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Rules for negotiating: how to counter a job offer

Rules for negotiating: how to counter a job offer

Artwork by: Pablo Cammello

  • Why should you consider countering a job offer?
  • How do you politely counter a job offer?
  • Common mistakes to avoid
  • Key takeaways

What if we told you that you don’t have to settle on the first job offer you receive? There is a way you can negotiate the salary and other terms and conditions of your employment. Read on to learn all about the art of countering a job offer.

There are several moments in life worth celebrating, one of them being when you receive a job offer from an organization you really want to work with. If you’ve recently received that coveted letter or email, congratulations! But before you accept the job and pop a bottle of champagne, you should first learn how to counter a job offer.

By having an effective countering strategy in place, you can negotiate your remuneration package, employment terms, and other particulars even after receiving your job offer. This way, you can come to an employment agreement that works well for you, as well as your new employer.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into

  • The benefits of countering a job offer

  • Tips on how to counter a valid job offer

  • Common mistakes to avoid when working on a countering strategy

Why should you consider countering a job offer?

Job applicants are well within their rights to make a counteroffer if they disagree with the initial job offer, package, and/or employment stipulations. In most cases, job applicants find that the remuneration package is not up to their expectations, which prompts the need to counter the offer. 

Statistical Insight

According to a recent CNBC report, more than 80% of Americans who countered a job offer on the basis of salary, perks, or other aspects of the job ended up having some of their terms and conditions accepted during the years 2020-2021.

When you’re making a counteroffer, you should thank the hiring manager for offering the job and clearly state your request(s) using valid evidence. If you’re wondering, ‘should I even counter a job offer?’, then here are a few reasons why you should:

To set clear expectations

Picture this: you’ve accepted a full-time job offer at a company that requires you to come to work 2 days a week. However, you’re recovering from an injury and are unable to commute. What should you do?

In this scenario, you should consider countering the job stipulation. You can, respectfully, inform your employer that you will not be able to make the commute to work until you have fully recuperated. This is where an effective countering strategy will come in handy. 

To ask for a better salary

Oftentimes, your starting salary might not be what you expected. In most organizations, salaries are revised after the employee successfully completes a year. Hence, if you don’t negotiate your salary before accepting the job offer, you’re probably going to have to stick with it for your first year. And for the next year, you’re probably looking at a 10-15% increase.

To assess the organization

Countering a job offer can give you some insights into the organization itself. For instance, how far is the company willing to go to retain talent? Are the company’s hiring policies fair? Does the company truly believe that its compensation package and terms of employment are in line with the job duties and responsibilities? This type of initial assessment allows you to determine whether the company is a good cultural fit for you.

How do you politely counter a job offer?

Once you receive your job offer, you’ve moved from being a job applicant to a (well, almost) new employee. As such, your tone for the negotiations should be polite and professional. Here’s what you need to do when countering a job offer:

Ask for some time

If you feel like there are some things on your job offer you’d like to change, don’t rush into accepting it. Instead, reach out to the hiring manager, thank them, and request 2-3 days to respond to the offer. In case the job offer already provides a reasonable deadline to accept it, then you can use that time to research and prepare your counteroffer. 

Do your research

In the event you plan to counter the salary on your initial job offer, you first need to do your research. Use the internet to look up the industry-average salary for that job role being offered in your region. Assess your cost of living to determine whether the salary will suffice. Doing this initial research will help you decide on a starting salary that meets your expectations and is in line with your education and experience. Speaking of credentials…

How to counter a job offer: evaluate your own credentials

Even if the remuneration and benefits package is at par with the industry average, you can still use your education, prior job experience, and job-related skills to present a case on why you think you deserve more than what’s being offered. Focusing on your credentials will only strengthen your case for a better salary package or some other flexibility you require. 

Prepare a counteroffer

After you’ve done your research, it’s time to put together a counteroffer. By asking for a better package, you might be able to secure your ideal salary even if the company agrees on a lower amount than what you’re asking for. 

Expert Tip


When providing a counteroffer on salary, it’s better to provide an exact figure than a range. There are two benefits to this approach. Firstly, it shows the company that you know exactly what you’re worth - which can be a testament to your confidence. Secondly, this figure will give the hiring manager a starting point for salary negotiations. 

Explain where the offer falls short

Countering a job offer isn’t only about proving why you’re right. It’s also about telling your prospective employer why they might be wrong about your salary and benefits package. When providing your counteroffer, you need to explain to your employer why their offer falls short of your expectations. 

Talk about your strongest skills and attributes and provide clear examples of how you will impact the business’s bottom line. After pitching yourself, the next step is to provide your counteroffer. Worst case scenario: the company will say no to a raise in salary. However, this gives you a chance to negotiate other aspects of your job offer. 

Negotiate the terms and conditions of the employment

Preparing and presenting a counteroffer is just another fancy way of saying ‘negotiating on your job offer.’ Whatever changes you want your employer to make to your initial job offer, you need to provide clear justifications.

It’s best to prepare a document with your counteroffer and talking points before walking into a negotiation meeting. Practice a dry run with your friends or family members. The better prepared you are for the negotiations, the more likely you will settle on a job offer that’s better suited for you. 

Be willing to compromise

Whenever you’re negotiating on any aspects of your job offer, you want to be firm, but also try to be a bit flexible. Your goal is to let your potential employer know that you’re well aware of your worth and know what you need, and you’re also willing to figure out a win-win solution.

If your hiring manager does not agree on one aspect of your counteroffer (such as a higher salary), you can talk about another aspect of your job that might compensate for your original demand (such as more paid time off or better stock options). Try to remain as positive, professional, and reasonable as you can throughout the negotiation process.

Decide on the final offer

After the negotiations have ended, you have the option to either accept or reject the revised job offer. If you feel that the job offer is still not going to be worth your effort, it might be a good idea to explore other employment options. Irrespective of your final decision, you must show your respect and appreciation to the employer. Who knows, they might consider you down the line for a better offer or a new and exciting opportunity!

Common mistakes to avoid

It’s extremely rare for employers to rescind a job offer just because you made a counteroffer. However, there’s still a risk of running into such a bleak situation. This is why whenever you’re planning to counter a job offer, do your best to avoid the following mistakes:

Giving ultimatums to the employer

Effective negotiations only work in the absence of ultimatums. Perhaps, in the heat of the moment, you decided that your salary wasn’t enough and you said to your employer, ‘Give me $[X] more or I won’t accept your offer.’ Such statements won’t work in your favor. Your employer will likely perceive you as emotional and unreasonable and decide to hire someone else instead. Your objective is to establish a polite and professional back-and-forth on your job offer to create a win-win solution for everyone.

Assuming the worst

Just because the company rejected your counteroffer doesn’t mean that your negotiations must come to an end. Some job roles may require a lot of back-and-forth between the job applicant and the employer before a reasonable offer is decided upon. If you still want to work at that company, you can bring up your counteroffer discussion after completing your first year at the organization and you’re having your performance evaluation meeting.

Key takeaways

Even if you land your dream job, there’s still a possibility that your job offer might leave much to be desired. Perhaps the pay isn’t good enough or there are employment conditions that don’t exactly work in your favor. In such circumstances, you should consider preparing a counteroffer.

  1. If you decide to prepare a counteroffer, don’t rush into accepting your job offer first. Talk to the hiring manager about the possibility of negotiating on some of your employment clauses.

  2. Do as much research as you can to determine what exactly it is that you’d like to change about your job offer and what’s your proposed solution.

  3. Like all negotiations, salary negotiations can be tough. Your objective should be to focus on your own strengths and the value you will bring to the company. Use this to prepare a case for negotiation.

  4. Throughout the negotiation process, try to be as polite, respectful, or professional as you can. Be willing to compromise and avoid giving any ultimatums to the employer.

  5. If the revised job offer still doesn’t meet your expectations, you are at liberty to reject it and look for other jobs. Even if you choose not to accept the job offer, try to be as polite with the employer as you can. A little bit of politeness goes a long way in professional relationship building!

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