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How To Make A Salary Counter Offer

Dear J.T. & Dale: I had an interview two weeks ago for a city recreation position. I was told I was overqualified but "in the running," with a dozen more applicants to interview. She called today and offered me the job (woo hoo!), but at $23,000, which is the lower side of the pay range. Is it bad business to make a salary counter offer at $24,000? — Kim J.T.: You can totally negotiate here. Think of it this way: She shopped around and went for the overqualified candidate. It could be a low-ball, and she's expecting a counter. Dale: Even when you're sure you're going to accept, you have an opening for negotiation. There are two approaches — the "Thank you, but" and the "Yes, but." I know J.T. likes the former, so let me say something about the latter. You say: "I'm thrilled. Thank you so much. Yes, I accept. But there's just one thing — I was hoping for a bit more salary. Any chance of that?" Get a "no" and you go back to being delighted anyway. There's virtually no risk, with a shot at grabbing an extra 5 percent or 10 percent for 60 seconds of negotiation. J.T.: Yes, I'd open with thanks, and with something about how you'd like to jump in and start helping. But then say: "This next part is hard for me. While I want the job, I have bills to pay and was hoping to get a starting salary that was higher than your offer." Dale: Yuck. You say, "bills to pay," and the hiring manager hears, "Oh great, a solve-my-personal-problems employee." J.T.: Hold on. You follow with: "I know that I can bring immediate value, and if you could meet my salary needs, I would be incredibly grateful. I was hoping for $25,000. Is that something you'd be willing to discuss?" If you get a no, say: "I understand. Can you tell me then what would I have to accomplish, and how long it would take to earn a raise so I can review my finances and see if I can make this work?" Dale: I like the question, "Is this something you'd be willing to discuss?" But the rest is high-risk. If you truly do NOT want the job at their offer, fine. But if you'd be devastated to lose this, don't risk the "Thanks, but;" go with the "Yes, but" instead. J.T.: I wouldn't be as nervous as Dale. You can do this, Kim. Remember, you were their first choice! If you kill them with kindness and explain it politely, it should go smoothly. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Photo credit: Shutterstock