How to Counter a Job Proposal

by Dana Severson

You’ve spent months in interviews, meeting with one person after another from various departments at a potential employer. Finally, the hiring manager slides a piece of paper across the table. It’s a proposal for the job -- but the salary offer is below what you expected for the role. Be prepared to counter the offer. If you accept the offer as is, the repercussions — as far as pay goes — may follow you for years.

Research the salary of similar positions in your area. Consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, which offers up-to-date information on its website. Check online job boards, and contact business organizations and recruiters. Many placement agencies publish yearly salary reports that are free to review. If you discover that the salary offer isn’t comparable to the industry standard, use your findings when you counter the job proposal.

Factor your own worth into the number. Do you bring more years of experience to the table? Did you earn an advanced degree? What about professional certifications? Do you hold any in-demand skills, such as systems analysis, operations analysis, programming or marketing strategies? Anything that you offer an employer above and beyond the requirements for the job may justify additional pay.

Prepare a counteroffer in writing. Thank the employer for the opportunity and assure him of your interest and excitement in joining the team. Emphasize your strengths, such as experience, education and skills. Describe the positive effects you’ll bring to the company, such as increased sales revenue, greater productivity or better efficiency. Recap the offer made in the original job proposal, then follow with your counter-proposal, making sure to support it with research that you’ve compiled.

Prepare yourself for a counter to your counter-proposal. Some companies have very little room to negotiate job proposals, and you may need to offer alternatives to your counter-offer. Consider asking for a signing bonus or an abbreviated schedule for performance reviews instead of a higher salary. Maybe additional vacation time or professional training opportunities could bring you into the fold. Stock options or a 401(k) match are other possibilities.


  • When countering a salary proposal, always ask for a bit more than you’re willing to take — within reason, of course. If the employer counters, you may end up getting exactly what you want.


  • Keep personal aspects out of the negotiation process. Just because you have three kids, a high mortgage or a sizeable school debt doesn’t necessarily mean you “deserve” more money. Employers want to pay you for your skills, not for your circumstances.

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

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