Receiving a job offer is exciting, but it also leads to one of the more daunting parts of the hiring process: salary negotiations. If the initial number presented by the company doesn’t meet your needs, having a strategy for managing the counteroffer is essential. If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a look at how to counter offer a salary and win.
How to Counteroffer a Salary and Win
1. Ask for Time
Before you respond to a salary offer, request a reasonable amount of time to consider it. Start by thanking the hiring manager for their consideration thus far, allowing you to start on a positive and gracious note. Then, ask if there is a deadline for a decision. In some cases, the hiring manager will let you know how long the company can wait. If they don’t have a set timeline, request two business days to respond.
Generally, two business days are enough to prepare a counteroffer. Plus, the request isn’t so long as to make it seem like you’re trying to string the company along.
If the hiring manager expects a decision in less time, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a strong counteroffer. However, anything less than 24 hours could indicate the business is trying to rush you, potentially making it harder to handle any research before beginning negotiations. While that’s not inherently a red flag, do make a note of whether the hiring manager is putting a lot of pressure on you and keep it in mind during future conversations.
2. Know Your Value
Figuring out a fair salary to present as a counteroffer generally requires some research. You’ll want to spend time learning about the average compensation for similar positions in your area. Additionally, you’ll need to factor in the value of the skills and experience you bring to the table.
Typically, you’ll want to use several resources to determine what pay rate is appropriate, as each one may be accessing data from different sources. Additionally, make sure your research is location specific, as compensation can vary from state to state or even city to city.
The goal here is to identify a figure that feels competitive to you but also leaves space for the company to counter your offer. Often, the easiest way is to identify a salary range that seems appropriate. Then, you can present a number that’s on the higher end, giving the company room to negotiate down while still remaining in your target range.
3. Examine the Offer
After finishing your research, take a close look at the initial job offer provided by the hiring manager. Along with the salary information, make sure to review the benefits, perks, and bonuses listed. In some cases, a lower pay rate is offset by benefits, perks, or bonus structures that exceed what’s found with competitors. As a result, you need to factor in the value of them when determining whether your potential salary counteroffer is fair.
Additionally, benefits and perks are points you can potentially negotiate, too. Knowing that option is available is helpful if a company doesn’t have much room to negotiate regarding pay rates but can make adjustments to other parts of the offer. For example, you may be able to request more paid time off in lieu of an increased salary.
Knowing that’s an option allows you to see where your counteroffer can potentially go if you encounter resistance during the discussion. That way, you don’t feel stuck either accepting the offer as-is or walking away. Instead, you can pivot, focusing on other points that provide you with value.
4. Prepare Several Paths
Once your research is complete and you’ve reviewed the benefits package, it’s time to prepare for several different paths. First, you’ll design your initial salary counteroffer, as that’s likely what you’ll present first. After that, consider other points you’d potentially negotiate and what you’d request, giving you additional pathways to a fair offer if a higher pay rate isn’t an option.
Essentially, this process is about being prepared for any response the hiring manager may give. That helps keep the conversation rolling while leaving you confident and collected along the way.
5. Present Facts
When you present your counteroffer, remain focused on the facts. After highlighting your ongoing interest in the role, tell the hiring manager the salary you think is fair and provide some details regarding why you came to that conclusion. For example, you can cite your salary research as the basis for your counteroffer.
The goal here is to ensure you’re backing up your requests with solid data. That not only helps you remove emotion from the equation, but it also makes your case more compelling overall. As a result, you may have a higher chance of getting a pay rate that leaves you satisfied.
After you present your initial counteroffer, it’s time to listen. How the hiring manager responds can help you determine where you may need to focus your energies next. Plus, using active listening skills ensures that you don’t miss a critical point.
Again, it’s critical to set emotions aside while the hiring manager speaks. By concentrating on the details they’re sharing, you’ll have a better chance of continuing the conversation in a positive manner.
After the hiring manager shares their perspective, it’s time to find a compromise that leaves everyone feeling satisfied. For example, you can attempt to balance off a lower salary with improvements in the benefits package, as mentioned above. Just make sure that you remain fact-focused throughout, using data or highlighting your value to show why you’re making various requests.
Additionally, you want to listen carefully to any input from the hiring manager. Not only will that help you determine with points of the offer are negotiable and which aren’t, but it can also give you a lot of insights into the hiring manager’s mindset, the company’s culture, and more. At times, that information is incredibly revealing and may even show that a job you thought was a great fit isn’t necessarily the match it seemed to be on the surface.
8. Make a Decision
Once the negotiations show that there’s no more room for adjustment, it’s time to make a decision. Ideally, you’ll have found some middle ground between the initial offer and your first counter offer. If that’s the case, request the new offer in writing, and review it to ensure it matches what was covered in the discussion before signing.
If you and the hiring manager aren’t able to find a happy medium, then it’s time to determine if the job is genuinely right for you. In some cases, the negotiation process can reveal culture issues or other challenges that could make the position a poor fit. At times, it may simply demonstrate that the company either can’t afford reasonable compensation or isn’t willing to try. If that happens, then walking away may actually be a win, as it lets you focus your efforts on other opportunities that can pay you what you’re worth.
Do you have any other tips that can help someone figure out how to counter offer a salary successfully? Have you tried any of the recommended strategies above and want to tell others about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for numerous financial websites.