How to Respond to a Job Offer Letter with a Counter Offer

A job offer letter isn't just a letter. It's a formal commitment to terms of employment. It may also be an offer you don't want to accept. You will have to negotiate to make a counter offer, and the negotiations need to be managed properly to get the best result.

Basic negotiation

If you haven't been trained in negotiation, the response to a job offer letter can be tricky. Negotiation is above all a communications exercise, and there are some important rules for this type of negotiation:

  1. Everything you put in writing is part of the negotiations. Like the job offer, your own letter is a statement which indicates your intentions.

  2. Your letter must be specific about each part of the job offer, to avoid misinterpretation. Use plain language at all times. If you introduce a new topic into the negotiations, you must keep it simple. Set out your position using headings, if necessary.

  3. You must maintain an open mind to employer offers, and if you reject them, you need a credible reason for doing so. The main reason for this is to maintain an "open channel" for negotiations, and avoid impasses. 

Responding to a job offer

Clarity is the key to success. Both parties should be fully informed of each other's position in negotiations, and understand the reasons for other's position.

Most important: In job offer negotiations, any counter offer you make should be viable as a business proposition. The employer is working with a budget, and can't really negotiate outside that framework unless strongly motivated.

Important things not to do when making a counter offer:

Never make an exorbitant counter offer. The employer may decide to abandon negotiations, and is within their rights, if you have declined the offer.

Don't "haggle". Your own credibility is extremely important in negotiations. An employer will respect an intelligent negotiator, but not an uncooperative "opponent".

Be courteous and professional at all times. This is another important factor in your personal credibility as a negotiator, and gives you a strong image with the employer.

Making your counter offer

Set out your letter as a direct reply to the employer's:

  1. Refer to the job offer in your opening paragraph.
  2. Go through each point you want to negotiate systematically.
  3. Identify each point you wish to negotiate.
  4. Refer directly to the employer's offer in your counter offer.
  5. Check the letter thoroughly, before sending, to avoid any mistakes.

This is a sample response:

Dear..... (write directly to the signatory of the employer's letter)

Thank you for your letter of 12 June 2014 offering me the position of Executive Operations manager. (Your ref: ABC/014A1) There are several matters regarding this offer I would like to discuss in more detail.

Salary:

The salary quoted is $150,000 per year. I regret to inform you that this offer is below my salary requirements. I am prepared to negotiate the offer in terms of the package, but my minimum requirement is $200,000, based on median market rates.

Each part of your counter offer must be a direct response to the employer's offer, point by point. The employer must have a clearly quantified statement of your counter offer.