Google it, you will find conflicting information. Some say headhunters are just recruiters, that the title is merely semantics. Others will suggest that the term headhunter is an outsourced person contracted by a company to find employees while a recruiter is in house. But that distinction is incorrect as agencies also employ recruiters. Some people use the title "Headhunter" when they work as independent recruiters or executive recruiters.

The truth is, the terms are not that different and it really is a matter of degrees whether someone chooses to use one over the other. However, you may find a few other designations.

  • Contingency Recruiter: Their fee is contingent on the individual being hired.
  • Retained Recruiter: They are paid by the client company much like people keep a lawyer “on retainer.”
  • Corporate Recruiter: These are the in-house or HR recruiters.
  • Temporary or Contract Staffing: Recruiters assist with finding short term or contract employees.
  • Outplacement Agencies: If you lose your job, you may be referred to an outplacement agency.

All of these can be headhunters if they choose to use that term to describe what they do.

Are Recruiting And Staffing Agencies Different?

You will also hear a lot about staffing agencies in any discussion about recruiters. Staffing agencies, temporary agencies, or contract staffing companies are all able to provide client companies with short-term help for a variety of reasons. It could be a project that requires additional skills or to fill in for someone on an extended leave. Seasonal employment situations can also benefit from agency partnerships.

Just because a staffing agency places temp workers it doesn’t mean they can’t also provide direct-hire solutions as well.

One option staffing agencies can provide for companies is “temporary-to-hire” staffing. This means they will place someone on an assignment on a temporary basis and if the client and the employee agree, the company will have the opportunity to hire the employee onto their own payroll. The fees would be established between the client company and the staffing agency.

Top Industries Employing Recruiters

What industries are hiring recruiters? It may be better to ask which are not. Almost any industry can be positively by working with skilled individuals who understand the hiring process.

These have a special designation because of the special skills and insights they bring to the job. Lots of times recruiters are determined by their industry. For instance, technical recruiters are in high-demand right now because of the unique demands of tech companies.

Some specialized industries include:

  • IT, Tech Companies and Technical Recruiting
  • Finance
  • Medical
  • Legal
  • Executive placements
  • Specialized and general labor
  • Hospitality

Conclusion: What Can A Recruiter Do to Stand Out from the Crowd?

What if you’re a recruiter looking for a job, a recruiting manager, or maybe someone who thinks recruiting could be a great career change? How do you stand out from the crowd in this market?

Erica Breuer, the founder of Cake Resumes, offers this advice, “To truly stand out, the story on their resume should speak to more than placement rates or types of employers or candidates they’re great with. Everyone else will have those details. Instead, focus on how they improved processes, introduced technology, or innovate and change things for the better.”

In terms of negotiating salary, she suggests, “Recruiters often play hardball where it’s not necessary. This can be a huge turnoff in a situation where they’re otherwise an ideal hire. Having emotional intelligence to articulate expectations, desires, and hesitations is the smarter play. If you show you can’t collaborate on something as simple as your pay, how would an employer believe you can team with them on bigger challenges?”

Each industry may require different certifications or experience, which can influence the market rate for those professionals.

As you can see, the recruiting industry is complex and diverse.

  • What are your thoughts about recruiters and the state of recruiter salaries?
  • Do recruiters have a reasonable salary range and average total compensation?