Negotiation Skills

How to Ace the Counteroffer Stage

What I'm about to share with you about acing the counteroffer process and getting to a place that's most conducive to a happy outcome isn't the advice of a

Let’s say you’ve just received a job offer- congratulations!

And on the heels of that happy news…perhaps just a little panic as well?

Because unless your profession entails negotiating with people 24/7, you’re probably sweating the counteroffer process.

I get it.

What I’m about to share with you about acing the counteroffer process and getting to a place that’s most conducive to a happy outcome isn’t the advice of a “Master of the Deal.” I’m not a hard-nosed negotiator.

But I am someone who has seen the most competent people routinely settle for less than they’re worth…and I don’t believe that’s fair.

Recent surveys by and CareerBuilder found the following:

  • An astounding 84% of employers EXPECT you to negotiate the first offer and,
  • An equally astounding 49% of new hires never do.

Let’s get into it:

Also read: How to Bounce Back from a Lowball Job Offer

Set the Stage

-A verbal offer is not a written offer, and should not be actively negotiated. Insist on seeing it in writing first, and ask for at least a day or two to consider it.

-The optimal setting to negotiate a job offer is face-to-face. A (distant) second choice is over the phone. Avoid negotiating over email unless it’s to discuss low-priority details.

-Remember: the person on the other side of the table is NOT who you’re negotiating with! You are negotiating with the company. This person is a friendly, someone who wants this to work out. Treat them as such and actively enlist their help in reaching a successful outcome!

Come in Prepared

You need the following details to counter effectively:

-Your BAY (or Best Alternative to a Yes). What happens if this offer goes away? How strong are your other career prospects? What kind of timeframe are you operating under? Get brutally honest with yourself here.

If you’re currently fielding multiple offers and are relatively well settled in your current position, you have an extremely high BAY and should negotiate thoroughly, and allow yourself maximum time for the back-and-forth. If you currently have no other prospects and are about to be evicted from your home, then you have a weak BAY and should negotiate conservatively, and with an eye towards a fast wrap-up.

-The Numbers. Specifically, you need to 2 numbers- your RV (Reservation Value) which is the baseline number after which you’ll have to walk away, and your TV (Target Value), which is the number you’d be thrilled to get. Your initial counteroffer should SIGNIFICANTLY surpass the TV.

-Sources of Bargaining Power. What VALUE ADDS are you bringing to the table? Examples can be special skills, reputation/network, client connections, and others.

-Questions to better understand the other side’s priorities. The gap between what’s important to them and what’s important to you is where your leverage lies.

Also read: 3 Mindset Shifts to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Start Strong

After saying thank you for the time to consider this offer, broach the base salary and reveal your initial counteroffer number (remember, this should go beyond your Target Value). Now listen carefully to the answer and take some notes. You’re off to the races. Here are the 2 areas to focus on as you enter into the back-and-forth:

1) Unless you’re 100% confident in your ability to close the negotiation on your terms, you DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION. Keep asking open-ended questions such as :

  • Among the issues we’re talking about, it seems that X is the most important to address. Is that correct?
  • It looks like the company has X policy. This is the first time I’ve come across something like this. Can you please shed some light behind the thinking here?
  •  It seems like we’re really far apart in terms of X and Y. What do you think might be the best way to reach common ground here?

2) If you reach an impasse, take a look at your itemized list of deal particulars and begin offering lower-importance items up as a way to get concessions in more important areas. This is a concept known as “logrolling” and it’s enormously effective during the counteroffer process.

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.