Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

How To Pay a Researcher
June 22, 2007, 2:46 am
Filed under: Research

Recently, I was inspired by a post I saw on Recruiting Bloggers called ‘How To Pay a Recruiter‘. While the article discussed how (most) recruiters are competitive hunters and would be most motivated by small draws and good bonuses, I thought to myself, why not give some methods on how to motivate and pay a researcher? After all, recruiting and researching are two different functions and should probably be considered differently along the lines of compensation.

I’ve actually been asked this question since I started researching. Mostly, the people who ask me this are recruiting office owners or managers who have been considering hiring a full-time researcher for their own operations and want to know where to start off with negotiations on compensation. Sometimes, it’s other researchers who are trying to figure out if they’re being fairly compensated for the amount of work they do and/or their level of experience. And then there are just some nosey people who want to know what I earn….just kidding!

To start off, something to consider when figuring out a fair compensation is what drives your researcher. What is the motivation to do a good job? Everybody is different in this manner. I wrote a post several months ago on this very topic, and if you disregard what motivates an individual, you might miss the mark on compensation. From what I have gathered, the majority of researchers are not wired like recruiters. We enjoy the thrill of the hunt, but most researchers are not ‘sellers’ and therefore may not be motivated by big commissions like their recruiting counterparts. This is good to consider if you were thinking about presenting the same pay structure to your researcher as you do to your recruiter.

Another thing to consider when deciding on compensation level is experience. While I don’t believe you need to break the bank for a seasoned researcher, you must take into consideration that you are paying for experience as well as resources that your researcher has accumulated over the years. Be careful that you don’t insult an experienced researcher by not considering this! Researchers who have been in that job function for any length of time will have resources that they are aware of and network contacts that will give them a running start when they join your organization and cut way down on ramp-up time. A brand new researcher will find resources over time, but there is a significant ramp-up time to do so.

From my standpoint, there are a few different methods with which you can fairly compensate a researcher.
  1. Straight salary.
  2. Straight salary with quarterly/yearly bonuses.
  3. Base salary plus commission on placed candidates.
  4. Commission only.

From my personal experience, a combination of a fair base salary plus a small commission on placed candidates is the best way to compensate a researcher, especially a brand-new one. My thought process behind that is this: you give an incentive to the researcher to find as many contacts as possible through a share in the commission without basing too much of their compensation on something over which they have almost no control.

Consider this: once a researcher hands over a contact list to a recruiter, that’s the last time they control anything in the recruiting process. That recruiter may not call any of the people the researcher found; those contacts may not be interested in the job; the hiring authority may not wish to interview them. While one could argue that a recruiter also does not have control over these situations, the recruiter has their hands in the process more so than the researcher and therefore deserves to have more commission on a placement. The researcher on the other hand controls step one of a possible 20+ step process and that’s all.

This of course may not apply for independent researchers who will typically either charge an hourly rate plus a placement fee, or will work on a commission-only basis. But for anyone out there who is considering hiring a researcher, just make sure to put some thought into the motivating factors as well as an appropriate pay structure before making an offer.

I would love to hear any thoughts on this topic! Please leave a comment if you have some thoughts on researcher compensation.

EmployeescreenIQ provides background checks to employers globally.


4 Comments so far
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You hit the nail on the head when you said that you need to pay for experience. I have heard of too many places wanting tons of knowledge but willing to pay peanuts. No other profession works that way and sourcers/researchers should not as well.

One of the problems I see is that our profession is still very young and there is a lot of misunderstanding on what a sourcer/researcher can do/does.

Besides your agency pay issues you outlined above, what does the corporate world pay a sourcer/researcher if they bring one on staff in a perm role? There is no commission to make, so bonuses make sense. A corporate sourcer/researcher still faces the same issues as those in an agency in regards to no control once the leads or resumes are passed on.

I think the commission or bonus pay is not necessarily the hard part, it’s the base salary for both agency and corporate.

If you never employed a sourcer/researcher before, what do you have to base your decision on other then that individual’s previous compensation? If your not familiar with this skill set, how do you measure someone’s knowledge or skill? For Internet sourcing/researching AIRS training? I know many who are AIRS certified and 2 months later they can not put together a basic Boolean search string or name 3 search engines. There are others that are not AIRS certified and can run circles around almost anyone around.

You’ve continued a great debate that will go on for some time. Keep writing about it. The more it’s written about and other respond the closer we can come to know what does and does not work for our profession.

Charles Bretz
CDW Corporation

Comment by chas216

Hey Amybeth,

I think the problem is just that you’re dealing with an industry (recruiting) that, for the most part, hasn’t adapted at all to the changing employment landscape in the last 40 years.

Most recruiting managers / owners still think that everyone working for them should be thankful that they have a job.

Even if you’re a full-time employee of a company, I think the best way for a sourcer to earn his/her money is on a $-per-name basis.

In addition to making sure the research goddesses out there get a pay rate that is commensurate with their skill level, it also provides a constant metric for the employer to show her contribution to the business.


Comment by Dan Sweet

Hi Amybeth,

I have struggled with this and have been thinking about a solution, to no avail. I believe you are correct the best method of compensation would include a base pay with a separate piece to address performance incentives.

Comissions and bonuses based on hires seems narrow in focus to me as the sourcing performance includes so many other factors yet the sourcers do little to control actual hiring. I measure my sourcers on their ability to have the recruiters screen their candidates or the attached to screen ratio. The sourcers can develop rapport and encourage and/or pressure the recruiters to screen the candidates. This is the one piece that they can actually influence in the hiring process.

When I measured my sourcers based on hires they would often get demotivated since the hires weren’t coming in fast enough and they couldn’t get the recruiters to take the candidate there.

Since they can push the recruiter to screen and by measuring the number of candidates they attach to a job versus the number of them that gets screened I can see whether they are actually submitting candidates that meet the minimum criteria (If they aren’t recruiters will not screen the candidates, they will just review the resume and pass up on it)

Our recruiter will note a candidate unqualified or screened, then they will set up interviews. Knowing this helps to look at the number of unqualified versus screened. This also speaks to sourcer skill and understanding. If the soucer has a large number of candidates that dont get reviewed by recruiters it speaks of rapport building skills.

I disagree with Chas216 when he said that the “comission or bonus is not necessarily the hard part” I believe that if the base is right the sourcer will accept the position but if the comission or bonus piece is not correct, the sourcer will not stay long and will soon be working elsewhere.

Great conversation!!!

Comment by SourcingCorner

There’s a hilarious string running over on SFrecruiters – it’s called “Training Recruiters or Herding Cats?” The subject title evolved in a string that started over a year ago with HOW TO RECRUIT THE RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB. You can find it here:

Part of the opening volley in one of the posts that has evolved into the Training Cats discussion asks:
“… how does one help others grow in this very strange industry? In my world it’s about helping others
understand their own character and the character of their candidates and clients, then helping that recruiter to improve and deepen who they are – lastly helping him/her make that visible to others. Sourcers are best at finding people, so why are they historically paid less than recruiters?”

In the same string, another person challenged:
“Finally, I’ve also wondered why recruiters tend to make more than sourcers. My guess is that recruiters (at least onsite) tend to be seen and interact more with company management than sourcers do. It is certainly not due to any inherent superiority in skills.”

To which a reply came that sounded like two things at once to me – too stock and maybe just a little true? It said:
“Hmm, why do Sourcers make less? While sourcing is a huge part of the process, it is still only part and sourcers do not need to have the same skills that it takes recruiters years to develop. I have worked both In-House and agencies and have mostly done my own sourcing but we also had sourcers. It definitely helps when you are dealing with 20-40 reqs at any given time but the sourcers do not generally know and understand the client (hiring manager’s) needs and personalities as well as the fact that we as recruiters need to be able to “Close” both sides. We are Sales people, sourcers aren’t.”

There are other responses; go read the discussion:

By the way, the recently formed (June 9) “Sourcers Guild” already has 340 members and promises to be
a vibrant organization that will strive to elect standards and bring representation to the table with a forceful and meaningful message. The Sourcers Guild Mission is to bring professionalism and recognition to the Names Sourcing Industry. 41 of the 340 who have joined so far have put their information into the “Contact List” in the Database section of the site. Many of them have listed their pay requirements, for any of you who are interested in what current remuneration expectation rates are.

Looking for a talented Names Sourcer or for Trainers to teach you or yours how to names source? Look in the Database section of the Sourcers Guild!
FREE MEMBERSHIP ’til July 31/07

BOOK OF SCRIPTICALS Volume I is ready for purchase!

Take the Polls in Sourcers Guild – it’s the easiest way to see, at a glance, who you are and what you do!

“We will either find a way or make one.” ~ Hannibal

Maureen Sharib
Telephone Names Sourcer/Trainer and Sourcers Guild Guide
513 899 9628
maureen at
Learn how to telephone source

Comment by Maureen Sharib

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