9 Tips on How to Counteroffer in a Salary Negotiation

9 Tips on How to Counteroffer in a Salary Negotiation

Negotiating a salary offer can feel daunting and overwhelming. And for most employees, fears of rejection stop them from even trying to negotiate. But here’s what most job seekers don’t know—75% of employers are willing to negotiate, you just have to start the conversation. 

What is a counteroffer? 

A counteroffer is the response and request a job seeker makes for an adjustment to the original job offer, made by the potential employer. Counteroffers typically ask for more than the original offer—a higher baseline salary, more perks, additional PTO days, etc. When an original offer doesn’t meet the job seeker’s baseline for an offer, a counteroffer can keep the conversation open and give the employer a number the job seeker is willing to take in order to accept the job offer. 

In most situations, job seekers present their counteroffer to whoever presented the initial offer from the employer side—this could be the recruiter, someone else in HR, or the hiring manager. Whoever the employer has presented as the point person for the job seeker is the person who will review and respond to the counteroffer. 

Common counteroffer mistakes

Too often, job seekers make four critical mistakes when they consider countering an original offer from a potential employer. These mistakes include: 

1. Saying yes without asking for time to review the offer.
Don’t review an initial offer and immediately say yes or no. Too many job seekers get nervous or excited in the first conversation about salary and accept the first number. This could cost you exponentially if the employer is willing to negotiate and you can get 10 - 15% more in a counteroffer.

2. Asking for too much time to review. 

Don’t disrespect everyone’s time by asking for a week to review the offer. Asking for time to review is expected, but when you take too much time, it can be frustrating for the employer. This tactic can make it look like you are juggling multiple offers or that you will treat your job with a similar lack of speed and motivation. 

3. Only reviewing the baseline salary. 

Don’t just focus on the baseline salary. Too many job seekers only see the base salary number and overlook the entire compensation package. The total package tells a completely different story and can help you in a negotiation conversation when the base salary isn’t negotiable.

4. Not understanding their worth. 

Don’t go into a salary negotiation conversation without understanding your worth and the worth of the job. Always do you research. Ask your colleagues about their salaries, find out how the company views compensation in their compensation philosophy, and get access to verified salary data. Do what you can to have an educated view on how much the job and you are worth. 

How to make a counteroffer in a salary negotiation 

Successfully negotiate your next salary offer with these counteroffer tips: 

1. Know what the role and your experience are worth. 

Don’t go into a salary negotiation conversation without doing your homework. Before you get your initial offer, ask for more information about how the role is categorized. What level is the role considered at the business? How is the role ranked compared to other roles at the business? If possible, get information about the company’s compensation philosophy. If you can understand how the company views pay (e.g. they typically pay in the 75th percentile compared to the average market value for each role), then you can have more negotiating power if your original offer is too low.

2. Be kind and grateful for the original offer. 

Always be kind and gracious when you receive the initial offer. Thank the recruiter, HR rep, or hiring manager—whoever is the point person for your interview and salary conversations—and be clear that you’re excited to review the offer. Always say thank you and express gratitude for the opportunity. 

3. Ask for time to review the offer. 

Never negotiate in the original phone call or conversation with the initial offer. Always ask for time to review the offer. Ask for 24 hours—no more—and be clear about when you will get back with an answer. Follow up your message in writing (via email) if the ask for more time happens over the phone or in person. 

4. Review the total compensation. 

Don’t just look at the base salary. In any salary negotiation conversation, it’s critical that you review the entire compensation package. Understand what the company is offering you in equity, PTO, benefits, perks, base salary, signing bonus, annual bonus, etc. All of this information is important as you consider the initial offer. 

5. Determine your counteroffer. 

Understand what total offer you would accept and use this number to determine your counteroffer. To assess your total worth, consider your years of experience, the location of the job, salary data from comparable positions, how the company views compensation (and what percentile they typically pay at compared to the market), and where possible—verified salary data. To get access to verified, anonymized salary data—just as employers have access to employer-only salary data that helps them negotiate with an upperhand—join the FairComp waitlist.

6. Prepare your counteroffer.

Write out your counteroffer and prepare your response. If you’re not comfortable—or you don’t have a lot of experience with negotiation—make sure to practice your response with a friend or to yourself in the mirror. Your counteroffer should highlight your accomplishments and the value you bring to the role. If you are using salary data to back up a higher baseline salary ask, cite your sources. 

7. Counter the original offer. 

Present your counteroffer to your point person at the business. If you’re doing this via email, check out this article for 10 tips on how to write a salary negotiation email and this article on how to negotiate a job offer through email. If you need script ideas, check out this article for the ultimate salary negotiation script for every scenario. Always be kind, thank the employer for the original offer, outline your accomplishments and value to the role, be clear about what salary you want to see, and include a deadline. For example, if you choose to negotiate with a best and final approach, use a specific number and let the recruiter know you can sign an offer today if they can match that number. (If you plan to give a range, always go 10 - 15% higher than the number you’re comfortable with accepting because the employer will likely come back with a lower offer.)

8. Be open to the employer’s response. 

With the counteroffer in the employer’s court, now is the time to wait and be open to the employer’s response. If you’ve suggested a salary range, expect that the employer will come back at the low end of that scale. If you’ve suggested a specific number with a deadline, prepare yourself that the employer may not meet that deadline. Be open to negotiating other areas of the total compensation package if the employer rejects your counteroffer. 

9. Counter again or accept the offer. 

If the employer counters your counter offer, you may need to consider asking for more in other areas—PTO, benefits, equity, bonus, etc.—or rejecting the offer altogether. To make a final decision, you need to know what your baseline is and be prepared to walk away if that number isn’t a possibility for the employer. In either scenario, be grateful for the conversation, the offer, and the opportunity. 

Need more help? Check out these other resources: 

18 Expert Tips on Salary Negotiation 

What to Do Before You Accept a New Job Offer

You Should Talk to Your Friends About Your Salary. Here’s Why (and How).

How to Respond When a Recruiter Asks: “What’s Your Salary Expectation?”

The Importance of Salary Data When Negotiating Job Offers

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