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On the flip side, what if you're terrible at negotiating? For those people, even s theoretically reduced salary may be higher than what they'd get for themselves.

In my experience I have gotten better salaries when I went through a recruiter. I am a terrible negotiator and they have greater knowledge about going rates for my skills and what the employer is willing to pay.

Most recruiters don't care about the number; they only care that you signed the dotted line. Their downside is much, much bigger than their downside.

This is partially true, although you have to keep in mind that agency recruiters never have the incentive to minimize your compensation. They do have an incentive to get you more money, and their biggest incentive is for any offer (high or low) to be accepted - but their incentive is never to get you a lower salary.

It isn't that simple. Like real estate agents, they only get paid for a placement. Numbers wise, they are motivated to place you any way they can. They don't have much more to gain from getting you another $10K. They risk not placing you if you are too expensive.

I don't have anything against recruiters but one should be realistic as to how things actually work.

They do get paid for a placement - this is true - but there is certainly motivation in getting someone another 10K. For someone like me that owns their own small company, an extra 10K for my candidate could mean $2,500 in my pocket.

I'll always advise candidates on the risk of asking too much or the potential for an offer to be retracted if we don't negotiate in good faith and reasonability, but it isn't accurate to think that the incentive to raise a candidate's salary isn't there for many recruiters. For your example of 10K that may result in $2,500 to the recruiter, that isn't an insignificant amount. That's a mortgage payment for some.

I do agree that the risk of someone being too expensive is real, but the recruiter doesn't decide on what is too expensive - that is a decision made by the market and participants in the market.

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