Recruiters in the United States can earn anywhere from $35,000 to $200,000 depending on the job sector, location, and—most important—type of recruiter.
Recruiters in the United States can earn anywhere from $35,000 to $200,000 depending on the type of recruiter, job sector, and location.
However, the so-called Great Reshuffle has changed many job seekers’ salary expectations—and recruiters are part of this significant shift. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, recruiters were 115% more likely to entertain other job offers than employees in other sectors.
Now, as the economy attempts to recover in the United States, industry veterans are calling this “The Golden Age of Talent Acquisition.” And the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) confirms there's been a hiring frenzy since 2021—with employers scrambling to fill vacancies and seeking recruiters to help find those hires. As a result, base salaries for recruiters have gone up as demand for their skills skyrockets.
With this clamor for recruiters, you might be wondering, “How are they paid fairly?” or maybe you’re just curious to know, “What do recruiters even do?” Read on to learn more about how much recruiters make—and how much their yearly salary should be in today’s economic climate.
Recruiting is not a one-size-fits-all career choice. In addition to the combination of place and position, there are different types of recruiters, which can affect average recruiter salary. For instance, an internal senior recruiter at a company can expect to earn an average salary of around $56,000, whereas an experienced recruiter at a staffing agency may earn upwards of $200,000. Here’s what different types of recruiters do and tend to earn.
Internal recruiters work for a specific company or organization. Like with most full-time careers, employers pay them a salary. Recruiters may also get bonuses for reaching certain goals established by their human resources department.
Not only will many internal recruiters develop a pool of candidates to fill open positions, they will also most likely be responsible for tracking the metrics of hiring. This could include valuable reports like employee retention rates or where candidates found openings. Analytical reports help an organization understand and improve its hiring and retention process. Internal recruiters may also take part in a company’s bigger picture—its talent acquisition strategy.
How much do internal recruiters earn?
According to PayScale.com, an entry-level, nontechnical recruiter with less than a year of experience can expect a total compensation package, including bonuses and even overtime, of $45,000 annually. Mid-career HR recruiters may expect closer to an average base salary of $56,000. Senior recruiters, on the other hand, can make an average recruiter salary of $60,000 or more. (Note: Although these are the most current salary figures, some base salaries—and benefits for recruiters—may be higher, depending on the need for more skilled recruiters.)
As to be expected, salary increases typically come with experience. Some internal recruiters may also obtain various professional certifications to increase their yearly salary. Credentials can range from the SHRM certificate to specialized certifications, such as those for technical recruiters in the healthcare or legal fields.
External recruiters can come in many forms. Most people are familiar with agency recruiters, typically found within staffing agencies. There can also be independent recruiters, often colloquially called headhunters. Headhunters are outside entities—either an individual or an organization—who find, vet, and present good candidates to fill a particular position.
How much do external recruiters earn?
Most external recruiters make money based on a commission structure. The commission is usually a percentage of the total fees from a candidate’s first-year base salary, or it can be a flat fee offered by the client (the company the candidate is placed in). This structure is generally established by the client.
When external recruiters earn a percentage of a candidate’s first-year base salary, the amount the candidate receives doesn’t change and the recruiter’s client pays the agency ahead of time. This amount is known as the contingency fee. In most instances, an agency receives the full contingency fee when the recruiter places a candidate. This fee will then be cut in half, the split given to the agency and the individual recruiter. A common baseline for contingency fees is 20%.
Here’s one example: If an external recruiter places a professional with an $80,000 annual salary, the agency receives a payment of $16,000. Split in half, the recruiter receives an $8,000 contingency fee. For experienced recruiters, placing two to three candidates at a time can earn up to $24,000 per month. Multiply that throughout the year, and it’s easy to see how external recruiters can make more than six-figure salaries.
Other Recruiter Salary FactorsAs noted, additional factors—beyond the type of recruiter—can influence the average recruiter job salary. Here are two common ones.
Recruiters Based on Job SectorWhat industries are hiring recruiters? These days, it may be better to ask which industries are not. A LinkedIn survey found that job postings for recruiters went up by almost seven times in June 2021 compared to June 2020. And skilled individuals who understand the hiring process can bolster almost any industry, which also gives recruiters more leverage when seeking a job for themselves.These days, those working in technical recruiting are the most sought after because they have to be well-versed in a particular sector—think engineering, health, or legal—to place the right candidate for a top tech company. As such, an internal tech recruiter can expect the highest salary range of $75,000, while an external recruiter can net upwards of $200,000.
A Recruiter’s Physical LocationA recruiter’s location also determines their average salary. Are they working from New York City or Des Moines, Iowa? In Silicon Valley and the startup scene? That will determine their cost of living and, for internal recruiters in particular, their base salary. For example, if you’re an entry-level recruiter working internally in Des Moines, and you’re recruiting for administrative positions, it’s probably not realistic to ask for a six-figure salary. However, if you’re an experienced, internal recruiter in New York City, where the cost of living is exponentially higher than in many other cities in the country, don’t take an offer any less than $60,000.In terms of commissions, external recruiters’ location may also affect the number of candidates they receive as well. Denser areas, such as sprawling cities, would have a larger pool of candidates available for placement compared to sparsely populated areas. However, as remote work becomes increasingly common, geographic pay policies may change how much recruiters get paid. Tauseef Rahman is a partner at the human resources consulting firm Mercer who observes that talent compensation for tech recruiters will eventually come down to availability and scope, not just location. It won’t be long until remote recruiters look for a minimum base pay across the board.
How Can Recruiters Increase Their Salaries?
Making a prosperous living as a recruiter depends on a slew of factors. And whether you want a career in recruitment or you’re currently a recruiter and want to boost your career, use the same tactics that good candidates use: Stand out.
Erica Breuer, the founder of Cake Resumes, a resume-building service, 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 innovated and changed things for the better.”
In terms of negotiating salary, Breuer says 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,” she says. “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?” In short, don’t shy away from asking for a higher salary than what you already have, but also do your research on the aforementioned factors and the specific position you’re going for.
Recruiting is matchmaking in the most professional sense and can be a fulfilling experience when you’re able to connect with candidates and introduce them to your clients or organization. In the end, how much you make is a matter of finding the right combination of position and place for your lifestyle, and adjusting your sights accordingly.