9 counter offer examples (when you can’t negotiate salary)

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Don’t walk away from a job opportunity just because the employer isn’t willing to budge on salary, especially since salary makes up just 70% of a typical compensation package.

With benefits making up the remaining 30%, you have the chance to negotiate for unique perks that will enhance your life—sometimes even making up for a salary adjustment.

Below, we explain how to counter a job offer, including the best non-salary perks you should consider negotiating, as well as creative counter offer examples that will make you love Mondays.

Table of contents

  1. Vacation days
  2. Stock options
  3. Bonuses
  4. Relocation assistance
  5. Flexible scheduling
  6. Commuter benefits
  7. Professional development
  8. Health and wellness benefits
  9. Higher-level role title

1. Vacation days

Extra time off can go a long way toward helping you achieve an optimal work-life balance. On average, Americans get between 10 and 23 days of paid vacation per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In most Canadian provinces, employees get 10 to 15 days off per year, British employees are legally entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks and employees in Ireland get at least four weeks, depending on years of service.

But getting more time to spend with friends and family, travel the world or just take a break from work can prevent burnout, which nearly 60% of workers in the tech industry suffer from. Plus, if you’ve accrued several weeks of vacation at your last company, you probably don’t want to start from scratch at your new company.  

How to negotiate it

Find the company’s published vacation policy on its website (or ask the hiring manager) to establish where the bidding starts. Consider asking for a few extra days or weeks off, but don’t go overboard. For instance, if a company offers two weeks of vacation as standard, avoid asking for two months.

Another thing you can negotiate is how the company handles accrued vacation days. For example, if the vacation policy is “use it or lose it,” ask if you can roll your vacation days over to the next year, or if you can cash out any unused leave. It’s important to know that several states mandate vacation payouts or rollovers, but not all do.

While many companies won’t budge with their vacation policy, you might be surprised at how much some are willing to negotiate. Here are a few different ways to get the conversation started:  

  • “I was getting X days of vacation at my last job. Can you match it?”
  • “I know Company ABC offers X weeks of vacation, but is there any wiggle room in this policy?”
  • “I’m interested in getting four weeks of paid vacation. Is this something we can discuss?”

2. Stock options

Lots of tech companies, particularly startups, offer employees stock options in the company in lieu of a higher salary. Unlike stock, which gives you a fraction of ownership in the business immediately, stock options allow you to buy stock at a fixed or discounted price at a specific time in the future.

The idea is that if the company makes it big and goes public, your payoff can be huge—more than making up for your lower salary. However, since 70% of tech startups fail just two years after raising financing, equity always comes with an element of risk: your options might be worth something, they might be worth less than you think or they might end up not being worth anything at all.

How to negotiate it

Before you start negotiating, ask questions to help determine the true value of your options. For example, ask what percentage of the company your options represent, as well as how much they think the company could be worth when it’s time to buy your stock.

It’s also important to know what you can and can’t negotiate when it comes to your stock option package. For legal reasons, the exercise price—which is what you pay for each share when they’re vested—is usually non-negotiable. However, you can (and should) negotiate the number of options awarded to you. You can even ask to receive more options once you reach certain milestones, such as performance achievements or tenure at the company.

You might also want to negotiate the vesting schedule, or the period of time you have to wait until you can actually buy stock. The vesting period is typically four years, but you can ask to shorten or modify this timeframe based on your needs.

3. Bonuses

Bonuses are a great way to receive extra cash without negotiating your actual salary. As one-time payments, bonuses won’t necessarily make up for your lower salary (particularly in the long run), but they can provide some incentive if you’re comparing two close offers, sometimes even up front.

For example, starting or signing bonuses pay out as soon as you start your new job. Employees can also receive other types of bonuses, either tied to length of service (typically awarded after three or six months of employment), annual year-end bonuses or bonuses that pay out when you hit specific milestones (e.g., execute a new feature launch, meet revenue goals).

How to negotiate it

Kick off the bonus negotiation by first asking if a signing bonus is available. If it is, negotiate this number as you would during a salary negotiation. Keep it reasonable, though. The vast majority of employees in tech positions receive signing bonuses of between $1,000 and $10,000.

If the company doesn’t offer a signing bonus, turn your attention to the three other types of bonuses: the guaranteed bonus after a certain length of employment, the end-of-year bonus or the milestone bonus. Start by asking if any of these options are available, and then mention the gap between the market rate for your role and the salary you’re being offered (or call out another specific offer you have) to convince the employer that a bonus is well-deserved.

Remember to read the fine print on any non-signing bonus. Vague or undefined payout requirements should be clarified so your negotiation efforts truly pay off.

4. Relocation assistance

Relocating for work can be an exciting time. A new city, new friends, incredible travel opportunities and the chance to accelerate your career growth makes relocation an attractive option.

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But whether you’re moving to a new country or just one city or state over, moving and travel expenses can pile up quickly. And those with families have even more expenses to consider. In fact, the average cost of an interstate move hovers at around $4,300. That’s why many companies offer relocation assistance packages, allowing you to make the move to a new city—minus the cost.

How to negotiate it

Check the company’s relocation policy and think carefully about what expenses you’ll incur during your move. If the company doesn’t currently have a policy in place, ask if it can help you out with certain relocation expenses. If it has a policy, ask to see the details and negotiate for add-ons.

There are many things to consider bringing up, including the cost of hiring movers, transporting your home goods, flights for you and your family (including your pets), temporary housing and even assistance in selling your house. Some companies will require receipts and pay specifically up to that amount, though you can negotiate for a flat sum that can help beyond the move (e.g., new furniture). Choose what best addresses your needs (and avoid those sky-high moving costs).

5. Flexible scheduling

From compressed work weeks to nontraditional hours to work-from-home days, flexible scheduling gives you the freedom to break out of the 9 to 5 and work when your mind is sharpest and most productive.

A relaxed schedule not only gives you the power to fit your work-life into your personal life (not the other way around), but it can also make you happier. Studies suggest that flexibility at work may lead to better job satisfaction and productivity. Perks like telecommuting can also bring benefits like less time and money spent on commuting.

How to negotiate it

The first step is figuring out what you want. Are you interested in working from home part of the week, do you want flexible hours that let you come and go as you please or do you want to work additional hours four days a week so you don’t have to work on Fridays? (With the latter option, consider that meetings might get scheduled on your “day off” and you might just end up working more hours than anyone else.) Get creative with it, and come up with something that works with your schedule.

Be as specific as possible about your proposed schedule modifications, while emphasizing your desire to produce great results despite an unconventional schedule.

6. Commuter benefits

Employees rarely live close to their office. And commuting isn’t cheap, costing both time and money. In fact, the average American spends 52 minutes commuting to and from work each day, costing them thousands annually in gas, tolls, parking and mass transit.

How to negotiate it

Calculate how much money it takes you to commute to and from work, whether it’s car mileage, toll costs or public transportation expenses, and ask the employer if they can help cover the costs.

Many employers will provide transit tickets or metro passes (either paid in full or at a discount), or a debit card that covers those expenses. You can even ask about free or subsidized parking, especially if you work in a city where parking is expensive or hard to find, or reimbursement for bicycle-related expenses if that’s how you travel to work. Lastly, if you use public transportation or walk/bike to work, and your employer pays for parking in a garage, you can ask for a reimbursement to forego a parking pass.

7. Professional development

Beyond gaining valuable new skills and giving you the power to build the career you want, taking advantage of professional development opportunities can improve your marketability, increase your salary potential in future roles or meet new contacts that will help land your next role.

Whether it’s workshops, industry conferences, tuition reimbursement for grad school, membership dues for professional associations or company-paid certification programs, continuing education not only helps you grow, but also equips you to do your job as well as possible—making it a win-win for both you and the employer.

How to negotiate it

Start by asking if the company budgets for professional development. This not only opens the door to potential opportunities, but also shows your new boss that you value education and continuous learning. If the company doesn’t offer these benefits, ask if they’d be willing to work out a deal for full or partial coverage of certain educational programs, and explain how it would benefit both you and the company.

When coming up with a number, keep in mind that the average amount of tuition assistance employees receive is $5,250 per year for undergrad education and $10,500 for grad school. Plus, employers typically spend $1,273 per employee on annual learning expenditures, such as workshops, training programs and certifications.

If the company already offers professional development benefits, but requires you to be employed for a certain amount of time before you can access them, consider negotiating to get those benefits sooner. For example, if you’re already pursuing a degree or certification, you probably don’t want to wait a year to resume your studies. Shortening this timeframe—or even eliminating the waiting period altogether—will allow you to continue your program as soon as you start your new job.

8. Health and wellness benefits

Physical activity has been scientifically proven to make you happier, healthier and more productive. In fact, studies show that just 10 minutes (or even less) of exercise per day can boost your cognitive performance.

But the cost of getting fit isn’t cheap. The average American spends $1,860 per year on their health and wellness—from gym memberships to nutritional supplements to personal trainers and weight loss programs.

How to negotiate it

While health insurance is generally non-negotiable, you can always ask for your plan to start earlier. This is especially beneficial if the company requires employees to be on the job for a certain amount of time, leaving you with a health insurance gap or requiring you to pay expensive COBRA premiums to remove that gap.

Beyond insurance, you can also negotiate for free or discounted gym memberships, workout classes, weight loss programs or even office equipment like standing desks or stability balls. Ask what’s already being offered and go from there based on the types of health and wellness benefits you’re specifically looking for. Get creative. If you enjoy taking taekwondo classes, ask if they can cover the costs. Interested in acupuncture treatments? Your employer may be willing to foot the bill.

9. Higher-level role title

While getting a better title won’t necessarily provide you with any monetary gains right now, it may when you apply for future roles. Having a higher-level title on your resume can make you stand out, show up in recruiter searches you otherwise wouldn’t, improve your marketability and help you advance your career faster—not to mention boost your salary potential when it comes to internal promotions or future job offers.

How to negotiate it

As long as the new title accurately reflects your job duties and seniority, there’s no reason you shouldn’t ask for a higher-level role title. When asking the employer, ask for a specific title and explain your reasoning, backed by the job description.

If you’re being offered a software developer role, for example, simply ask “Would you be open to changing my title to “Senior Software Developer” since I have four years of experience and will be working on an integral part of the product?”

Get free counter offer negotiation advice

There are lots of creative ways to get more out of your new role, even if the company is offering a salary that’s not quite what you asked for. And with just a few techniques, you can secure a benefits package that meets (or exceeds) your needs. Want more job offer negotiation tips? Sign up for Seen.

You’ll get free, 1:1 offer negotiation advice from a technical career coach. Plus, you’ll start getting matched with roles that will move you forward in your tech career.


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