How to Write a Counter Offer Letter

A simple letter can turn that lowball offer into an unbeatable counter offer

Businesswoman reading a letter at office
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Unhappy with the salary or benefits that were offered you for a new job? Consider making a counter offer to your would-be employer through a formal letter. Writing an effective counter offer letter is a simple process that can help you get the job you want for the compensation package you think you deserve.

Basics of Counter Offers

A counter offer is a proposal made by a job applicant to an employer in response to an unsatisfactory job offer. Job applicants can submit a counter offer to an employer in a few ways:

  • Meet with the employer for an in-person negotiation
  • Speak with the employer over the phone
  • Write a counter offer letter

One of the most common methods of making a counter offer is to write a counter offer letter—a written or email response by the applicant to the employer's original job offer. In a counter offer letter, candidates typically express their continued interest in a position but state that they desire a change in the terms of the original offer.

When to Write a Counter Offer Letter

Consider writing a counter offer letter when you are not satisfied with the compensation package an employer first offers. For example, you may want to make a counter offer if the salary offered is too low for your needs or experience, or you think the benefits package lacks critical benefits, such as an adequate number of paid vacation days.

Companies will often entertain a counter offer, though they may not accept all (or any) of the requests in the offer. For example, small businesses, which tend to have limited budgets, may reject your offer if they cannot exceed a particular salary range for your role. What is more, companies of any size can revoke counter offers if they are offended by or dislike your request. Because employees in all states (except Montana) are “employed at will”—that is, both the employer and employer have the right to terminate the job at any time—employers can legally withdraw a job offer at any time.

If you want to write a counter offer letter but are unsure how the company will react, do online research about how much you're really worth and how other applicants have been treated by the company in similar situations.

Benefits of Writing a Counter Offer Letter

counter-offer-letter
Emily Dunphy. © The Balance 2019

There are a few reasons why a job applicant may want to make a counter offer through a letter rather than meeting or calling an employer, including:

  • It can put you at ease: Writing a counter offer letter is ideal for applicants who feel nervous about negotiating in person.
  • It may play to your writing strengths: Strong and effective writers are in the best position to write a counter offer because they can clearly articulate what they want in diplomatic terms.
  • It's easy to document the exchange: Conversing in writing also leaves a useful paper trail. With an exchange of letters or emails, any agreed upon changes are cemented in writing.

How to Decide on a Counter Offer

Salary is an important factor to consider when deciding on a counter offer—specifically, how much you need to comfortably meet your needs in the place where you live. But it's prudent to think about the whole compensation package when deciding upon a counteroffer. Consider other non-salary compensation changes that you can ask for, such as relocation costs, insurance, signing bonuses, vacation and sick days, and other benefits. You can also include office-specific benefits, such as your office space, hours, or telecommuting options.

Look into the average salary for people in the job you want, both within the company and nationally, through Salary.com or another online salary calculator. Once you have a sense of your worth, you can make a more informed decision about your desired compensation package.

What to Include in a Counter Offer Letter

Make it easier for the employer to address and accept the desired changes to the original offer by stating them in clear terms in an easy-to-follow format:

  • Header: Put your letter in standard business letter format. Include a header with the employer’s information and your contact info. Address the letter to the employer.
  • Introduction: Begin by emphasizing your interest in the company and one or two key reasons why you are an ideal candidate for the job. This will remind the employer why they wanted to hire you and why you are worth the extra money and/or benefits.
  • Body of the letter: In the body, you can request a meeting with the employer and be general about the changes you want until the meeting. Or, state the specific changes in the letter itself. If you go the latter route, include a short paragraph for every part of the compensation package that you want to negotiate. In each paragraph, clearly state the original offer, your counter offer, and why you believe the counter offer is appropriate. For example, after you state the original salary and your desired salary, explain that their offer was below the national average salary for the job.
  • Conclusion: Emphasize the reasonable nature of your request, and restate how excited you are to work at the company. You might also want to offer to meet the employer in person to discuss further, or simply tell the employer to contact you.
  • Subject line: If you send the counter offer letter as an email, the Subject Line of your message should be your name and the reason you are writing in the format "Your Name - Job Offer".

Tips for Writing a Counter Offer Letter

These guidelines can help you effectively communicate your expectations to an employer:

  • State clear reasons backed with research. You will be more likely to receive a positive response if you provide clear reasons for why you think you deserve more money or additional benefits. Communicate your desired compensation package in the context of your experience level, market rates for the position, and the cost of living in the region. Making demands that are well outside of industry norms can make you look like an unserious applicant.
  • Communicate other job offers. If you have a competing job offer, convey it to the employer to incentivize them to up the ante and offer a better compensation package to keep you from going with the other job.
  • Emphasize your sought-after skills. Having skills that are hard to find in your industry can make you more valuable in the eyes of employers. Be sure to mention these in-demand skills to strengthen your case for getting more money or benefits.
  • Formulate your wants as requests rather than demands. Be firm in communicating what you want, but don't use an aggressive tone.
  • Use polite, neutral terms. Aim for language that doesn't tip off your emotional state, such as "I'd be more comfortable with..." rather than "I really need..." Likewise, don't insult the company or the individual handling the negotiation.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Be sure to thoroughly edit your letter before sending it. Consider having a family member or friend look at it, too.

Counter Offer Letter Examples

Use these counter offer letters as templates when you need to request changes to a job offer.

Counter Offer Letter Requesting a Meeting

This sample counter offer letter requests a meeting to discuss the compensation package that was offered.

Counter Offer Letter Requesting a Meeting

Subject Line: Your Name - Job Offer

Dear Contact Name,

Thank you for your offer of the position of Regional Manager of Product Development for the Witten Company.

I am impressed with the depth of knowledge of your development team and believe that my experience will help to maximize the profitability of the department.

I would like to meet with you regarding the salary and benefits you have offered before I make a final decision. I feel that with the skills, experience, and contacts in the industry that I would bring to Witten, further discussion of my compensation would be appropriate.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Email: youremail@gmail.com
Phone: 555-555-1234

Counter Offer Letter Sample Requesting Additional Compensation

Here's an example of a letter requesting additional compensation. The writer makes a counter salary offer with claims to back up the request.

Counter Offer Letter Requesting Additional Compensation

Dear Ms. Montagne,

Thank you very much for offering me the position of Senior Sales Associate at The Revelation Company. The opportunity looks very interesting, and I am sure that I would find the position rewarding.

I am hoping that we can discuss the possibility of adding a 5% commission to my base salary, as my 15-year track record in sales and rolodex of contacts will enable me to bring additional revenue to the company. Please let me know if we can discuss this before I make a decision about accepting your offer.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Suzanne Pavilion

What to Do After You Submit a Counter Offer Letter

While you wait for the employer to respond to your proposal, consider any deal-breakers—the bare minimum terms you are willing to accept in a counter offer. Is there a certain salary or set of benefits that you are unwilling to negotiate on? Think about how you will respond if the counter offer falls below these terms.

Be prepared for any response from the employer. He or she can respond in one of the following ways:

  • Request to meet with you in person to negotiate your compensation
  • Accept any or all of your changes
  • Reject some or all of the requests
  • Provide another counter offer

If the employer rejects your proposal, or provides another counter offer, decide whether to take the counter offer, put in a new counter offer, or walk away. If you accept the counter offer, be sure to get the new offer in writing so there is no confusion when you start the job.