How to Counter Offer Your Salary - The Full Guide


One of the basic facts of adult life is that job searching is horrible. You might have thought in your high-school days that looking for a job would involve flicking through pages of jobs that are well within your skill set, in the perfect location, and well-paid. Then when you find one you like the look of, you simply swipe right on the one which offers you two months of paid vacation time, a free Mac laptop, and weekly massages. The next step is obvious, right? They obviously get in touch with you within the hour begging for you to accept their contract. 

The reality of job hunting is absolutely nothing at all like this. It’s draining, it’s time-consuming and it’s a little bit depressing when nothing much happens right away. If you are unemployed and are looking for a job, the timeframe between when you send off your application and when you might be invited in for an interview can feel glacial, to say the least, and it’s arguably worse if you’re in a job you don’t like. 

It’s demoralizing to show up to a job you would rather skip because you feel as if the work you do there doesn’t matter and you can’t invest your energy in the people there because you’re hoping not to see them again as soon as someone offers you a better job. 

When an offer finally comes your way, you’ll likely be so relieved that you’ll agree to pretty much any terms of employment they offer. Two nights a week babysitting the assistant manager’s niece in addition to your usual duties? “Sure, I love kids!” Timed bathroom breaks which will eat into your vacation allowance if you go over the time limit? “That’s totally fine.” 

What about a salary barely over the national minimum wage for a job you had to go to college to qualify for? “Um, I guess that will be OK,” you stammer down the phone.

There are a lot of things you can afford to compromise on when negotiating your employment contract, but wage is one that should be approached very carefully.

Let’s take a look at why your salary should be a conversation you have with your employer and how to make it work in everyone’s favor. 

Also read: Can You Deposit Someone Else's Check In Your Account?

Table Of Contents


Why Would I Negotiate My Salary?

A 2017 survey found that fifty-six percent of workers say they do not negotiate for better pay when an employer offers them a job, but if you’ve been looking on job search sites recently you’ll notice that the majority of skilled roles are presented as a range. For example, a job might outline the salary as being from $23,000 to $29,000. 

This means that the pay is probably dependent on how much experience the successful candidate has to qualify for the role. The employer does not wish to put off people with a lot of experience for the job simply because the pay is a shade too low and similarly they may be happy to give someone with less experience a try and train them up themselves. The pay range is a guide, but it’s a good idea to crunch the lowest amount they say they offer to see if that will work out to be enough to support you and maintain your lifestyle. If the answer is yes then being able to negotiate for more will only make your life better.

woman at laptop

Interestingly, fifty-two percent of employers say that when they extend the first offer to a candidate they usually offer a lower wage than they are actually willing to pay. Fifty-three percent of employers say that they are willing to negotiate for salary for initial job offers and over a quarter of employers say they purposely offer around five thousand dollars less than they are willing to pay the candidate. 

Also read: How Do You Calculate Net Pay?

Given these statistics, we wonder why so many people are not comfortable or don’t feel able to counter their potential employer’s offer. The survey tells us that a lot of employees are afraid of appearing greedy or desperate if they try to counter their employer’s offered wage. Some people may think that attempting to counter their offer may result in their offer of employment being withdrawn and are too afraid to try it in case they lose the job altogether or get off on the wrong foot with their new boss. 

There are instances where it might not be prudent to make a counter negotiation regarding pay. If this job is well above your experience level and you know you are lucky to have been given the opportunity, then you might want to consider thanking your lucky stars and accepting the lower amount. 

Then again, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know and it’s quite usual for employers to include a clause in their contracts that forbids you from discussing rates of pay with your colleagues, specifically so employees don’t find out they are all on different rates of pay for doing the exact same job. 

So why should you counter an offered amount from your next employer? Well for two reasons. Firstly because over half admit that they are willing to pay you more, and secondly because if you don’t ask, then you definitely won’t get it. 

Also read: Can You Cash a 2-Year-Old Check? 


What is a Counter Offer?

If you are buying a house, you might come across a listing that claims it is seeking “offers over $500,000” or such. This does not mean that the buyer won’t accept a penny less than that amount, although it might in some cases. But it’s a guide to show where negotiations can begin. If you feel like trying your luck you could offer $470,000 and see what they say. If the seller comes back to you saying that they won’t accept less than the asking price then that is your counter offer. 

You can make another offer of $490,000 which they may well accept or they will counter again and perhaps say $495,000 and then you both agree and settle the deal. Through negotiation, everyone is happy with the outcome.

Likely a property vendor would refuse the first offer no matter how much it is, but this is not usually the case with initial wage offers as we know they are usually accepted without incident, that’s because it is totally usual to negotiate and barter for properties. So, why is it not OK to barter for jobs? The short answer is that it is perfectly alright, but how do you go about asking for money when you find talking about money awkward. It’s more simple than you think.

Also read:How To Prepare Your Accounts For New Hires 

man at laptop


How Can I Counter Offer Salary?

Don’t be afraid to feel that the sum of your expertise and experience adds up to more than you’re being offered. Don’t be offended and get defensive with them, though. They are not trying to make you feel undervalued. Here are some things you should consider observing before you accept, reject or counter any offer of salary for a new job, or a promotion within your company.

  • The first thing you should do when you receive an offer of salary is to wait. Not forever, but if you are in a face-to-face meeting with the employer or their representative, it can be really difficult not to just accept it there and then. Resist this urge so you have time to do the following. 

  • Search the market. We’re not suggesting you shop around for a better job than this one, you remember how horrible job hunting is right? What we’re saying is that it’s a really good idea to see what the industry standard of pay for that job role might be. Make sure you’re checking the pay ranges in the place your potential employer is located. There’s no sense in demanding a New York rate of pay when you live in Kansas. 

  • Ask if there is any flexibility in their offer of wages. This is an inoffensive way of opening up discussions about pay. This will also give you some idea of whether you would be wasting your time in trying to negotiate. If they say that the amount is not open to negotiation then you will then have to consider whether this is viable for you to accept or not. But in that case, you should feel more assured that other employees at the same level as you will also be earning the same as you. 

  • Do not ask for a wage that is higher than the range they have stated they are willing to pay on the job application. If they offered you Forty thousand dollars a year and you ask for forty-five thousand, then they might accept, but if forty thousand was the top of their pay range, to begin with, then you should think seriously before making demands that exceed it.

  • Do ask for a day or two to think it over before you accept when a final offer is made. This will give you sufficient time to find out if their offer is reasonable in the wider context of the industry and explore other options if necessary. 

  • Do not try to negotiate multiple times or for petty amounts. Employers can easily get annoyed if you counter an offer of $40,000 with an incremental amount like $40,050. That’s just wasting their time and actually does make you look a little greedy like you’re just seeing how hard you can squeeze them.

  • Consider other benefits and perks. Sometimes an offer may seem unreasonably low, but there may be other benefits that make it seem more generous than at first glance. If the use of their gym, a travel allowance, a free computer, accredited training, a company car, or shares in the company are included in your contract then this could add up to rather a lot of dough your employer is willing to spend on you. It’s not an excuse for an unrealistic salary, but it is worth taking into account. 

  • Put offers in writing where possible. If you can, try to draft a letter or email to make a counter offer and make sure you sound professional and reasonable in it. This means that you and they have a record of how much is agreed on. If you negotiate in person, then just ask for them to put in writing via email what you have discussed and agreed in the meeting, and then just send back a quick line stating that this is either correct by your understanding or is not what you had discussed in person. If there is ever a quibble over your salary in the future, you’ll then be equipped to evidence the earnings you are entitled to.

Also read: How To Manage Personal Finances

man at laptop

Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, you will have to live with the decisions you’ve made about any job offered to you. The saying “everyone has a price” should not incentivize you to ask for more money if you are offered a job you know you won’t like doing as this is unlikely to fulfill you for long. Similarly, you cannot ask an employer to reconsider their rates of pay if you do not know your worth on the current market. Using your previous job’s pay rates as a guide may not be accurate, so make sure you do your research on your applicable pay range.

Try to remember that if you think you are worth more than they have offered, the employer may well agree with you, but it’s not good business practice to volunteer to part with money they don’t have to. It’s generally a bad idea to negotiate aggressively with a potential employer. 

While they do require someone to do the job they’ve offered to you, it’s likely they have more candidates than you have job offers, so make sure you stay realistic in your expectations and polite in your dealings. If this puts you off trying to counter offer for your salary, remember that half of employers expect to have to pay you more than they initially offer, and if you don’t ask for perks or a higher salary, then you are certain not to get it. 

When you actually do get that right job offer and you have that dream salary coming in then you will more than likely be receiving a pay stub which will tell you all about your salary and pay deductions such as tax. Our pay stub generator makes generating these pay simple and easy to do.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, if salary negotiation is unsuccessful or limited, consider negotiating for benefits like additional vacation days, flexible working hours, or professional development opportunities.

Research salaries for similar positions in your industry, location, and experience level on websites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Networking and talking with colleagues can also provide valuable insights.

If your counteroffer is rejected, remain professional and thank the employer for their consideration. You can either accept the initial offer, continue negotiating, or decide to decline the offer and explore other opportunities.

It's generally appropriate to counteroffer if the initial offer is below your expectations, or if you have researched your market value and believe you can justify a higher salary.

Be prepared to negotiate, as the employer may come back with a counter-proposal. Know your worth and establish your limits, but be open to finding a middle ground.

Present your counteroffer confidently and professionally. Explain your reasoning, highlighting your skills, experience, and the value you bring to the company. Be prepared to back up your claims with evidence (e.g., salary data).

Factors to consider include your market value, industry standards, the cost of living in the job location, your experience, skills, and the company's compensation package (including benefits and perks).

If you have multiple offers, use this to your advantage in negotiating, but avoid playing companies against each other. Be honest about your situation and use the competing offers to demonstrate your market value.

Avoid making ultimatums, being aggressive or confrontational, and focusing solely on your personal financial needs. Instead, emphasize the value you bring to the company and the fairness of your proposal.

The best time to bring up a counteroffer is after you have received a formal job offer and after you have discussed your qualifications and experience.
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How to Counter Offer Your Salary - The Full Guide
James Wilson

After graduating from McCombs School of Business in Texas, James joined ThePayStubs as a CPA to make sure the numbers we provide our clients are correct. Read More

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