How much does an in-house recruiter make? How much could they make?

How much does an in-house recruiter make? How much could they make?

Recruiters see a lot of salary surveys. Each year new ones are produced and we spend time looking at them and nodding sagely, all the while wondering if they are at all reflective of the truth.  Salary surveys have never really gone far enough to explain any real context for their findings. Most often the results are little more than a list of salary ranges with “junior” and “senior” being the only granularity offered.

I wanted to dig a little deeper and see what was behind these numbers and examine what decisions some of the higher earners had taken to get them to their current position.  Most of all, I wanted real numbers for salaries rather than the less believable ranges. But where could I find a bunch of willing (after much nagging) participants who would all be trusting enough to spill their deepest secrets?  This survey, like the Talent Tech Stack survey before it, is  of some of the recruiters, HR and general “talent” people at the coalface of hiring is of the practitioners. The respondents here are all members of a hiring community called DBR. A community of practice with over 1500 members in a range of companies ranging from 5 to 166,000 people strong. They represent a vast variety of industries, levels and experience. They are the “doers” of the recruitment world and often wear a few other hats as well. These are their answers to questions on salary, compensation packages and their own career choices.

Who are the respondents?

The most glaring omission from the majority of salary surveys is context. Like Family Fortunes (Family Feud for US readers) it can often be hard to find anyone who has actually responded to one of these surveys. I wanted to find out if this data had bearing on the results so I started by asking a whole bunch of personal questions

Gender was an important factor for me to measure as it has been my experience that although in-house HR and Recruitment has been seen as the preserve of female employees a great number of the more senior roles are held by males. The audience that responded to my survey broke down like this.

I also wanted to understand the relationship the respondent had to their company, were they an employee? A contractor?


At 87% the largest number of respondents were direct employees.  The next largest at just over 6% were contractors. This is reflective of the make up of the membership of DBR, a lot of the companies represented are well funded tech startups who experience bursts of growth matching their funding cycles.

Of course I wanted to ask some standard salary survey questions too, like where are these people located?



So mainly in the UK… as expected as DBR began as a meet-up in London so it’s still pretty UK centric with 88% of respondents being based in the UK.  Though some people did volunteer precise locations I’m keeping these at the country level to preserve anonymity. Interestingly, there wasn’t as wide a difference between those in London and those outside, accounting for years of experience the average London multiplier was never larger than 12% (though that can still equate to quite a difference at the higher end of the salary scale).

The make up of the group surveyed is wide ranging in years of experience, from newcomers with less than a year to “old hands” with 20 years or more,  and also in the massive number of job titles. This hideous, vomit-inducing pie chart shows a title only if at least two people used it, there were even more offered up.  So do titles matter anymore? There is some correlation with more corporate titles VP, Director etc and higher salaries but beyond that titles seem to have become a bit of a free for all.

Over the past few years many talent functions have changed their titles  – either to reflect an increase in their scope of work or to demonstrate the breakdown of roles into component parts of the recruitment process. Where we once had just recruiters, we now have sourcers, resourcers, talent acquisition, and a layer of management all responsible for a part of the process, and People Ops to measure it all. With all this diversification titles are less of a factor – though using “Talent Acquisition” over “Recruitment” gives you a slight (and more fashionable) edge.

So what’s the day to day for the people in this survey? hat seems to be changing too. In the past the lines between HR and Recruitment functions were set in stone, in this group they’re a little more blurred…
Still a split between HR and Recruitment but a lot of people are now taking on more of the combined talent role. If I had to hazard a guess I’d say this could be due to the ever improving technology available (e.g. self service in HR) but that’s only a guess.

To go with the myriad new titles and descriptions reporting lines are also changing. Whilst the task of recruitment in larger companies might still sit squarely under the auspices of of the HR department, in smaller companies it’s increasingly common to see “Talent” report directly to the CEO. 


The interesting part!

OK, you’ve waited long enough! Though I’m sure that we’d all be happy to work for the sheer joy of being in recruitment some of us are lucky enough to get paid. Moolah, dosh, dough, frogskins, loot, honk, filthy “Lucre”, paper, scratch, readies or spondoolicks call it what you will but just how much is enough?  It’s often hard to know if you’re being paid in line with the market when the market is always shifting around you. Like most salary surveys we have some average figures but I’ll add some context as we go. 

The Average in-house recruiter in this survey has approximately 6 years of experience and is paid £53,236 per annum if they are a woman and £57,538 per annum if they are a man.

Of the highest earning respondents, the highest paid man earns £180,000 per annum and the highest paid woman £125,000 per annum.

Of the lowest earning respondents, the lowest paid man earns £21,000 per annum and the lowest paid woman £24,000.

Obviously there is a lot of context around these figures and as you’d expect the higher salaries tend to align with the most years of experience. However, there’s a great deal of variation here e.g. at 11 years of experience (the question specified experience in a talent role) one of our respondents is earning  £45,000 another £90,000 and a third £180,000! Even averaging out these numbers makes for interesting viewing. So peak earning potential is 16 years and there’s a drop off after that? Until you get to 20 years plus and then the earnings rocket again? Well…no. I think we’re seeing the problems of a small data set.  However, due to the surveyed groups foundational bias towards tech start-ups and scales-ups I think we can safely infer some age bias on the employer side.  Those higher earners with 20 years or more experience are those who work for the largest companies represented in the group. Average salary by years of experience breaks down like this –

Though other countries weren’t represented as widely as the UK here are the averages for a recruiter with 6 years of experience in those countries where we had representation.

There’s a whole lot more to come , we also asked how large teams are, how management responsibility affects salary,  how many requisitions each recruiter carries, how their success is measured. I’ll be adding more posts using this data and looking for other information we can glean.  There are some very high level observations the data gathered has shown and how an in-house recruiter can maximise their salary.

1. Be male. At every experience level on average men were paid more than women. There is very much a glass ceiling in the in-house recruitment profession. In the tech industry this is often excused as a “pipeline problem” i.e. that there simply aren’t enough women entering technical careers. This holds even less water in the field of HR and Recruitment which are traditionally dominated by women. Whilst the flippant answer is “be male” perhaps it’s time for those feeling undervalued to see number 6 on this list.

2. Tech Recruiters don’t earn more. One of the sacred truths of in-house recruitment has been that adding the dark art of “tech recruitment” to your resume meant you were paid more – this seems to be no longer the case. For this group at least the higher salaries go to the universal recruiters. Those that specified they recruit for everything from lawyers to developers, customer care to drivers were paid more. One could argue that the skill of recruitment itself is becoming more prized but I think it’s more likely that the set of recruiters we surveyed are having to turn their hands to a wider range of hiring.

3. There’s an “Individual Contributor” track for in-house Recruiters. In the past climbing the ladder in an in-house team meant team management but there are a growing number of people still hands-on, who are part of a team but *not* managing others who are earning at the top of the pay scale.

4. Contractors don’t out earn the highest paid employees. They might make up for it with the freedom that the contract life offers but the daily rates captured in this survey don’t meet the salaries of the higher paid permanent employees. Potentially this is because contractors don’t occupy the upper tiers of company hierarchy.

5. Report to the CEO. Sitting at the right hand of God means more money. Respondents who report to their CEO’s out earn those with the same number of years of experience who report elsewhere.

6. Don’t be afraid to change jobs. Tenure isn’t rewarded for those in talent acquisition as it might be in other professions. This seems especially true for the highest earners who have joined companies at a small size and moved on after experiencing a period of growth. Those that favour a future of work based on “gigs” might point to this as evidence that talent acquisition is a field that lends itself well to shorter stints of employment. Others might say that people left after less time to improve their salaries, either way, longer tenures left people at the mid to low point of the scale for their years of experience. The highest paid respondents in this survey change jobs at least every two years. This may be symptomatic of the start-up to scales-up companies represented but each of those leaps comes with a reappraisal of their worth on the open market.

7. Don’t worry about your job title. The highest paid “Head of Talent” in this survey earns £115,000 a year. The lowest paid “Head of Talent” earns £28,000. The highest paid “Recruiter” earns £97,000.  Titles are an increasingly worse indicator of experience level and salary.

8. The North/South divide isn’t what it once was. Despite saying I wouldn’t drill down too far into the geography, it seems as though salaries outside of London for in-house roles are getting closer. Respondents in Manchester and Edinburgh are within 10% on their London counterparts (with similar years of experience). The Midlands still lags a little with the difference around 20-25% of London salaries for similar experience.

Salaries in Berlin are also now not far behind London. At the higher levels, as TA functions are maturing in the German capital, it seems that recruiters are high on the list of targets to tempt away with Germany based respondents at the senior levels reporting salaries in the six-figures. Post Brexit echoes perhaps?

This was a very large number of questions and I’m grateful to the people that took the time to answer them.  Hopefully, armed with these figures those that are feeling they aren’t paid enough will have some concrete figures and those that are being paid above this “market rate” will feel all warm and fuzzy inside. There is more to come though, in the next post we’ll look at the size of team by company size, how hard they have to work and how their success is measured.

Finally, some very unscientific observations to make of what you will…

Even if we remove departmental and geographical modifiers, there were still 135 different titles offered by respondents.

Those paid under £50,000 were more likely to use commas or add the suffix “per annum” and use a currency symbol. I’m not sure if this means anything it was just noticeable. Maybe you only earn those big bucks by squirrelling away all that time wasted on punctuation?

Lastly a very special thank you to the seven people who responded to this salary survey and didn’t provide their own salaries, you hold a special place in my heart.