How to negotiate your salary after you’ve received an offer letter

After a grueling interview process, there is no better feeling than opening an offer letter to inform you that you’ve landed a new job.

Seeing a salary offer that is lower than you expected, however, can definitely burst your bubble of excitement in a hurry. Knowing how to negotiate your salary after you’ve received an offer letter is crucial to ensuring that you can accept your new role with confidence.

A 2019 workforce study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor revealed that 58% of women and 61% of men surveyed negotiated their pay rate. Even if you’ve already received an offer letter for your new position, negotiating your salary is possible. 

You’ll want to approach the situation with a bit of finesse, but the first step of the process is to write a reply letter (or email, if that’s how your offer was sent) to ask for your desired salary. The technical term for this type of letter is a counter-proposal offer.

Basically, you’re countering the company’s initial offer with one of your own. While it may seem intimidating, this is a standard business practice. And honesty, the worst they can say is no.

What to include in your response to an offer letter

Because this is a reply to an offer letter, your response should be filled with gratitude. You do want the job, after all, you just want a bit more money than is being offered. In reality, most employers actually expect that you will negotiate with them

It’s ok to be straightforward in your reply, but keep in mind that striking the right tone and balance with your counteroffer is crucial to ensuring that your negotiations go smoothly and you get the salary you’re looking for. 

Here’s a sample breakdown of what your reply might look like:

  1. Greeting: Use a simple, polite greeting to address the hiring manager
  2. Gratitude and excitement: Thank them for their offer and express what a great fit you feel like this role is for you.
  3. Disclaimer: State that unfortunately, the salary is lower than you were expecting.
  4. Explain your position: Remind them of your qualifications, value, and any why you’re passionate about this role, as well as the current market rate pay range for the role.
  5. State your counter offer: Explain that you would like to counter their salary offer and state the dollar amount you’re seeking.
  6. Re-state excitement and gratitude: Again, express your enthusiasm about the potential of working with them and how much you look forward to all that this opportunity would bring.
  7. Ending: Leave room for further negotiation by stating that you would be happy to discuss the subject in further detail if they would like. 

Tips for a successful negotiation

The outline above gives you an idea of how to organize your response to negotiate salary after you’ve received an offer letter, but it’s up to you to fill in the gaps with information that will hopefully help win over your future employer and convince them that you’re worth the amount of money that you’ve countered with. Keep the following tips in mind as you approach this negotiation.

Do your research

Part of understanding your worth as an employee (with regard to salary expectations) comes from doing research on market rates and industry standards to find out what someone with your level of experience would be making at a comparable company. Check online sites like Payscale, ask coworkers or friends in the industry to share their insight, and make sure that what you’re asking for is within the correct range. 

Backing up your ask with this type of concrete information can help employers understand why you’re seeking to be paid at this rate and convince them to go ahead and accept your offer. Or, at least it can help them meet you somewhere more in the middle of their offer and your counter-offer.

Clearly explain your value

Note in your letter what you will be able to bring to the table and why your skills are worth the amount you’re asking for. Show them why you deserve to be paid more than what they were initially willing to offer. This is where you can really drive the point home that you deserve the rate you’re asking for.

Leave no stone unturned when you’re brainstorming ideas to present. Do you have a specialized skill that other potential applicants did not? Have you taken extra coursework to sharpen your skills, or have stellar recommendation letters from former employers you can leverage? Any major assets you can succinctly bring up to remind them of why they picked you over other applicants is worth bringing up.

Make it a win-win 

In the same way that you explain how valuable your skill set is, you want to highlight how the company will benefit from hiring you. Just like you want to feel valued, they want to feel like they’re getting a good deal as well. How can you make the company paying you this amount worth their while?

Express enthusiasm and gratitude

This was stated earlier, but it bears repeating: Let the company know that you’re excited about the prospect of working for them. You want this job. (But you also know your worth.) 

Explicitly state that you’re thankful to have been offered this position to show that you understand they had a choice in who they decided to hire. You think they made the right choice, you just want to negotiate the finer details of their salary offer.

Ask for a higher salary than you actually want

Set your counter-proposal offer at a slightly higher dollar amount than the salary you really hope to obtain. This way, if they come back with an offer between their initial offer and your counteroffer, meeting in the middle will actually be more of what you were hoping to achieve and you can easily say yes. 

Career expert Anna Schuliger, co-founder of Get Hired recommends asking for a range over a hard number when negotiating salary. This range is based on your market value, found through research, as discussed above. Utilize the fact that the lowest number you’re asking for will be your “walkaway number,” and build out your range from there.

Be willing to negotiate additional benefits

Understand that even if you can’t negotiate the salary you want after you’ve received an offer letter, you may still be able to do some haggling when it comes to additional benefits. This could help bridge the gap between what you want to be paid and what the company is willing to pay you. Things like additional paid time off, different health benefits packages, and a flexible schedule can usually be negotiated. 

Decide what you’ll do if they say no

If the company rejects your counter-proposal offer, you have a decision to make. You can walk away from the job offer because the salary doesn’t meet your needs or accept the company’s initial offer despite your counter. 

What you do here will be a personal decision that is different for everyone. Only you know what is worth accepting salary-wise, factoring in benefits, the job market, your industry, and a number of other variables. But, before you ever hit send on your counteroffer proposal, have a plan in mind of what you’ll do in the event that the company wants to hold firm on their original offer.