Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter
If you’ve received a job offer that doesn’t quite hit the mark, it’s time to counter it. And if you don’t feel like negotiating the salary in person, you can opt for writing a counter proposal letter.
A counter proposal letter is your ability to respond to the job offer in a written format. It will help you outline your reasons for continuing negotiations and making your case for a specific, more acceptable job offer.
This guide will help you write a counter proposal letter that gets results. The guide consist of the following sections:
- Taking your time to consider the offer
- Doing your research to support your counter proposal
- Consider non-salary items as part of your request
- Focusing on your value in the letter
- Suggesting the right figure
- Talking about the offer in style
- Showcasing enthusiasm
- Using the right kind of language
At the end of the guide, you’ll find a template and an example letter to help you with your writing.
So, let’s get started!
TAKE YOUR TIME TO CONSIDER THE OFFER
Before you start writing your counter proposal, it’s important to step back for a moment and consider. You don’t want to make hasty decisions when it comes to something as important as this.
When you receive an offer, the most important thing is to ask for time to review it and to ponder your options. By taking this time to analyse and consider your options, you allow yourself to better respond to it. Your response will end up being more coherent and thorough. This will be key to getting what you want with these negotiations.
Taking time will also send a message to the employer and show them you’re not in a rush to accept. They will know you won’t just accept whatever they throw your way – you take the crucial step of highlighting that you understand your worth and you are looking to negotiate.
So, when you receive an offer, you’re first response should just be to thank the organization and ask if it’s OK for you to review it over the next few days. You can do this in person or in writing. The key is to mention the following:
- Thank for the offer
- Re-iterate the main points of the offer (especially if not in writing)
- Say you’ll be reviewing the offer over the next two days (never ask for over a week) and responding to it after
Remember to then use the time to actually think about the offer. Be specific about the parts that disappoint you and those that might not. You want to sleep on your decisions to make sure you listen to your heart and your head.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
You’ll then need to move on to conducting research. Research is an important part of negotiating your salary because you won’t know whether an offer is worth accepting or not if you don’t know your worth.
You can’t ask for more money just because you ‘feel’ like it or you ‘need’ more. The reason for your rejection must be based on facts. You can’t ask for more without having something to back your argument.
You need to focus your research on the following points:
- What are your particular skills and experience worth?
- What are the averages for the role and the industry?
- What kind of financial situation is the company in and what are the typical salaries for its employees?
To learn more about all those three points, you should use online resources to your advantage. Here are a few websites that offer free information and salary calculators for you to use:
- Know Your Worth Tool at Glassdoor.com
- Salary Survey at PayScale.com
- LinkedIn Salary
- Indeed Salary Search
You also want to study the company slightly and check if they’ve been in the news lately or if they are hiring a lot. Your counter proposal must be realistic and therefore, if you find the company is in debt and has laid off multiple people recently, you probably won’t be able to expect a huge improvement to your salary (but you might be able to negotiate other perks!).
Then, once you’ve done the research, you can examine the offer and how it matches your findings. Since you’ve found the job offer to be too low, compare it with your findings. Is it low compared to industry standards? Is it low in the terms of the location average? Is it low in terms of your experience?
When you know the answer and you have an idea of just how ‘low’ the offer is, you can start thinking about the next steps. You should use the research to:
- Determine the acceptable range, and consider the averages in the role and your unique skills and experience.
- Gather facts to support your counter proposal.
So, instead of just figuring a counter proposal figure, you can use the information to support your argument. You won’t need to write your proposal with you just asking a random figure that’s more than they offered. You can say with evidence why you think their offer is too low and you want more.
What this research does is help you write things like:
“According to my market research, the average salaries for the position fall between $100k-140k. Therefore, the proposed $80k falls short and I would be happier to discuss a salary closer to $110k.”
CONSIDER ACCEPTABLE NON-SALARY ITEMS
When you’re considering the proposal, it’s important to focus on other benefits and perks aside from the salary. Even if the offer is too low in terms of the salary, you might be able to negotiate other perks that make the offer slightly more appealing to you.
Non-salary items can be a good way of making a job more enjoyable and motivating. They can be good things to add to your counter proposal because they show the employer you are willing to negotiate beyond just the salary. You showcase the all-important negotiating tactic: the ability to compromise.
The non-salary items might not always be the most important at the start. But you definitely want to keep in them in mind and especially if you encounter the moment where the employer says, they just can’t increase the salary.
The non-salary items that many people negotiate include things like:
- Flexible work arrangements, including working from home or choosing your own work hours
- Holiday perks such as paid vacation time
- Employee benefits such as free parking, food vouchers, gym memberships and so on
- Bonuses and benefit schemes, like commissions and pension plans
- Insurance options such as health insurance, life insurance and so on
Another great benefit to consider is development schemes. It can be a good tactic to ask the employer to pay for training and development in the near future – this shows your enthusiasm for the role and it can allow you to develop your skillset for the future.
If you have to relocate to the role, you should also consider negotiating relocation packages as part of your job offer. If you choose to do that, always remember to back it up with research and data. For example, explain that you have to move from the other side of the country, your living costs will increase due to the relocation and so on.
You can do living standard research online. Check out the following tools and calculators:
FOCUS ON YOUR VALUE
The focus of your counter offer letter should be in highlighting your value. It’s important to state to the employer you would be a valuable addition to the organization. And not just say it but also show it.
You should go over the requirements for the role one more time, writing down the reasons you match those requirements. You can simply use a format like this for now:
|The skill needed for the role:||My supporting argument for having it:|
Use a conversational tone when writing your example arguments. For instance, if the role requires good communication skill, write about your experience of running a helpline for five years.
Then you can narrow it down to two-three sentences that highlight your skills and match the best. These should be the key things you think will drive up performance and help you shine.
Of course, you want to showcase how you are even better than what the company was looking for. So, make sure you remind yourself of the ways you’d add value to the organization. The extra talent, skills and experience you would bring.
You can think of this as your Unique Selling Point (USP). What is the one reason the company should hire you? You might already have this prepared for the interview. If you don’t, just think about it and write it down.
The idea here is to make sure you can show why you are worth a specific amount of money. Your counter proposal shouldn’t just be to argue what you want but what the company is going to get by hiring you.
You’ll need to have around four sentences of your value to the organization prepared for the letter.
SUGGEST A FIGURE SLIGHTLY HIGHER SALARY THAN YOU’D ACCEPT
If you’ve received a job offer that’s too low, you shouldn’t make your counter offer exactly what you’d accept as the minimum. The company is already undervaluing you and it’s likely that they will either:
- Accept the low counter offer you make outright, or
- Try negotiating it even lower.
Therefore, the figure you suggest should always be slightly higher than what you’d accept as the bare minimum. This gives you more room to negotiate and guarantees you don’t have to settle for something less than you deserve.
Your earlier research will help you at this point. It’s important to remember here that your figure must reflect your worth but also be realistic in terms of what the employer can pay. So just asking for the moon and the stars is not beneficial or practical.
Since you are making a counter offer, you shouldn’t try dancing around the subject. You want to go to the point and present the organization with an actual figure you’d like to negotiate. They’ve already offered a figure so now it’s your time to do the same – no one wants this process to last forever!
Let’s say the employer has offered you $100k but you find the average salaries in the role to vary between $105k to $120k. You’ve done your research and it shows your specific skills and experience puts you to a $105k to $110k range. You then calculate that your red line is the lowest average pay, which is $105k. This is acceptable to you and your living standards, considering the role. But it’s not quite your ideal.
Now, you don’t want to ask for this but your counter proposal should be closer to $108k. This is still not too high considering the initial offer but it also gives more room to negotiate.
Of course, this all depends on how low the initial offer has been. If it’s clearly lower (+10-20%), then you have to consider whether it’s best to just tell the employer you find the offer rather disappointing and ask them for an altogether new offer.
If it’s just slightly amiss, then you can offer a higher counter offer. You generally want to ask around 5% more if the job offer is too low – if it’s above your red line.
TALK ABOUT THE ACCEPTABLE AND NON-ACCEPTABLE PARTS OF THE JOB OFFER
It would help your cause and negotiations to find something good about the offer. It’s always easier to continue negotiations if you can agree on something. So, go over the proposal and think if there areacceptable parts to itand get serious about the things that aren’t.
You then want to take note of those things you don’t agree and which you want to negotiate further. This gives you the core of your letter.
The things you should go over are:
- What is the proposed salary?
- Are there annual bonuses or commission?
- When is the salary review? Does it include an automatic increase if you hit targets?
- Do you have a relocation package?
- What are the other benefits?
Your counter proposal should go over each of those points the employee offered and proposed. This has two functions. It will:
- Re-iterate the proposal and make sure you both are talking about the same issues.
- Help you focus on the pain points and the acceptable parts of the offer, giving you space to counter them.
So, in your letter you want to outline each point and clearly state if you accept it or if you’d like to talk about it further. When you are pointing out things that are non-acceptable for you, the key is to back your reasoning and counter proposal with evidence.
You can write down your thoughts on a chart like this:
|The job offer perk (such as salary):||Acceptable or not?||If not, what to offer and why?|
DON’T FORGET TO SHOW ENTHUSIASM
Your letter should have an enthusiastic and positive tone. Surely, you are disappointed at the offer you’ve been handed but you don’t want to show this disappointment to the employer. Furthermore, even if you are not happy with the salary, you still want to make it clear that you are excited about the role.
If you make it just about the money, the employer is likely to want to negotiate. They don’t want to hire someone who is there just for the paycheck. They want someone motivated and hardworking.
On the other hand, if your counter proposal letter highlights your enthusiasm and genuine interest for the position, the employer will feel more positive about negotiating further. They understand you’re serious about the role and they will listen to your concerns and arguments regarding the pay.
Therefore, you have to start by thanking the employer for the opportunity and outlining your reasons for wanting the job. After you’ve done that, you can move onto the more serious issues regarding the pay.
In addition, you should always conclude your counter proposal letter with another two things you’re most looking forward to in the role.
Here are a few phrases that show enthusiasm and are, therefore, great to add to a counter proposal letter:
I’m excited by the opportunity to work together/with you/in the organization.
I’m eager to start working/beginning a project/implementing a new strategy.
I’d be honored to be part of the team/organization.
DON’T USE DEMANDING OR CONFRONTATIONAL LANGUAGE
Just as you want to maintain an enthusiastic language, you also have to avoid getting confrontational about the pay. Even though you didn’t like the offer, you don’t want to come across demanding and rude.
A good way of doing this is to avoid making demands. You don’t want to be asking for something but rather raising questions regarding the pay. Here are a few examples on how to do this (and what not to say):
|Good things to say||Bad things to say|
Your letter shouldn’t read like a ransom note. Instead, you want it to be a conversation mover – something that doesn’t stall or end the negotiations but takes them from point A to point B.
Above all, throughout your letter, your language must be respectful and polite. This isn’t the place for insults or ultimatums, no matter how much you hated the offer.
After all, if you are respectful and nice, back your claims and request with evidence, then you are more likely to get a good response. And if the employer doesn’t agree, then you can just respectfully decline and move on to better job offers!
When you’re writing your letter, you should also focus on avoiding phrases like “I know” and “Let me point out”. They feel confrontational. Instead, when you’re voicing a disagreement, say that “I understand” and “I can see where you’re coming from”. They show empathy and a real desire to compromise.
AN EXAMPLE COUNTER OFFER LETTER
You know have all the tools to create a good counter proposal letter that gets results. Here are the final tips and an example letter to guide you in this mission.
The template to use
First, when you are writing your counter offer letter, you want to organise your letter in the following format:
|Body of the letter||
An example letter
With that in mind, here is an example letter to help you write your own proposal letter. While you shouldn’t copy it, you can use it as inspiration and guidance when writing.
Dear Mrs Smith,
I appreciate your offer of the position of Account Manager at the XYZ Company in New York. The opportunity to work in an exciting work environment is enticing. I believe my strong background in startup management and communications will help me improve your organization’s Accounts department. I hope to reach those sales goals we discussed during the interview!
I found many parts of your offer acceptable but I would like to go over some of the points that I think need refining. Your suggested starting salary of $88k is 5% lower than I was expecting. The industry average also falls 5% higher and so I would like to propose an increase of 2.5%. I found your relocation offer of reimbursing all transport and property hunt related costs to be generous and I would like to accept them. However, I’m slightly concerned about the lack of credible pension plan option. I would like to discuss this with you further before accepting the job offer. Your proposed starting date was on the 22nd September but I wonder if this could be pushed further back by a week, considering we’re still negotiating the total compensation package.
I’m looking forward to joining the team. I believe I can add value to the team through my 5 years of management experience. You can contact me at 123 321 to continue our discussion or, alternatively, reply to this e-mail.
I look forward to hearing from you!
SUCCEEDING WITH YOUR COUNTER PROPOSAL LETTER
The above points and strategies will help you write a counter proposal letter that gets success. The points guarantee you focus on the right issues, conduct proper research to back your requests and use a language that gets results.
So take the tips and board and write a counter proposal letter that’ll help you get your dream job and the right compensation!