How to Counter a Salary Offer

If there’s one thing that can ruin the excitement of a job offer, it’s a salary far below your expectations. After sitting through interview after interview, falling in love with a company and receiving that coveted phone call offering you the position, a too-low salary can feel like a punch in the gut.

But before you start crunching numbers to see if you can really afford to live on the salary offered, know that you’re in control. You can counter.

Countering salaries seems to be something that’s talked about but rarely done. When you’re hoping to land a job, saying or doing anything that may jeopardize your chances can be scary. However, when you know what you’re doing, you don’t need to be scared of giving a counteroffer.

Here are fifteen tips to help you prepare and counter a salary offer.

1. Know Your Value, but Don’t Get Cocky

When interviewing for any job, you should have some idea of what salary you could expect if you got hired. This number should be based on your experience, salaries for similar jobs on the market and what unique value you can bring to the position.

But while we would all like to rake in the big bucks, you need to be realistic about what you can expect to receive for the position. A six-figure salary for an entry-level job probably isn’t going to happen.

If you have an idea of how much you should expect, you’ll be better prepared to counter your salary with an appropriate figure when the time comes.

2. Take Some Time, but Not Too Much

When you receive your offer, you may be tempted to jump right at it. But your potential employer isn’t going to revoke the acceptance if you don’t agree right away.

Immediately after being given the offer, take a moment to think about it. Then, ask if you can have the night, the weekend or a day or two to think over the job and the salary they suggested. But don’t ask for too much time. Expecting a few days or a week may be pushing it.

By hesitating before accepting or countering, you’re showing that you’re seriously considering it. You’ll have time to study the numbers, develop an argument for why you should have a higher salary and then come up with a productive way to present it.

3. Remember Your Other Benefits

While the salary is the major benefit just about everyone looks at, it probably isn’t the only benefit you’ll be given. Health insurance, paid time off, 401(k) contributions and stock options can all be just as beneficial as cash.

Before you come back with a counteroffer, consider what other benefits the company is giving you.

If you’re not given many perks, you may want to have a higher counteroffer. On the other hand, if you have a benefits package that you don’t think you can find anywhere else, allow that to influence your negotiation strategy.

4. Negotiate Using Professional Facts

You’re awesome. We know that, and you know that. But being awesome isn’t enough of a reason to get a salary boost.

If you’re going to ask for a higher salary, be ready to back up why you deserve that extra money. Use your professional experience to show that you’re worthy of a larger salary.

Some possible selling points are the number of years you’ve been in the industry, a special skill that other candidates may lack and whether another company is offering you more money for a similar job. However, stay away from threatening attitudes while negotiating.

5. Present Your Counter and Hold Your Ground

When you counter a salary offer, be specific about what you’re looking for. Instead of saying you’d like a higher salary, tell them how much higher you’re looking for.

Jumping all over the place with your expectations can present you in a bad light. Rather than having a professional negotiation, changing your expectations makes it look like you’re trying to take advantage of what the company can offer you.

However, if the company is unable to meet your expectations, be flexible on what you demand. If they present you with another counteroffer that you feel is reasonable, let go of your original number and find common ground.

6. Don’t Bring Up Your Personal Needs

When negotiating a salary, you’re most likely thinking of all the bills you need to pay and those random personal finance problems everyone has from time to time. But while they may be pushing you to ask for more, they shouldn’t be a part of your negotiation strategy.

While paying student loans, rent and bills are all important, your potential employer isn’t going to raise your salary just because you have financial obligations. They’re more likely to give you a higher salary because of the work you can provide.

Present your argument in terms of what you can provide, rather than what you need.

7. Show Your Enthusiasm for the Job

When negotiating a salary, it’s easy to only focus on the money or the benefits. But if this is a job that you would really like to have, don’t allow the monetary aspects of the position to be your main focus.

If you focus too heavily on the salary, the company may believe you don’t really want this job — you only want a job. If they feel you’re not dedicated to the company or the position, they may not be as flexible.

Throughout the negotiation process, continue to express enthusiasm for the position and what you’ll be doing on the job. Apply your arguments to the job specifically, to show that you care about more than just the money.

8. Look for Red Flags

During the entire interview process, you should be looking for red flags about the company that may show what it’s really like to work in that office. The negotiation process is also a time when you should be alert to unprofessional tactics.

If, during the negotiation process, you feel that your prospective employer is acting unprofessionally or has unrealistic expectations for the position, it may be a sign that you need to walk away. Having an employer who is unwilling to raise a low salary for a demanding job could mean they expect more for less in other areas as well.

Companies should be prepared for a counter, even if they’re unable to raise their budget. The way they act during the negotiation can give you a look at how future discrepancies may be handled.

9. Have a Cutoff Point

When you come back for a counter, you may make the decision to say a number that’s a bit higher than you actually need. While that’s a good strategy, you need to have a clear cutoff number in your mind.

Salary negotiations typically follow a similar process. First, the company will provide you with a number on the lower side. The candidate will then counter with a number slightly too high. Then, the two can work together to find a number in the middle that pleases both parties.

Before going into your negotiation meeting or presenting a counteroffer, know the minimum salary you can afford. By keeping this number in your mind, you can ensure your salary needs are met.

10. Focus Only on Major Changes

Negotiating a salary is okay. What isn’t okay is trying to change every detail on your job offer.

If you find that your salary, benefits, time off and work hours aren’t agreeable, it may be a sign that it just isn’t the right job for you. But if just one or two things needs adjusting, feel free to address them with the hiring manager.

Getting greedy or picky with your job offer may make it seem like you’re difficult to work with. Focus on the major changes you need, such as salary, and consider asking for smaller changes or shifts when you’ve been on the job for a while.

11. Don’t Lie

When negotiating a salary, you want the hiring manager to believe you’re a hot commodity. But lying about other offers you have and how much they’re willing to pay you will undermine your credibility.

If you have another offer, feel free to mention it during the negotiation process. However, lying about other offers only makes you seem unprofessional and desperate.

You never know who the hiring manager knows personally or professionally. If they discover you didn’t actually have an offer from another company, or that you lied about the salary offer, you risk losing your job.

12. Be Ready to Hear ‘No’

Countering salary offers isn’t uncommon, but they don’t always happen in the job candidate’s favor. If you decide to ask for more money, be ready to get shut down.

Some positions will purposefully offer a salary at the lower end of the budget in hopes of saving some money. Others will offer you the maximum, meaning they don’t have room to give you more money even if they wanted to.

Know what you will do if the manager tells you they’re unable to raise the salary. Be confident, but have a plan if the negotiation doesn’t go your way.

13. Know When It’s Time to Call It Quits

When countering a salary, we all want to believe we’ll get exactly what we ask for. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. You need to know your end point before beginning the negotiation.

If you feel that your requests will not be filled, know when to walk away. If a higher salary is not in the budget, continuing to negotiate will only be a waste of time.

Don’t try and fight your side of the negotiation until you get your way. Recognize when the conversation has come to a standstill, and walk away if necessary.

14. Get the New Offer in Writing

If you’ve been successful in your negotiation, you’re probably feeling pretty excited. However, you’re not done yet.

Before you’re finished, get your new offer in writing. This can ensure that both you and the hiring manager are on the same page moving forward, and that all your needs are met.

If something that you agreed to is not in this new written offer, feel free to speak up. There’s a good chance it was just forgotten, and changes can be made.

15. Send a Thank You, Regardless of the Ending

No one wants to walk away from a job because the salary wasn’t right, but if it does happen, be prepared to send a thank you note. While the company may not give in to your expectations, they still wanted to hire you and took the time to negotiate with you.

Don’t burn any bridges by not being appreciative of their effort. Thank them, and then keep the communication lines open. You never know when they may be able to hire you at the salary you were after.

On the other hand, if you successfully negotiate a higher salary, send your new employer a thank you for the offer and for considering your counter. Let them know you’re excited to get started and that you appreciate the opportunity.

Above all, if you’re considering countering a salary, don’t let fear hold you back. With these fifteen tips and tricks, you can be well on your way to getting the salary you deserve for your hard work.

Let us know what you thought of this list! If you have friends or family that could benefit from these negotiation tips, feel free to give it a share. If you have any other tips on how to counter a salary offer, let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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