How to Counter a Job Offer
Updated 26 February 2021
What Is a Counter Job Offer?
Receiving a job offer is very exciting, especially when it is your first job. But sometimes the offer is not what you expect it to be.
What should you do when you receive an offer that is below your expectations? Do you accept it, or do you reply with a counteroffer?
52% of employers admit that they offer a lower package, expecting you to negotiate. 53% say that they are willing to negotiate initial offers for entry-level employees.
However, 56% of employees do not go ahead with negotiations because they are:
- Uncomfortable talking about money
- Worried their employer will change their mind
- Don't want to appear ungrateful or greedy
So what exactly is a counteroffer, and should you make one?
A counteroffer is similar to a salary negotiation but can also involve benefits and working hours.
For example, your potential employer may offer you $30,000 with ten days' leave, and a benefits package of bonuses for targets met, subsidized gym membership and healthy lunches.
However, knowing what the industry norm is, you feel that $32,000 and the option to work your own hours is more appropriate – especially for your job role.
So should you present a counteroffer? And if so, how?
Pros and Cons of Making a Counteroffer
The pros of making a counteroffer are:
- You get the employment package you feel is more appropriate
- It shows your employer that you know your worth
- It shows employers that you are able, and willing, to appropriately negotiate
- It indicates a level of maturity and confidence that employers want
The cons are:
- Your employer may not appreciate you negotiating – remember, only half of employers are willing to negotiate
- Your offer may be rejected. In which case, you need to decide if you can accept the original offer or if it is best to move on
- The original job offer could be rescinded altogether
Quite simply, knowing whether or not you should negotiate is a personal choice. The worst-case scenario is that you lose the job. The best case is that you receive a better package. It all depends on your circumstances at the time of negotiation.
How to Successfully Negotiate a Counteroffer
If you do decide to present a counteroffer, then you need to do so in an informed and concise manner.
- Evaluate the offer you have been given. The compensation offered for a role may not be purely financial. You may be offered discounted shares, a company car or subsidized gym membership. Work out the true value of what you have been offered before negotiating.
- Do your research. Check websites like Glassdoor and Indeed for salary averages so you know exactly what salary you should be receiving. Before you make a counteroffer, you need to ensure you are requesting a reasonable and suitable number for your position.
- Know your value and show your potential employer that you are deserving of this new package. What can you deliver? How can you improve the company? What have you already achieved? You probably would have already stated this in your interview, so reiterate in relation to your new benefits.
- Mind your manners. People are more inclined to cooperate with those they like. Politely present your offer. If you decide to present the offer in person, be respectful, and keep calm – don't raise your voice or show any frustrations. If you opt for a letter, then take the time to be personable. Be concise and present only the facts.
- Negotiate everything together. Decide what you want and negotiate it all at once. You want salary X, benefit A, B and C, and Y hours/flexible working locations/flexible hours. That way, you and your employer can work on a compromise quickly and effectively. Going back and forth with different options will only frustrate the person you are negotiating with.
- Prepare. Take the time to prepare your pitch letter or speech. Develop your points and make sure they are presented logically. Identify any questions your potential employer may have about your counteroffer, so you have answers ready.
- Find a mutual agreement. There is a chance that your potential employer may agree to your new proposal. But there is a greater chance that they will want to negotiate further. Be open and willing to lower your offer and meet in the middle.
- Don't rush. Take your time to do all your research and construct your counteroffer. Consider sending a thank-you note explaining that you will think about their offer and give an approximate date for your answer. This allows you to make an informed decision and keeps your potential employer informed.
How to Write a Counteroffer Letter
Depending on the previous forms of communication, you may decide to present your counteroffer in person, in a letter or via email. As most correspondence is online, email is most common, with letters following.
There are several benefits to writing an email or letter instead of negotiation in person.
- It takes away the stress of having to do it face-to-face
- It leaves a paper trail as all the conversations are documented
- It can play to your writing strengths
- It gives your employer the time to consider your proposal
When writing your letter or email, consider the following:
- Write your terms as requests, rather than demands
- Back your requests with evidence from your research
- Explain how those requests will improve your work output
- Reiterate your skills and talents
- Avoid emotive phrases such as 'I need'
- Proofread before sending
The structure of your letter/email should include:
- A header with your contact information and employer details. If you are sending a letter, then include both yours and your employer's details, as you would any formal letter. An email should include your name and the job title in the subject-line.
- An introduction thanking your potential employer for the opportunity, and one or two details explaining why you are perfect for the role.
- The body should detail your counteroffer. Dedicate a paragraph to each request and remember to include evidence. Don't jump around – ask for the financial benefits first, then the non-financial requests.
- Add a conclusion summarizing why you deserve the requests, a thank-you for taking the time to read your letter and an invitation to meet to discuss further, or contact details.
Example Counteroffer Letter
Dear Mr/Ms. Smith
Thank you kindly for offering me the position of PR Manager. I am delighted at the prospect of working for such a prestigious PR company and believe that we can deliver more for our clients with my experience and contact list.
I thank you for your offer; however, based on my research, the average salary for this position is X amount. Having generated $50,000 worth of exposure for my previous client, I would feel comfortable with a 5% increase in my annual salary.
Several agencies are now offering employees in this industry flexible working hours and locations. Our clients' audiences are global, and their social media engagement is most active in the evenings. As the targets are based on our results, I wonder if you would be open to the idea of allowing me to work my own hours, working when our target audience is most active.
I would, of course, be present for all necessary meetings, events and networking opportunities.
Once again, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I am excited at the prospect of working together. I believe that the above requests will help me to deliver my best possible work, and I am available at your convenience should you wish to discuss them further. I am also available to be contacted on XYX.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
There are a lot of fine lines between successful and unsuccessful negotiations. Make sure you take note of these key things to avoid:
Avoid Asking for Money That Exceeds Your Salary Bracket
Remember that organizations have salary brackets for each level. If this is an entry-level position, ask for a salary at the top of that salary bracket. Asking for a number that sits in another bracket could mean you won't receive a pay rise for some time or are rejected outright.
Don't Negotiate for the Sake of Negotiation
There have to be grounds for your requests, which is why we look at the package as a whole. Yes, your salary might be lower than you expected, but does it come with many other incentives and benefits?
We all want to see the highest number possible on our pay cheques, but sometimes the added benefits add considerable value to your salary.
It is a trend to encourage wellness in the workplace – does your package include a gym membership and on-site breakfasts and lunches? If so, how much money does that save you?
Don't Assume You Are Entitled to Anything
For entry-level positions, you may not have any substantial evidence to prove your worth, which is why your package is usually lower than the average.
The last thing you want to do is to make the impression that you are entitled to more money and better benefits without being able to prove it. This is, after all, a business transaction, and both parties want the best outcome.
Avoid Any Drastic Statements
Don't make statements such as 'I'll reject the job offer if I don't get A, B, C' unless you are actually willing to walk away from the job.
When considering a job offer, remember that 52% of employers are open to negotiation.
How successful your negotiation is depends on your approach and the values of your employer.
The main takeaways for making a counter job offer are:
- Be mindful of your language. You don't want to be too forceful or too emotive. Keep it factual. Avoid phrases such as 'My current salary is', 'My desired package is', or 'I want more'.
- Be personable. Yes, you need to keep your words factual, but negotiations will be more successful if they like you and your approach.
- Do your research and have the correct information. You don't want to get caught out trying to bluff your way to a better offer.
- Don't rush anything, including making the initial offer and accepting the first response.
If you believe and have the evidence that you should have a better package, then start negotiations.
Before accepting any offer, evaluate your situation. Are you at the beginning of your job search as a graduate? Have you been offered a pay rise but feel you could get more from another organization? Do you have other opportunities or options available to you?
If your potential employer does not want to negotiate, you have to wonder if it is the right place for you. If they are unwilling to negotiate with you at this stage, how will they approach pay raises or vacation requests?
Perhaps you should consider waiting for another job offer at an organization that values their employees more.
If the negotiations do not go the way you hope, at least you have gained insight into the organization's values.