We live in a world of supply and demand. How badly do they need you? How much money are they ready to pay for your labor? At the end of the day, the salary you will get depends on two things: the situation on the employment market, and your negotiation skills. And while some employers will make the first offer, others will ask you to say a number–which is obviously the more difficult scenario for you.

When it happens, when they ask you to say a number, you should say exactly as much you would like to earn in the job, or even a little bit more. The employer has absolutely no reason to offer you more than what you ask them for. If you say $35,000, they will give you that much, or less (they will never offer you more).


Employer makes the first offer – and you can counter

The situation is much better when they make the first offer, and several scenarios can transpire in such as case:

  • They offer you more than you expected. That’s great! Accept the offer and everyone will be happy with the new employment contract. Try to hide your excitement :).
  • The salary offer from the employer is exactly what you expected. Good situation again. Just don’t forget to ask about the benefits, and ensure that the number they mentioned does not include some intangibles.
  • The offer is lower than you expected. That’s the case when you should make a counter offer, and right now we will look at the best way of making it.

Woman tries to make a good counter offer, to get a better salary. She uses all her weapons to succeed, but the HR manager seems to not accept her proposal.

Making a salary counter offer

Rule of a thumb doesn’t exist when we speak about salary negotiation. Logically, you cannot ask twice as much as the employer is offering, since they will never accept that. And there’s no exception to the rule here, even if you are the only job candidate.

What is more, if they really want to hire you, they will be serious with you.  They will not offer you 50% or 70% of what they are willing to pay, because they want you in their team, and they don’t want risk your immediate refusal while giving you some ridiculous offer.

In most cases, they will offer at least 85% of the maximum salary they can pay you (or think that they can pay you). Bearing this in mind, a good strategy is to ask for 10-20 percent extra to their initial offer. Any other request will be rejected, unless you apply for a very specific position (and they could hardly find another person for the job). Only in such a case (a specialist position) you can try to get 30% extra, or even more…

* May also interest you: Salary negotiation tips.


Back-up your claims with something tangible

You should not just say how much you want, you should say why you want that much. Statistics about an average salary for the position (from a reputable online source, such as indeed.com) can help you to justify your claims.

Alternatively you can show the employer your paycheck from the last job (if you were earning more in your last job), and say you do not want to earn less. That’s just not the way it goes in a normal career progression.

But I would suggest you to talk more about the future–and the value you want to bring to their company (good value always has some price…), and not about the past, and the salary you got before. Showing them your last paycheck is really your last option–you can use it if nothing else works, and if they are stubborn about their offer.


Consider the market conditions – and negotiate accordingly

Companies make different decisions in the time of economic expansion, and in the time of economic recession, and in the time of pandemic. If they are struggling, if they are tight on budget, it will be very difficult to get anything done with your counter offer.

What is more, when we experience recession, when the economy is sleeping, many people are without a job, and you will compete with them in your interviews. And more competition hands the negotiation power to the employers… You do not want to accept our salary offer? Okay, no problem, we have twenty other candidates waiting in the line for a job! That’s how it sometimes works in the recession.


Great times of expansion – your chance to earn more

The situation is completely different during economic expansion. Nearly everyone has a job, and companies struggle with labor. They are signing new projects, the production is growing, but suddenly there is nobody to take care of the work.

In this case, you have the negotiation power. You may very-well be the only man in the interview–either they hire you, or they won’t hire anybody. In this case you can (and actually should) try to get a better salary offer.

Hands of people show their emotions as we watch them negotiating in the office.

Final thoughts, next steps

  • Be prepared. Research about the average salaries and always have a good reason for your counter offer.
  • Never ask for more than 25% extra to their initial offer. If the employer is serious with you, if they really want to hire you, their first offer will be at least 80% of the maximum amount of money they are willing to pay you.
  • Always keep your present situation on your mind. If this is the only interview you have had in the last six months, it will be risky to make a counter offer asking 20% more. Make a modest offer, or accept what they offer you. Once you prove your abilities in job, you can always ask for a raise…
  • Consider the economic situation, and the situation on a labor market. The harder it is to get new employees, the stronger your negotiation power is…


Ready to ace your job interview? Continue your preparation with Interview Penguin:

  • Salary negotiation letter – Do not have a courage to discuss the salary in an interview. Learn how to write a great negotiation letter. Samples included.
  • Body language in an interview – What do your gestures and movements say about you? Can we control our non-verbal communication?
  • What job is right for me? Starting your professional career? Deciding about your studies? Or feeling unhappy in your present occupation? The article should help you to find your true calling in life.
  • Most common interview questions – 15 typical screening interview questions.
Matthew Chulaw
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