How to Negotiate a Salary Counter Offer

By Mike Simpson

Few things are as exciting as getting a job offer. The problem is, if the salary the company presents doesn’t meet your expectations, it’s easy to go from pumped up about the opportunity to downright deflated in a matter of seconds. Luckily, if you have a salary counter offer at the ready, you can get your mojo back.

But creating a solid counter offer isn’t easy, right? Well, while it may not seem that way, that isn’t necessarily the case. By using the right strategy, you can put together a salary counter offer wise surprising ease.

If you need to figure out how to counter a job offer, here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Salary Counter Offer?

Alright, before we dig into how to counter offer the salary, let’s take a quick second and talk about what a counter offer actually is.

First, the formal definition of a counter offer is “an offer or proposal made to offset or substitute for an earlier offer made by another.” That really is the gist of it.

With a salary counter offer, you’re effectively rejecting the pay rate the hiring manager initially proposed and substituting it with a salary you think is fair. Your counter can be in writing or verbal, as the concept works the same regardless.

MIKE'S TIP: While you can present a salary counter offer verbally, even if the hiring manager voices their agreement, don’t consider the new pay rate official until it’s part of a formal written job offer. If it isn’t in writing, there is no guarantee that you’ll get paid that amount. The hiring manager could simply claim they never agreed to the new salary, leaving you potentially stuck in a job that pays far less than you expected. So, just as you don’t want to count your chickens before they hatch, don’t count on a new salary until it’s in a contract.

If you’re curious about the implications of essentially asking for more money, exactly what plays out after you counter can vary. In some cases, it leads to a pretty typical negotiation. You’ll have a bit of back and forth with the hiring manager as you both work toward a mutually acceptable number. Simple.

However, that’s not always what happens. Some hiring managers won’t negotiate, period. In those cases, they may push back hard. In others, they’ll view the counter as a job offer rejection and will assume you don’t want the position.

Other hiring managers may like the idea of negotiating but don’t have the room in their budgets to actually offer anything different. If that’s the case, the hiring manager is usually pretty open about that fact after you counter. Then, they’ll give you the choice to accept the job as is or turn it down.

Since you never know what’s happening on the hiring manager’s side of the equation until you counter, that means it is a bit of a risk. It could sour the moment and, in some cases, even cost you the job. However, would you really want a job that wasn’t going to pay you fairly? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

So, when is it appropriate to ask for more money? Is there a particular moment in the hiring process you need to wait for?

Well, yes, yes, there is.

Generally, a formal job offer happens toward the end of the hiring process. The hiring manager has decided you’re the perfect candidate, so they start trying to work out the details of your employment. Once that moment happens, negotiating is appropriate.

Now, you don’t necessarily have to wait until the job offer is in writing to counter. If the hiring manager presents a dollar amount verbally, you can make your request for more money then. They’ve broached the topic, so you’re in the clear to respond.

However, don’t throw out a different salary if you don’t have all of the necessary information. Usually, you want to know more than just the pay rate that’s on the table, as the value of various benefits could alter your perception of the salary. Additionally, you may need to do a bit of research to make sure your request is ultimately fair.

So, how do you make sure you’re ready to counter? Well, we’ll dig into that more when we cover how to counter offer salary.

When to Counter Offer

Okay, here’s another important point we need to cover: when to counter offer. While negotiating your salary is normally a good idea, that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where you should skip it.

First, the initial offer might be spot on. Yes, it happens; there are companies out there that present fair compensation right from the beginning.

If that happens, countering might either be unnecessary. So, if they give you a pay rate and benefits package that aligns with industry norms and your expectations, don’t feel like you have to counter if you don’t see the need. Instead, you can just accept, allowing you to start celebrating your new job with a bit less stress.

Second, even if the salary is a little on the low side, if the benefits are amazing, the total value of your compensation package might be in the right place. At that point, you need to decide if the stellar benefits outweigh the lower pay. In some cases, they will. If that’s the case, it’s okay to simply accept.

However, if the total compensation package falls short, it could be counter offer time.

By presenting a counter offer, you essentially start a conversation about compensation. If you have a strong case and the company is flexible, you create a chance to increase the pay rate or benefits package, bringing it in line with your expectations.

However, as mentioned above, countering comes with risks. Some hiring managers won’t negotiate regardless of how appropriate the initial salary is or isn’t. It could be pride driving that decision, a budget issue, or another problem.

Regardless of the reason, hiring managers in this group may draw a line in the sand. In most cases, they’ll give you a chance to get on their side of the line. But a few may view the counter as a rejection, not the start of a negotiation. If that happens, then they may rescind the offer entirely.

Even if the hiring manager is open to negotiating, that doesn’t mean your counter offer can’t get you into trouble. If your counter isn’t actually reasonable based on industry norms in your area, the hiring manager might start doubting whether you’re the right person for their team. Once that happens, you may see that job offer disappear.

That’s why getting your salary counter offer right is so vital. It eliminates at least one potential issue that can arise, decreasing the risk associated with asking for more money.

Determining Your Counter Offer

One of the most important things you need to do when you’re figuring out how to ask for more money after a job offer is determine what to request. Luckily, getting a solid target number isn’t as tricky as you’d think.

First, you need to set all of your personal feelings aside. Choosing a salary to present isn’t about gut feelings or what works best for your budget; it’s about what’s appropriate based on the job, your skillset, and industry norms in the local area.

So, how do you figure out what’s appropriate? By doing research, of course!

Ideally, you want to find out what professionals with credentials like yours earn while tackling similar job duties. Sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and can be great places to start. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has some helpful information about a wide range of professions.

As you explore salaries, focus on jobs with similar responsibilities in the company’s local area. If you look at different cities, you aren’t going to see local market rates, so try to factor in location as much as possible during your search.

Additionally, factor in the total value of any benefits. Some companies offer perks that others don’t, and those can potentially offset lower salaries. So, dig into the prospective employer’s benefits package to see if you need to look at your counter offer a bit differently.

Finally, don’t just pick a single dollar amount. Instead, define a salary range that is appropriate for the job based on your research. That way, you can present a number on the higher end as a starting point, giving you and the hiring manager room to negotiate toward a mutually acceptable number.

Common Counter Offer Mistakes

While negotiating salary is a typical part of the hiring process, that doesn’t mean you might not make counter offer mistakes. By knowing about common missteps, you’ll increase your odds of avoiding them. So, here’s a look at some of the mistakes candidates often make.

First, never negotiate just because you think you’re supposed to. As we mentioned above, some companies do offer fair compensation packages right from the get-go. If that happens, feel free to just say “yes” if you’re good with what’s on the table.

Second, don’t be too aggressive. It’s one thing to present a salary counter offer; it’s completely different to start making demands. Remember, the hiring manager doesn’t “owe” you anything. So, keep the right mindset as you’re discussing pay.

Additionally, don’t bluff when you’re presenting a counter. If you say that you’ll have to walk away if the hiring manager can’t offer a particular amount, you better be willing to follow through. Why? Because, if you don’t, one of two things will happen.

One, if the hiring manager can’t meet your request, they may assume you’re turning down the job, causing you to lose the opportunity. Two, even if they’re open to keeping you in contention, you’ve lost all of your leverage. You’ll essentially have to accept whatever they’re willing to pay if you want the position, as they know you don’t actually intend to walk away.

Last but not least, not negotiating the salary if the initial offer is low is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. While a stunning 56 percent of candidates don’t ask for more pay, that doesn’t mean you want to be part of the majority.

Why? Because 52 percent of employers initially offer less than they’re willing to pay specifically because they expect candidates to negotiate. If you don’t present a counter offer in those situations, then you’re potentially leaving money on the table. That’s never a good thing.

Top 10 Counter Offer Negotiating Tips

If you’re trying to figure out how to counter a job offer, here are ten tips that can help.

1. Find Out Why They Offered That Number

Asking the hiring manager why the company feels the initial offer is fair can be incredibly enlightening. Plus, it gives you a chance to counter points they present, potentially opening them up to the idea that a different pay rate is more appropriate.

2. Request Time

If the hiring manager presents a job offer, you don’t have to respond with a counter right away. It’s perfectly fine to ask for 24 hours to consider their proposal, giving you a chance to go over it fully before developing a counter.

3. Look Beyond Salary

While most candidates focus on countering the salary, not looking at the total compensation package is a bad move. Instead, ask if there is anything outside of pay that’s also negotiable. Can the hiring manager through in more perks? Is a signing bonus or relocation expense coverage available? Could they add or improve any performance bonuses? Would they offer more paid time off in lieu of higher pay?

By looking beyond salary, you may find other ways to boost the value of your compensation package in a way that works for you.

4. Determine You’re Priorities

If there are certain points in your counter offer that are high-priority to you, know what they are before you start negotiating. That way, you know where you’re willing to make concessions ahead of the conversation with the hiring manager.

5. Identify Your Dealbreakers

Before you discuss your counter offer, decide if there are any dealbreakers in the equation. That can include a specific salary amount, particular benefit, or anything else that’ll cause you to talk away if it doesn’t end up part of the deal.

6. Use a Fact-Based Approach

When you prepare to give a counter offer, tell the hiring manager why you feel the salary they presented doesn’t align with local norms. Highlight your experience level, skill set, and other credentials, and discuss what you discovered during your research. Then, outline your counter offer.

7. Discuss Total Compensation

When you present your counter offer, talk about total compensation and not just salary. By outlining your entire proposal, you show that you’re concentrating on the big picture. Plus, it can simplify negotiations by addressing it all at once.

8. Be Willing to Compromise

As mentioned above, being overly aggressive doesn’t work in your favor. Similarly, if you get demanding or issue ultimatums, the hiring manager might rethink offering you the job.

Instead, show that you’re willing to compromise. Let the hiring manager see that if they can’t offer you something in one area, you’re open to talking about other kinds of compensation to bring the total value in line with your expectations.

By remaining open and coming across as helpful and flexible, your odds of success go up dramatically.

9. Prepare for a Counter to Your Counter

After you present your counter offer, there’s a good chance the hiring manager may counter it. A bit of back and forth is a normal part of the negotiation process.

Don’t be offended if the hiring manager doesn’t agree with your proposal. In the end, their job is to try and get you to sign on for the lowest price possible, and that’s okay. Just continue with the back and forth until you either reach an agreement or one party determines it isn’t a great fit.

10. Walk Away If Necessary

While walking away from a job offer is hard, it might be a necessity. If you and the hiring manager don’t see eye to eye on compensation and accepting the job based on what they’re willing to offer doesn’t make sense, then thank them for their time and start focusing on other opportunities.

Putting It All Together

At this point, you should have a solid idea of how to counter offer a salary when you’re looking for a new position. Use every tip above to your advantage, and make sure to do careful research when it’s time to talk numbers. That way, you can present a competitive offer that makes sense base on your skills, experience, and local area, increasing the odds that you’ll get a fair pay rate in the end.

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.