Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


23 Ways to Make a Successful Salary Counteroffer

Negotiate from a Position of Strength for the Offer You Want

You finally made it to the salary negotiation stage of a job offer and want the job. But how do you counter without losing the opportunity? Salary negotiation is uncomfortable for any job candidate because you want to be paid equitably, but don’t want to appear greedy. You can negotiate from a position of strength, with some thoughtful planning and the mindset that you can win.

Here are 23 tips on negotiating a higher salary counteroffer so that you’ll be content upon joining your new employer.

Source: Dreamstime

Know your market value. Being knowledgeable about your value in the marketplace, based on your industry, experience, skills set and credentials – makes for the best argument in aiming for a higher final offer. Use such resources as: local salary surveys, guides and calculators, recruiters, mentors, colleagues, LinkedIn groups and online research. Let your interviewer know that you’ve done your homework.

Ask for time. It is often expected that you’ll think about your initial salary offer and respond to your prospective boss in a day or two, so bide some time: "I’m very pleased that you want to hire me, and I’m excited about the opportunity to work here. Can you give me a couple days to think about the offer?” You will look thoughtful about your decision versus impulsive or too anxious, even if the hiring manager is anxious to seal the deal.

Consider the whole package. Find out about the entire compensation, which not only buys you time, but also gives you a more thorough view of the offer. Beyond salary, consider: bonuses, vacation pay, insurance benefits, PTO, stock options, company car, childcare, 401(k), flexible work schedules and other perks.

Don’t cave. Try your best to stay consistent in your position. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be as flexible as the situation demands. But if you’re wishy-washy about your goals, you’ll lose credibility.

Stay strong. This is certainly the most difficult part of a job negotiation, but it can also be challenging for the interviewer who may not want to lose you. You’ve reached this point because they want to hire you, so let that be a source of strength and calm.

Don’t be greedy. Don’t push the limit too far and risk losing a great job. If you first asked for $90,000, and you get it, it will reflect badly if you later push for more.

Beware of hardball tactics. You’re still relatively early in the relationship with your prospective employer. If they react unprofessionally to a reasonable request, let that be a red flag that you may want to investigate further. This is your chance to vet your prospective manager to ensure that you're not jumping from the frying pan into the proverbial fire. Unreasonable behavior now could be the tip of the iceberg for a potentially bad boss or "Terrible Office Tyrant."

Be able to walk away. As any good negotiator knows, you have optimum leverage when you’re not desperate, and you’re not – so don’t enter the follow-up interview believing that you need this job at any cost. If you do, you’ll likely end up in the wrong job.

Stay realistic. It’s always worth trying to up the ante. But sometimes your range of negotiating power is limited. If you're slightly under-qualified for the position and their range is already generous, you may not have much wiggle room. Even if you're overqualified, you may still meet with resistance because the budget has already been approved.

Use commanding body language. Part of being an effective negotiator is using a firm voice, firm handshake, having strong eye contact – and minding your posture. Sit straight and remember to smile often.

Be professional. Even if the first offer was almost insulting, don’t lose your cool. Use your research to explain your position: "I greatly appreciate your offer and I’m very pleased that you want to hire me. I’ve reviewed various salary surveys and other research – and have identified a range for this kind of position as being between X and Y.”

Don’t curb your enthusiasm. Remind the interviewer about your overall interest in non-monetary aspects of the job: “This is a very exciting opportunity for me because I know I can contribute a great deal.” By putting the focus on your role in their future, you will soften the harshness of the negotiation, and they’ll know your heart is in the right place.

Be able to say “No,” nicely. If you can’t move the offer to where you need it to be, be able to say “No,” and explain your position. If there’s a huge delta between your minimum target and their maximum, don’t beat a dead horse. Know that you deserve to earn a reasonable salary to feel valued on the job.

Be able to hear “No.” “No” is part of any negotiation, but you may come back with a compromise or alternative that is amenable to both of you, such as alternative forms of compensation or salary reviews in three or six months.

Remain assertive, not aggressive. There’s a fine line between the two. Knowing when to back off is critical. Remain cordial but firm in your approach. This is not a good time to be humble, shy, and certainly don’t feel guilty asking for what you truly want.

Stay away from your personal financial needs. On your last round of salary negotiation, avoid discussing why you need the higher salary, such as your parrot’s recent veterinary visits or your car falling to pieces. Keep it about your contributions and market value. Remind the interviewer about your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): what makes you uniquely qualified for the job.

Listen more than you talk. The famous quote from Greek philosopher, Epictetus: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak,” applies here. Listen for clues on how hard you can push. Also pay attention to body language, such as crossed arms, eye contact and fidgeting.

You can put your counter in writing. You may not have the opportunity to meet face to face, or even discuss your counteroffer by phone. But your email may provide an even more concise communications avenue. Just be sure to compensate for its formality by being friendly and upbeat.

Don’t bluff. Avoid lying about fictitious job offers with fairy-tale salaries. It might backfire and your interviewer may lose trust or patience in you.

Be careful not to threaten. Be mindful of how you package information. Negative approach: “Well I have another job offer that’s higher, and if you can’t meet that salary, I can’t work here.” Positive approach: “I do have another job opportunity, but this is really my first choice. I’d like to find a salary target that is mutually satisfactory.”

Don’t take it personally. It’s easy to take it to heart when you ultimately don’t get the salary you think you deserve, but you have to separate fact from emotion. This is business, and there’s supply and demand for your “product,” some of which is out of your control. Knowing you’ve done your best job in the interview is sometimes the best you can hope for.

Thank them. Remember to show your gratitude and leave the conversation on a positive note.

Get it in writing. Before you end this final round, be sure to receive an offer letter summarizing all points. And if any information is missing, speak up.

Remember your power and leverage. You offer a sought-after resource in the marketplace, so don't settle.

More from Lynn Taylor
More from Psychology Today