Ask the Headhunter: How to make an employer raise your job offer

BY Nick Corcodilos  March 11, 2014 at 11:33 AM EST
Instead of risking the job offer by negotiating over a higher salary, accept the offer first (if you'd take it regardless), then ask for a raise. Photo by Image Source/Getty Images.

Instead of risking the offer by negotiating over a higher salary, accept the offer first (if you’d take it regardless), then ask for a raise. Photo by Image Source/Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


I recently had an exchange with a reader who wanted to get a low job offer raised. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, and employers often decline. More importantly, the applicant usually doesn’t know how to justify a higher figure. I think it’s worth printing the entire exchange, rather than just a Q&A. I hope you find the details of this give-and-take interesting and helpful. In the end, she was able to get the offer raised without risking the job altogether.

Question: I do not know whom else to reach out to in this situation. I got a job offer today for an attorney position. I was really excited, and then I heard the offer: it was so low. They were looking for an attorney with five years experience, whereas I have 28. Even for five years, I thought the offer was low. I knew I would have to take less money, but not this much less. So how much do I counter with? Ten percent more, 20 percent more? I am terrible at these things. Thanks so much for your advice!

Nick Corcodilos: Congratulations on the offer. Now you must decide, first of all, whether you want this job so much that you would, in the end, accept the offer as it stands. Would you?

I’ll say more once you reply. But that’s the main question you must answer — yes or no to the existing number — because odds are they will not raise it. But they might. I’ll respond with advice once you answer my question.

Reader’s Response: Yes, I would take the low offer as it stands. My bank account is dwindling and I have little choice. It’s better to have a job when looking for another than none at all. I just don’t know how to make the suggestion for more money. Thank you!

Nick Corcodilos: It’s entirely up to you to decide how much you want, but being willing to accept the existing offer gives you a special kind of leverage. I’m not suggesting a person can negotiate a better deal only if they’re willing to settle for what’s offered. But let me explain how you can exploit this situation to your advantage. There is something you can say to make the employer want to raise the offer.

You see, there are two things that are often more important to an employer than money: Your level of motivation and your commitment. Put those on the table, and you have leverage.

(Note to readers: Sometimes, it’s best to turn down that job offer if it’s very low, but this reader has made a decision to accept it. I don’t make judgments when people need to put food on the table. My objective is to help raise the offer to any extent we can.)

This advice is reprinted from “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers,” pp. 8-9 (available in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore):

There’s a very powerful way to negotiate for more money that will not compromise your rapport with the employer — if you’ve already decided you’re willing to live with the original offer.

How to Say It: “Thanks for your offer. I’m ready to accept it, but I’d like to discuss the salary first. [For reasons A, B and C...], I believe I’m worth $2,000 more than you’re offering. But I don’t want you to misunderstand: This is not a large difference, and I have already decided I want this job. To show you my good faith, I’ll accept your offer as it is. But I’d like to respectfully ask you to consider raising it by $2,000, for the reasons I’ve cited. I’m glad to discuss how you see this, and whether you agree. But either way, I want to work here, and I’m ready to start work in two weeks.”

That’s a very powerful negotiating position to take, because you’ve made a commitment and a concession. Now you’re asking the employer for the same.

I don’t know any negotiation technique that takes this approach, probably because most negotiators don’t start with the plan of accepting the original offer. The upside of this approach is that it can still lead to a higher offer, but without jeopardizing the position you’ve already attained… By making a commitment to the company first, you establish a level of credibility that may strengthen your negotiating position. You must judge the trade-off in your particular situation.

Reader’s Response: I read “Be The Master of Job Offers,” then I called the guy and asked for more money. I phrased it as, “I hope you have some flexibility,” and asked for 7.5 percent more. He did not think that was unreasonable, and said he agreed but had to check with management and would get back to me quickly! I think it will work out. It is still not close to what I was making, but I am happier with this number. Things have changed drastically for millions of people in the last few years and it is what you do in the present that matters. My goal is to not look back but forward. Thank you so much, Nick, for all your help and your empowering book.

Nick Corcodilos: You’re welcome. You made my day. Something told me you’d at least try something from the book — and those are the people I do this for. Whatever happens, you took a stand and you made a sound effort. My compliments. I hope it all works out for the best for you.

Reader’s Response: Hey, Nick, just an update! As you know, I asked for more money and they came back today with just a bit less than 7.5 percent, and I took the job. So, not anything close to what I used to make, but I got more because I asked, so I feel good! Once again, I cannot thank you enough for all your wisdom, the book and your support.

Nick Corcodilos: Not every negotiation for more money succeeds. But knowing how to leverage any advantage you have — even if it’s the stark fact that you need that job — can make the difference between no increase and something more. It’s usually difficult to think straight when an offer is on the table and the pressure is on. But as this reader has shown, asking for more money after accepting an offer can pay off!

I believe that what led the employer to raise the offer was the commitment and motivation the job applicant displayed by accepting the offer first. These two things are often more important to an employer than money. (These are also two of the cornerstones of my book “How Can I Change Careers?”) You can always use them to strengthen your negotiating position.

Dear Readers: Have you ever convinced an employer to raise a job offer? How’d you do it? What other methods would you have suggested to this reader? If you’re an employer, please tell us what influences the final offers you make.


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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