When you apply for a job you’re enthusiastic about, your excitement may deflate when the company offers a lower salary than you expect. Now you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, trying to decide whether to accept the low-ball offer because the job interests you and hope for the best or walk the thin line to negotiate a better pay scale, more in line with what you deserve. Here are some helpful tips on how to counter a salary offer, ensuring the best chance for success.
Come Prepared (Know Your Value)
The most critical step in ensuring you acquire a salary that reflects your skills is to come to the table knowing your value. After all, how can you sell your value to others if you don’t even know how much your skills are worth?
Do some research to evaluate how much someone with your credentials and experience can feasibly expect, and make sure to factor in the benefits your employer is offering.
Next, factor in any additional education or licenses you may possess above and beyond what others in your field have, as these are positive selling points you can use as leverage in your negotiation.
After all, a basic tenet of persuasive writing is providing supporting evidence. You are more likely to achieve your desired goal if you have solid reasoning for why you deserve a higher salary.
Conduct Industry Research
It’s human nature for an employer to want to acquire the best worker for the lowest price. If you do not know the average pay scale for the position, you’ll likely accept a lower salary, perhaps without even realizing it.
Try to glean any possible information about the company’s salary payout in advance so that you know what your employer will likely offer you. In that case, you’re well-equipped to transition smoothly into a counteroffer.
Similarly, you can use many online tools to see what your occupation’s salary and benefits should be. Research is essential to anchoring your value and providing a reasonable argument on which to base your counteroffer.
You can look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which lists most positions, education level and median salary.
Additionally, look at your potential employer’s benefits package to see if it compensates for a lesser salary.
Don’t Accept an Offer Immediately
When you receive a salary offer, wait before accepting it. It’s not disrespectful to reflect, consider your options, and potentially make a counteroffer. Doing so is often good business sense, trying to get the best value for your work.
Take the time to research your offer, consider the benefits, and decide whether you want to counter. When your hiring manager offers salary numbers, consider responding in the following manner:
Thank you for the offer. I’ll need a few days to consider it and will get back to you as soon as possible.
Make sure to establish a point of contact with the company within that time frame so that you aren’t disrespectful of their time.
If you’ve reviewed the offer and find it acceptable, then you’ll want to send a gracious acceptance email.
I’m pleased and excited to formally accept your job offer for X position at this company. I appreciate your willingness to discuss compensation that benefits both of us. I’m excited to start on Y with a starting salary of Z.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Being a prospective hire is an exciting development in your career, but you shouldn’t consider your status as an applicant a reason to avoid negotiation.
As long as you do it properly, there’s nothing inappropriate or disrespectful about expressing your discontent on a salary offer. Still, if you’re a people pleaser, you may need to adjust your mindset to consider what is best for your situation.
If your research suggests that the offer is under-value for the job, look for work elsewhere rather than accept a low-salary offer.
Preparing to Propose a Salary Counter Offer
According to a survey from Fidelity Investments, 58% of Americans accept a salary bid with no questions asked. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking an offer, you could miss out on better pay and benefits. Remember the adage, “Ask, and you shall receive?” This concept certainly rings true when negotiating with a hiring manager.
Making a counteroffer is an effective way to increase your salary and benefits. Statistically, 85% of Americans who propose a counteroffer get at least some portion of their counter. Consequently, the odds are in your favor, so when the opportunity arises–take your best shot!
Establish a Specific Number
Whether your counteroffer is slightly or significantly higher than the original offer, you still want to have a specific salary amount in mind. The best strategies involve setting an end goal and then working backward to achieve it.
Having a specific starting point opens up the floor for negotiations, rather than offering vagaries that don’t benefit you or your employer, only adding confusion and opening the door to miscommunications. This opening offer is generally an amount you would love to have but greater than what you are willing to accept.
After all, this is a negotiation, not an ultimatum. Your hiring manager will likely try to talk you down from your counteroffer.
Knowing the minimum amount you are willing to accept is essential, as it gives you a bottom range and sets a boundary for when you should walk away and try your fortunes elsewhere.
Consider the following questions:
- What number is your bottom line?
- Are you happy with the same salary and a better benefits package?
- Are you satisfied with a higher wage but fewer benefits?
Answering these questions beforehand will help you preempt your employer’s response and prepare for counterarguments.
Express Your Interest
Pairing your counteroffer with a continued interest in the company is essential. While any respectable company will understand your attempt for a higher salary, it’s a red flag to employers if your sole focus is monetary compensation.
Demonstrating respect and appreciation for the offer conveys professionalism; similarly, taking the time to research the “why” of your counteroffer is an important step. It’s not enough (and certainly not practical) to say, “I want better pay.”
Consider the following two examples:
- “I’m not happy with the salary at this position, and I want better pay if I’m going to work for you.”
- “I respect your salary offer, and while I’m enthusiastic about working for you, a salary of X would be more appropriate given my valuable experience and qualifications.
By exhibiting an appreciation for the offer and using a well-researched counteroffer (as demonstrated in the second example), you are standing up for your professional value while still maintaining a tone of respect for their time and consideration.
You may end up parting ways with the company if you can’t both agree, but at the heart of the matter, most companies will be willing to negotiate or, at the very least, explain why the salary is non-negotiable.
Remember, you shouldn’t feel as though you’re being disrespectful to the company by doing so. Negotiating is integral to a business relationship, and defending your value shows you know what you’re worth. Your resume can’t adequately define some attributes, and it’s vital to expound upon those characteristics when planning a counteroffer.
Don’t just consider your qualifications; focus on your work ethic, unique experience, and ability to work in a team setting. You acquire these three virtues outside the classroom, and they are vital to an employee’s success in many occupations.
Making the Counter Offer
Here is a breakdown of the counter offer itself. To begin, express a continued interest in the company, sell yourself, branch into your counteroffer, and end with a call to action:
Thank you for the opportunity to work with your team. My experience will prove helpful towards the betterment of the company. However, I’d like to discuss my salary further.
Since my research demonstrates that the average annual salary for this position is X, I’d like to discuss the possibility of moving my compensation in that direction. Please let me know whether you are open to discussing these changes, as I am a hard worker who will make a positive impact on your team.
My extensive experience working with Y from my time at Z company will prove of great benefit, and I am a team player with the ability to meet deadlines without prompting. I take the initiative with projects to ensure they are done correctly and in an efficient manner.
I appreciate your consideration, and I look forward to your response.
If you find the company unwilling to consider the offer, you can accept the offer anyway or turn them down to pursue other options.
If they do make a counteroffer, but you’re unhappy with it and wish to end negotiations, you can offer a polite refusal such as this:
Thank you for your employment offer. I appreciate your willingness to compromise and your communication with me. After consideration, I’ve decided not to accept the position.
I regret that negotiations didn’t work out for us, but I hope you find the right candidate to fill the position.
Discussing pay with a potential employer can be stressful, but it’s worth at least having the discussion. Any sensible company understands that employees are looking to get the most value out of the work they’re offering and, whenever possible, are willing to accommodate.
If you don’t think a salary offer reflects your best interests, then suggesting a respectful counteroffer based on logical reasoning is your best bet for earning a better salary.
Further reading: Now that you’ve successfully negotiated your salary and accepted the offer, it’s time to start working on that resignation letter. Here is an article discussing the art of writing a respectful resignation letter. Or, if you haven’t heard back in a while, maybe it’s time for a letter of continued interest.