How To Counter Offer Salary

Let’s paint a picture. 

It’s been months since you’ve been hunting for a suitable job. Customizing your resumé and applying to tons of job posts has you exhausted. Finally, you get an interview call, and it feels like your hard work has paid off. 

But wait, your heart sinks when the interviewer tells you the salary: it’s unreasonably low and certainly not what you expected. 

Don’t sweat it; all is not lost at this point. 

Wondering why? 

This is because, according to CNBC, 85% of Americans who negotiate their job offer are usually successful. And the good news is that you too can be a part of that lucky group if you know the drill of countering your offer salary. 

Read on to negotiate the offered salary like a pro and avoid landing a job that doesn’t meet your salary requirements. 

What Is A Counter Offer On A Salary?

A counteroffer refers to an offer provided by a candidate in response to the salary offered by a company. 

An interesting statistic I found is that only 12% of workers quit because of financial reasons

But with the increasing cost of living at the moment, I can certainly see that number increasing in the coming years. 

Business woman shaking a man's hand with two other colleagues smiling in an office

Generally, the salary presented by the employer is lower than your expectations. The offer may fall short due to several reasons: 

  • You feel it doesn’t align with your skills and experience – you deserve better 
  • The offered salary is less than your previous job 
  • It’s not enough to meet your personal needs
  • You’re awarded a promotion, and your new position deserves a better salary
  • The salary offered isn’t market competitive 

As a result, you negotiate the salary with the HR or employer over a phone call, email, or in person. 

Usually, there are only three outcomes you can expect: they can either reject, come to terms with, or help land a middle ground through negotiation – and offer a better salary in return. 

And none of them is anything to be afraid of.

Tips To Make A Counter Offer On A Salary

Say What You’ve Already Done For The Company 

This one is for anyone wanting to negotiate their salary with their current employer. 

An interesting stat to spark your confidence before you begin this process is that young professionals only negotiated 42% of their last job offers.

But almost nine out of ten of them had success once they did. 

The old adage of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” definitely comes to mind here. 

Here’s how to counter offer salary and approach the topic in an interview: 

  • Consider talking about how your performance metrics have improved over the past few years. Make sure you maintain a polite tone and think through your words before speaking them.
  • Remember, try to talk less about abilities and more about how they have contributed to the success of the company. Show your willingness to do more for the company.
  • Finally, present your offer and wait for their response. 

Remember, the key is to not just mention your desired salary. Instead, explain why it is justified. 

A man in a blue long sleeves shirt is shaking hands with a woman wearing a cream-colored jacket over the brown table near an office window

Understand Your Employer’s Constraints 

In some cases, you could be the best candidate out there, and the employer might know it to be true. However, certain constraints may keep them from offering you what you want. 

  • A few companies have salary caps that no negotiation can reverse. You must figure out where the employer could be flexible and where they can’t. 
  • For instance, if a company hires 10 people simultaneously, there’s a smaller chance of getting a higher salary than other candidates. After all, you’re competing with several other skillful candidates. 
  • However, if you’re applying for a role in a smaller firm that has never hired in a specific position, you might be in luck. In cases like these, there’s often greater room for salary negotiation – and success. 

Top tip: understanding your employer’s constraints can help propose options that benefit both parties. 

Understand The Person At The Negotiation Table 

There could be more than one person sitting across the negotiating table. It all depends on the company’s structure and the role you’re being interviewed for. 

For example, if you’re applying for a leadership position, the CEO or COO will likely be a part of the discussion. 

On the other hand, if you’re applying for an entry or mid-level role, it would most likely be someone from the HR department. 

In any case, try to understand who will be representing the company in the interview. It would also help if you also did some research on their backgrounds and interests before the meeting.

You could even use Twitter and LinkedIn to try and find out if the interviewer is particularly interested in things like: 

  • Football
  • Music
  • Traveling
  • Food
  • TV shows and movies

It’s no secret that people love working with people they like and have things in common with. 

Top tip: Getting to know more about the interviewer before walking into the meeting can help you align with them better, increase your chances of success during the negotiations as well as leave a positive lasting impression.

A person wearing a blue suit and bracelet is getting the brown pen to the person wearing a blue suit with a black watch sitting in an office room

Know The Company You’re Negotiating With

Research the company. Do some more research. And then research them some more. 

This is obviously easier if you’re already an employee – but if you’re countering an offer salary from a new company you’ll have to put the work in here. 

  • What are their values? 
  • What is the company culture like? 
  • Who are the key people in the organization? 
  • What are their products or services? (think about how you can improve them)
  • What are the recent events happening in the company? (Google News, social media and LinkedIn are your friends here) 
  • Who are their competitors? 
  • What are the future industry trends? 

This is the bare minimum you’ll need to know to stand a great chance of smiling at the end of the negotiation.

Don’t Give Ultimatums 

This is one of the most critical parts of understanding how to counter offer salary effectively. 

It’s no secret that most people dislike being told “Take it or leave it.” Now imagine saying it to your boss or your potential new employer.

While you might only be trying to sound confident, or perhaps you may do it out of frustration, it’ll usually do you more harm than good.  

In fact, the employer may not consider you at all, given your rigid attitude. So, present your offer but do so politely. 

Top tip: Tell them why you think you deserve a better salary. But keep the middle ground and be flexible to come to terms with a salary more than the initial offer and less than the one you asked for. 

Ask A Few Follow-Up Questions 

Yes, showing excitement for the current position is perfectly fine. However, avoid countering the offered salary right away. Instead, ask a few follow-up questions before doing so, like:  

  • “Please give me some context around the figure you offered” 
  • “Can you tell me how this figure compares with other similar roles?” 
  • “Other than the base salary, what other benefits or opportunities are negotiable?”
  • “How often does the company give out bonuses to successful employees?

This would make your counteroffer sound more authentic and worth negotiating. 

Look for Other Ways of Being Compensated

This 2022 study by Fidelity is an eye-opener and shows that it’s not always about the money.

It summarizes perfectly why you don’t negotiate just to hammer out the salary. 

Instead, be flexible to come up with other compensation techniques. If you feel the company is strict about its salary caps, avoid pushing them. Take note of the financial steps you take when starting your career with them.

Instead, consider asking for other things like:

  • Getting more paid days off
  • Increasing pension contributions
  • Company stock
  • Working remotely

A person wearing a gray suit jacket is shaking hands with a person

Ask yourself if you really want this salary increase

This one is a little more philosophical. What if being happy in your job is more important than a salary increase?  

A 2021 study found that more workers now value happiness at work over salary. The graph below shows just how much people’s work priorities have changed since 2017.

This something to especially mull over if you successfully counter offer your salary – only to discover your job now comes with a lot more work and stress. 

Things to Do Before You Counter Offer In Salary Negotiations 

Now that you know how to counter offer base salary, it’s time to learn what you can do before your meeting to boost your chances of success.

Do Some Research On the Pay In Your Industry 

Every professional recommends doing the homework before you enter the interview room. Therefore, make sure you research the average salary ranges for your position. This will help you know how to negotiate salary offers during interviews. 

If the company presents an XYZ offer, always try to back up your data about the market average salary for your industry, experience, and location. 

Example: You’re applying for a position as an SAP consultant in a firm based in the U.S, and you know that the industry average for that role in the USA is about $72,506 annually. 

In this scenario, you’ll be better prepared to identify and counter lowball offers with actual statistics and numbers. 

This kind of data will help explain why you believe a higher salary is appropriate for the role and will make the recruiter take you more seriously during the counteroffer. 

Bonus Tip: You could try using Indeed or Glassdoor’s average salary search tool to help you out with finding out your personalized pay range based on your role, experience, and location for free.

Analyze Your Work Background and Experience 

Besides market research, you must also consider your background and experience in the industry. 

For example,

  • Do you have in-demand technical and non-technical skills that can add value to the company?
  • What do you think makes you stand out from the candidates waiting outside the interview room?
  • Do you think you have past experiences or projects that can help back up your claims?
  • Have you/will you future-proof your job by up-skilling if you have to? (I’ve some good news for you here – almost 60% of leadership and development programs plan on making upskilling and reskilling a priority) 

If you can confidently answer these questions, then you’re likely to be in a much better position to negotiate your salary.

Restate what you can bring to the table and how your experience can help the company for the better.

Examine and Assess the Original Offer Made by Your Employer

You aren’t always bound to counteroffer salary right away. In most cases, the recruiter will give you a couple of days to consider the salary offer.

Meanwhile: 

  • Email the recruiter, thanking them for the job offer and telling them you’ll take 2-3 days to assess the original offer. 
  • Give them a certain day you’ll get back to them. 
  • Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the job offer and decide whether you want to join the company. 
  • Make sure you stick to the date you mentioned and give them your answer.

Two persons wearing black suit jackets are shaking hands while standing on a brown wooden floor near a white table in an office room

How to Write a Salary Counter Offer Via Email 

This goes out to all introverts. If negotiating face-to-face triggers your anxiety or escalates your stress levels – use the email route.

Besides, if you’re someone with strong writing skills, there’s no better way than to negotiate via email. 

This is because it allows you to articulate your desired salary in diplomatic terms, which might sound more convincing than what you’ll say in person. 

Here’s how to counteroffer a salary via email. 

  • Include a header with the company’s information and your contact info
  • Begin the introduction by stating what interests you about the company, followed by reasons why you’re the right fit
  • Be concise with the body of the letter. Avoid beating around the bush. Mention the original offer, counter offer, and why you believe the counter offer is suitable. Give them a strong reason why the initial offer is less. Maybe it’s lower than the national average or isn’t industry competitive. 
  • Sum up by emphasizing the nature of your request and conclude by mentioning you’re excited to join the company
  • Lastly, make sure you aren’t snazzy with the subject line. Keep it simple “Your Name – Job Title.” You aren’t sending catchy emails to your customers but rather applying for a role that demands professionalism. 

I would strongly recommend you find a free email subject line generator to do the heavy lifting for the latter. 

Every workday, the typical office worker receives about 121 emails, so make sure you have a fighting chance of getting your application email opened. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Always Counter a Salary Offer?

Negotiating the salary isn’t mandatory, but it’s always good to consider it. For example, you can ask yourself if 40k is good enough or if you need to counter the offer. In fact, according to a survey by the global HR consulting firm Robert Half, 70% of recruiters actually expect you to talk about it at some point during your job interview but only 55% of workers ever do!

Will Negotiating Salary Backfire?

Negotiating the salary usually won’t backfire so long as you follow the correct approach and do it wisely. 

However, mismanaging this step by sounding rude and frustrated and letting emotions overpower you might cost you the opportunity. 

Is It Better to Negotiate Salary In Person Or Via Call or Email?

Whether you plan to do it in person, via email, or by phone depends on your preferences. Extroverts might feel comfortable negotiating face-to-face. 

However, if the thought of doing it in person sends shivers down your spine, an email or a phone call could be your best bet. 

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it, now you know how to counter offer a salary like a pro. 

Remember, the key is to be confident and always stay positive. Be straightforward with what you want but don’t overdo it either. The goal is to sound convincing without coming across as desperate or irrational. 

Also, try to focus on your non-monetary needs such as more vacation days, flexible hours, and the like as well. These benefits are often easier to obtain than a higher salary.

Lastly, don’t forget that even though the company has the upper hand in this situation. They still choose to give you an offer for a reason – they believe you’re qualified and want you on their team. 

So as long as you follow the tips mentioned above and don’t come across as greedy or give ultimatums that backfire, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting what you want.

Remember: the odds are 85% in your favor. 

Best of luck!

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