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How to Negotiate Salary While Countering a Job Offer

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

If you get an offer for a great job but the salary is lower than expected, you can negotiate your salary with a counteroffer. That way, you aren’t unhappy about accepting a job that is paying you less than you’re worth.

Here are several tips to help you courageously negotiate a salary that reflects your skills and experience.

1. Work Within the Response Deadline

Usually, a job offer will come with a response deadline. The employer needs to fill the position and probably interviewed other people. They are usually willing to wait one to three days for you to respond; if they wait longer than that, they risk losing the other potential candidates and starting the process over.

If the employer doesn't mention a response deadline, thank them for their consideration and tell them you need a little time to think it over. Keep it at one to three days maximum to avoid excessive delays.

2. Research Salary Ranges for the Position

Given your experience, what are other companies offering for this position in your field? You can search salaries on ZipRecruiter or look at similar job postings.

Having hard facts to back up your salary negotiation makes you more confident in your request. It also ensures that your counteroffer falls within a reasonable range.

Not every company is equipped to meet the highest potential salary in the industry. Some smaller companies may not have the resources to compete with larger corporations in terms of compensation. In this case, instead of a higher salary, you can ask for other benefits that would make it easier for you to take the job. For example, you may be willing to accept a position that pays on the lower end of your target range if you can set your hours and come to work after you've dropped your kids off at school.

3. Determine the Right Approach for Your Counteroffer

Many employers make the lowest offer they think you might accept, leaving room for a potential counter. One poll indicated that 73% of U.S. employers expect candidates to counter the initial job offer even though 55% don't even try to negotiate their starting salary.

The approach you use to negotiate your salary in your counteroffer will depend on how close their offer is to your minimum acceptable salary.

Scenario One: Offer Is at or Above Your Minimum

If your job offer is already at or above your minimum acceptable salary, then your purpose in countering is to try and maximize your salary and benefits before you start the job. You want to give the employer an opportunity to make a higher offer without pushing too hard.

The rule of thumb when you negotiate salary with a counteroffer is between 10% and 20% of the offer amount. If you like the job and would accept the first offer rather than pass on the job, a counteroffer of 10% to 15% above the initial offer is not too aggressive. It potentially pushes up your starting salary without raising too many eyebrows.

For example, if the company’s initial offer is at your minimum of $60,000, you could counter at $66,000, but be prepared to accept either way.

On the other hand, if you have other job offers but would prefer this employer if they agree to a higher salary, you may counter at 15% higher or $69,000. You might even round that up to $70,000, so it's an even number.

Scenario Two: Offer Is Below Your Minimum

If the offer is below the minimum salary that you had in mind, your approach to the counteroffer will be different. Instead of testing the waters to see if negotiating a better salary is possible, you must decide on an acceptable target and your approach.

In this scenario, you may be tempted to aim for your minimum. However, the downside of this approach is that the best-starting salary in this scenario is your minimum target.

If their offer is 20% or more below your minimum acceptable salary, the best approach is to tell the hiring manager you appreciate the offer and would like to accept it, but need your minimum to move forward.

4. Support Your Counteroffer With Evidence

Whether it is competitive salaries for similar positions in your industry or the qualifications you bring to the table, back up your counteroffer with evidence. The strength behind a successful negotiation is the value you bring to the table.

Your prior salary at another position is not a strong argument. Nor are your personal expenses and the money you need. The best support you can use to negotiate your salary in a counteroffer is your experience and industry-standard salaries.

5. Sample Emails

Here are two sample emails so you can understand how to structure and support your counteroffer request.

In this first example, the offer was $42,000, which is below expectations according to industry standards.

Dear Mr. Hunt,

Thank you for the offer! I'm excited about the opportunity to work at SnailBait Inc. as a Human Resources Assistant.

With my experience implementing new technologies and streamlining processes in the HR department of Junior Alums, I am confident that I can modernize and increase efficiency in the department at SnailBait Inc. 

Before I sign the offer, however, we need to discuss the base salary. My research shows the average salary range for similar positions in the Atlanta area is between $45,000 to $55,000. I would like to discuss moving the offer closer to $50,000.

Again, I am delighted to have been offered this position. I look forward to speaking with you again soon.


Charles Westin

In this next example, the offer was $70,000. This is within the expected range for the position and industry, but below expectations based on the applicant's qualifications.

Dear Ms. Samuelson,

I was excited to receive your email! Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Before formally accepting the proposal, I need to discuss the base salary. With my specialized certifications in supply chain management and history of nearly perfect accuracy and projects finished ahead of schedule, I know I will bring great value to Magma Limited. Because of my 10 years of experience in a high-volume, international position, I am looking for an offer closer to $80,000.

I am thrilled about this offer and would love to discuss the possibility of adjusting my starting salary.

Warmest Regards,

Mary Berg

Dos and Don'ts for Negotiating Salary While Countering a Job Offer

As you prepare your offer and get ready for their response, here are some dos and don'ts.


  • Prepare for the employer's response. Think about possible outcomes and how you will respond.

  • Be flexible and show a willingness to compromise. If they cannot meet your salary expectations, what benefits may fill the gap for you? For example, vacation days, remote workdays, or stock options.

  • Submit what you want in the first counteroffer.

  • Clarify for yourself the conditions under which you will walk away versus accept.

  • Be prepared to walk away if it's not going to work for you.

  • Remain professional and respectful.

  • Support your request with numbers, facts, market data, and your accomplishments.

  • Be firm and confident.


  • Counter with a number lower than what you will accept.

  • Base your counteroffer on feelings or financial needs.

  • Be overly aggressive or rude.

  • Turn down the offer expecting them to come back with a higher number.

  • Resentfully accept the first offer without asking for more.

  • Tell them you'll turn down the offer unless you get X.

It's Okay to Counter a Job Offer

When you've spent weeks or months submitting resumes and interviewing, it can be hard not to jump at the first job offer. While you don't want to make unrealistic or unreasonable demands, it's okay to negotiate your salary while countering a job offer.

Plan your strategy based on how much you need the job and how close the offer is to what you want, and make sure to back up your claims with data and facts. Be professional, grateful, and positive, and give your potential employer a chance to respond.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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