top of page

How to Counter an Offer: Secrets from a Former Head of HR

Congratulations, you received an offer letter! You are excited and feel that sense of pride for getting to this point. As you are reading the offer, you realize that the number is not exactly what you had in mind. However, you like everything about the company, the branding, the team fit, and the culture. Soon that pride will be replaced with emotion and the internal conflict to either accept a lesser offer or to ask for more and risk losing it. What should you do?

This scenario is very common and happens more often than not, where money is left on the table. This is one of the many reasons as research has shown for the wage disparities between BIPOC and everyone else. As a prior Head of HR and Recruiting, I have seen first hand.

This isn’t fair to anyone and needs to change. That’s why now, as a coach, I’m passionate and dedicated about educating and coaching others in salary and promotion negotiation tactics, especially women and BIPOC professionals who are unfortunately most negatively impacted.

How to Counter an Offer

Believe it or not, how to negotiate/counter an offer is one of the most asked questions I get from people at all stages of their professional journey. This goes to show that is not something that is reserved for those just starting out their career.

In an ideal situation, your best leverage to negotiate would be to have another offer as your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) yet, sometimes that is not the case so you have to carefully ask for more without turning anyone off.

Do not accept the offer right away

Before you verbally accept or hit the electronic signature button, take a moment to pause.

Send a thank-you note within a day of receiving an offer

Send a thank-you note to request at least a week to consider the offer. Most employers will accommodate. If the situation occurs where a time limit/expiration is provided, you should not budge from a timeline that is within your comfort level ( I have not come across any employer that is not flexible in this regard). Keep in mind, you are their first choice for a reason.

Here is an example of this email. Keep it short and to the point.

“Thank you for the offer, I like to take a few days to carefully consider it before I respond, Best ____”

Go back to your research and gather your data

Revisit your market value research. Based on my experience, a good counter can be between 10-20%. Ten percent is a number that is not unrealistic and is an easier pill to swallow. Yet, come up with a number you want to counter that is close or equal to what your research points out. Some other factors to consider are how much the company needs you, and how much you need this job.

Send an email to the recruiter to schedule a time to chat.

Let me first say that there is nothing wrong with sending an email with all your requests through what you write may mistakenly come across as cold or entitled. A better option will be to set up a call with your direct contact, either recruiter or hiring manager. In this case, you can then sound more human and provide an opportunity for empathy regarding your circumstance and request.

An example of such an email could be something like:

“Hi___, I hope you had a good weekend,

I’ve been carefully considering the offer. Although everything looks good. I would like to set up 15 min to discuss and further clarify some components of it. Are you available for a 15 min chat?”

The Call

Step 1- Position your ask (Frame it)

As you start the conversation first reiterate how excited and grateful you are for receiving this offer and for the amazing opportunity that has been extended to you. It’s important to demonstrate your interest and how you really like to be part of the organization.

Here is an example of a potential conversation with a recruiter

“Hi [Name of Recruiter,]

Thank you so much for extending this offer.

I wanted to say that after meeting everyone on the team I'm convinced that this is the right opportunity for me and you are the place that I see myself over the next few years.

In particular, I believe I’m a good match for this position because based on my past experience I have the skills and qualities to [name a few skills and experience that relate to core needs of the job] hit the ground running and contribute from day one and help ease some of the challenges with {name one or two major challenges that were mentioned during the interview} that the team is experiencing.”

Step 2 - Introduce the main ask: Base Salary

Deliver your ask:

“The base salary for the offer states $____, which is a good starting point, however, again based on my research and demonstrated experience that I’ll be bringing to this role, I was looking more for $______. “

Step 3 - Silence

Be silent. If necessary mute the phone until you hear from the other side but do not speak or try to fill the gap until they speak. More likely than not the recruiter (or whomever you are speaking with) will respond with something along the lines of:

  • I need to get this approved by finance.

  • I need to run this up the chain.

  • Let me see what I can do.

To which your response should be something like

“I appreciate that, I’m happy to send you a follow-up email after this call, by when do you think you will have an answer for me?”

More likely than not, this strategy will give you the number that you are looking for if you have done a good job in demonstrating your value along the interview process.

Yet, there is the possibility that they counter you with the number that is still under the amount desired. If that were to happen, there are two options.

  1. Pivot to the overall package by looking at other compensation components, such as 401k match, stock options, vacation days, budget for education, or career growth activities such as conferences, coaching, or certifications. Give them options.

  2. Have a second “ this is my line in the sand” number handy, and ask for other areas that the company can get creative.

Here is how it should sound:

“Thank you so much for getting back to me with $___. I so very much appreciate it. One thing that we have not spoken about are the other areas of the overall compensation package such as ___, ____, ____. Would it be appropriate to talk about them? Because $___is much better than the previous number is still not up to par with what the market rate, given my research reflects I should get with this role.”

A final note: Check your limiting beliefs.

This is Personal for me

I'm really passionate about this particular subject because it is personal to me. I once left money at the table for fear of losing an opportunity, a move that I came to regret later on.

Looking back I have come to realize that just knowing that I could ask for more is not enough. If you have the wrong mindset, you will not get paid what you deserve. At the time, I believed that I was going to be recognized and surely be paid more. Long story short, I was dead wrong. In my next performance review, I only received 4% of my base and only then I finally understood the situation.

Since then, I made a promise to myself to never let that happen to me or others and that’s why I created a unique coaching program Elevate, and Own, Your Voice package where I teach others the skills and the mindset to develop confidence to get that next-level-up opportunity.

If you can only take away one piece of advice from this article it is this, please advocate for yourself. There will always be other opportunities but you can’t get back the time lost for the work you do that is undervalued. Trust me avoid the frustration, you will be glad you did.

Ready to elevate and own your leadership voice? Apply here.


bottom of page