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James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger ( and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

IT recruiter’s response

I asked a recruiter to check out my blogs about consulting, and his response is below.  He had some good points on billling rates and what recruiters do behind the scenes:

I really enjoyed reading over your blog you have a lot of really good information in there. I especially enjoyed your articles about billing rates, It’s always interesting to see the topic from a consultants perspective. From what I read everything seems to be fairly spot on. The biggest trouble I run into is most consultants don’t realize that recruiting is a gamble of time and money. A good recruiter will fill 1 or 2 positions for every 10 orders they work on which means that 80% percent of the time we are not getting paid for our efforts so we have to make it up somewhere. An example of this is say my company gets a hot new order and puts 3 recruiters on it being conservative say each recruiter makes about $150 a day in a base salary that is $450 a day or $2250 a week a normal job order can stay open for up to 3 weeks or longer doing the math that is almost seven thousand dollars that my company is betting that we can fill the position with no guarantee that we won’t be beat by another firm or that the candidate won’t decide to go with another position. That number is just off of the base salary of 3 recruiters, it doesn’t calculate our other expenses that enables a recruiter to be effective at his or her job, such as paying for access to the job boards and our accounting and HR departments when all is said and done working on that one job order can cost up to 15k for a small firm with no guarantee of a return.

I also found the subject of if an agency should tell their consultants their billing rate or not to be interesting. I started off working for a firm that did primarily full-time placements where we had a fee of about 25-30% of the first year salary so the more money I negotiated for my candidate the more I would make in a commission. Working short-term placements tends to shake things up a bit, most consultants believe that because we are billing them out at $150 that they are worth $150 an hour which is only half-true. We do everything we can to pay market competitive salaries but there has to be some room to make it worth my time and my company’s investment. The other problem is a lot of the time a recruiter may not know what the billing rate is going to be a lot of the time a staffing company will have account managers on staff who do the majority to the salary negotiations, they will meet with the client negotiate the rate then tell the recruiter to go find a data analyst for whatever the predetermined rate was.

In my opinion you can go either way, but what I tell my consultants is that as long as they are happy with their current salary and they don’t feel taken advantage of then they shouldn’t worry about the billing rate. If they feel taken advantage of then they should address the issue and that they are free to seek employment elsewhere. I believe in being as transparent as possible so if asked about the billing rate by a consultant I will tell them, but it’s not something I would fixate about.


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