If Your Employer Refuses to Negotiate Salary, Try These 11 Creative Counteroffers

If Your Employer Refuses To Negotiate Salary, Try These 11 Creative Counteroffers

Have you ever gotten yourself all hyped-up and battle-ready to ask for more money—only to learn your employer REFUSES to negotiate salary?

This happened to me when I was a young professional. I went for a role at a company that tied its job offers to intelligence test scores. (This is not a normal or cool thing to ask, by the way. It’s elitist, ableist, racist, irrelevant, and indicative of really bad leadership. Alas that I was young, dumb, and living on breadcrumb…s.) The recruiter warned me in advance that this employer refused to negotiate salary beyond their initial offer.

Now, the joke was on them! I’m one of those people who needs to make an L-shape with her fingers to tell left from right. And once hired, I’m about as biddable as Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron. But if you put a test in front of me, I’m gonna destroy it. So by their own stupid system, they were forced to offer me an absurdly high sum. My salary doubled overnight. Although I hated that job and left after six months, it was the best job transition I’ve ever made.

All of which is to say: if a potential employer refuses to negotiate salary, it doesn’t mean that their offer is bad. Internal policies far more benign than the one I just described dictate salary offers. Some employers have a strict system for salaries based on tenure, experience, performance, or job title. Others must adhere to government guidelines or union rules regarding fair salaries.

It also doesn’t mean that the conversation is over. You can ask for so much more than money! When an employer refuses to negotiate salary, they’re giving you leverage to ask for other things. Today, I’ll give you a few ideas for creative counteroffers that will make your life better and sweeten any job transition. Even better, I’ll suggest some simple scripts you can follow to maximize your chances that they’ll say “yes.”

When your employer refuses to negotiate salary, begin by asking anyway

The first and most important step—the urstep!—is to know this is indeed the potential employer’s highest possible salary offer.

Loyal readers know that our first, best advice for making more money is to, y’know, ask for it! After all, negotiations to increase salary are successful 85% of the time.

Statistically speaking, asking for more during a job transition is the easiest, meatiest pay raise you’ll ever get. Internal promotions and raises have gone the way of Pleistocene megafauna. (Which is to say: mostly extinct, with a few wimpy stragglers left that don’t exactly impress.) Employers like to talk a mean game about soft perks and benefits and future opportunities, but cash in hand is king. You can offset almost any shortcoming if your salary is high enough.

If you want to know more, we have a pretty legendary series on this topic. The four word tl;dr is “ask, damn you, ASK!” No matter how difficult or uncomfortable you find it, you owe it to yourself to do it. And if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for everyone in your industry whose work is undervalued when you accept a low-ball first offer.

If you’re getting stuck somewhere in your job hunt, you’ll also find this bad boy helpful…

… But enough justification! We’ll assume they ain’t budging on salary. On to the creative counteroffers!

Note: All of our sample scripts are written in white-collar corporatespeak. Talking the talk is important! When you’re negotiating your salary, every word counts. But please adapt them to reflect your own voice and match the tone of your industry. If you’re applying to a mom and pop landscaping wholesaler, don’t fling around “KPIs” and “synergy” like so many ninja stars just because Bitches Get Riches told you to.

Have I used this gif to describe my aptitude for corporatespeak before? Probably...

Creative counteroffer #1: Agree upon a future raise

I have personal experience with a lot of these tactics, so strap in for anecdotal evidence.

When my little brother was interviewing for his first job, he clicked with a small company. Unfortunately, they also had a small budget. They couldn’t afford the $50K he asked for… yet. Their salary cap for the role was $42K.

Because everything else about the fit was harmonious, they worked out a compromise. The company would start with their current budget, but bump my baby bro’s pay by $2K every quarter so he’d reach his desired salary by the end of his first year with the company.

This one works best if your new employer knows their offer is on the low side for your industry. It also works well for small businesses that are growing quickly, and might not have the cashflow for high salaries yet.

If they’re interested but hesitant, you can offer to make pay raises contingent on your good performance. But if you do, tie that pay raise to specific and quantifiable outcomes over which you have a high degree of control. “Give me a raise when y’all make more money” is a terrible idea. “Give me a raise when I grow your social media following by 20%” is better.

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“I appreciate that what I’m asking for is beyond what you had budgeted. I feel strongly that the skills I can bring to your company are worth the amount I quoted. But I can be flexible for the right fit. Could we agree to a gradual quarterly pay increase, contingent on meeting the following performance benchmarks?”

Creative counteroffer #2: Schedule another negotiation

Let’s say what you want most is more money, but your employer refuses to negotiate on salary, and they don’t bite on counteroffer #1. You can follow up with this softer counteroffer: agree to another round of negotiation after you’ve had a chance to prove your value.

This is what we call “kicking the can down the road.” I don’t like this one as much, and I’ll tell you why… It’s very easy for recruiters, hiring managers, and desperate bosses to say “yeah, sure, we have reviews, just ask us later!” And later never comes. Maybe company goals change. Maybe you move to a new boss, or a new team. You don’t want to find yourself starting over with no leverage. And it happens all the time.

Still, sometimes this is the strongest play you can run. If you choose to make this counteroffer, I’d make sure that review process is in your contract, or at the very least documented in writing. Schedule the review yourself in your first week with the company so they can’t “forget.”

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“I hear you saying you’re at the top of your budget, and I understand you don’t want to commit to a future pay raise yet. In order to accept this role, I need to know the door to salary growth is open based on the value I bring to the business. Could we agree to define the success metrics necessary to grow the role’s salary now, and schedule a formal salary review at the six month mark to see if I’m meeting those expectations?”

Creative counteroffer #3: Promise to shut up for a while

When my partner was last negotiating salary, inflation and employment were both high. As a result, a lot of people in his industry were job-hopping. He knew recruiters and employers would be feeling the burning, UTI-like pain of low retention. So he asked for a high salary—but paired it with a pledge to waive renegotiations for at least two years.

This tactic works best for in-demand industries. Companies get really tired of employees leaving every year. It costs time, money, and productivity. So if you signal that this offer will make you a secure long-term employee, it may inspire them to dig deeper into their pockets.

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“Right now, the most important thing for me is to find a role I can settle into. As you know, it’s a competitive industry. I don’t want money to be the factor that pushes me away from a role where I’m truly happy, and I don’t want to come to every performance review with my hat in my hand—but I have to do what’s best for myself and my family. I know my salary expectations feel high right now, but this is what I need to know my role is sufficiently future-proofed. In consideration, I’m happy to agree to waive cost-of-living increases and any discussion on future pay increases through [year].”

Creative counteroffer #4: Trade something you didn’t want anyway

To get something you really want, it might help to offer to give up something less valuable voluntarily. Especially if you can frame it as a cost-neutral change to your potential employer’s last offer.

I used this tactic for myself when accepting my last big-girl corporate job. My potential employer offered me a salary and a bonus. But I’d been burned by bonuses in the past. They were an effective carrot to keep my stingy ass working past the point of burnout. (Plus, they’re taxed more heavily—rude!) So I counteroffered a higher base pay, with a much smaller bonus, which they readily accepted.

Hilariously, after a year, my company was bought out. Our new corporate overlords mandated a standard yearly bonus for all employees—so I got the damn bonus anyway! Still, a bird in the hand was way better than two in the bush.

(Find me on OnlyFans at 2InTheBush.)

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“This is a great offer. I’d like to suggest a small tweak to the compensation structure. Could we nix the bonus, and fold that money into my base pay instead? After that small change, I’d be happy with everything else and ready to move forward!”

Creative counteroffer #5: Get more paid vacation time

America’s relationship with leisure time is downright tragic. I’m not trying to ruin your day… but you do realize that America is the only wealthy nation that mandates ZERO paid vacation to its labor force, right? By contrast, workers in the EU get A MONTH of paid vacation every year.

People in the EU get FOUR fookin' WEEKS of paid vacation time. Meanwhile, my employer refuses to negotiate salary!

Even when Americans get paid time off, they don’t use it. That’s because Americans get their healthcare through their employers. We don’t feel secure taking time off. Culturally, years of expending our bargaining power on the more critical essentials of salary, pensions, and healthcare have diminished the expectation for paid time off.

If your employer refuses to negotiate on salary, more paid vacation time is probably the FIRST thing I’d ask for. It’s painless for your employer to grant, and a great consolation prize for a subpar package.

I gave up making jokes about “subpar packages” for Lent, so let’s all hold hands and move forward!

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“I understand that growing my salary isn’t a possibility at this time. Would you be able to offer some flexibility on the benefits instead? Specifically, some additional vacation time would be really meaningful for me. If you could increase my paid time off to four weeks each year, I could happily accept this offer.”

Creative counteroffer #6: Negotiate flexible work arrangements

There are sooooo many ways to request flexible work arrangements.

  • A flexible schedule could accommodate hobbies, childcare, or convenient commute times.
  • An abbreviated or four day workweek could give you three-day weekends, forever, in exchange for longer work days.
  • Remote work is the Holy Grail for many of our readers. Have I mentioned that our core demographic is “introverted queer librarians?”

Obviously, not every job can accommodate special schedules. But if you’re applying to one that can, lock that perk in during the negotiation process. Get it in writing, directly within your contract. There are way too many blue-Oxford-with-a-white-collar-wearing lunatics roaming around, abruptly retracting popular work-from-home policies because they think “innovation” and “collaboration” can only happen in their drab, hateful little open floorplan hellholes.

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“I’d like to discuss the possibility of flexible work arrangements for this role. A company culture that values work/life balance is critical to me, and one of the most attractive qualities of [this company]. The opportunity to work remotely for a few days every week would greatly ease my commute, give me more time to spend with my family, and represent a significant advantage when considering your offer. Is that something you could accommodate in lieu of a higher base salary? I’m happy to collaborate on a plan we both find agreeable.”

Creative counteroffer #7: Make them pay for your continuing education

If you want to grow your earning potential, it may be a good idea to pursue higher education. (Not always! If you’re considering grad school, please dash your dreams upon the jagged rocks of this article first.) You can ask your employer to pick up some of the tab, all of the tab, or simply guarantee the scheduling flexibility you’ll need to attend school.

Beyond advanced degrees, there are other forms of education you can request.

  • Ask them to sponsor industry certifications or competency tests.
  • Make them pick up the tab for standalone continuing education classes.
  • Pick out some conferences you want to attend.
  • Demand a small stipend for things like books, trade publications, audiobook subscriptions, or on-demand online courses.

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“I can be flexible on my salary expectations if I feel I have the opportunity to grow as a professional. Specifically, I’d like to start the process of obtaining [degree/certification] within the coming year. Can you tell me about the ways in which [company] could support me on this journey? I was excited to hear about the company’s commitment to continuous employee training, and I’m confident that a new level of learning would maximize my ability to contribute at my full capacity.”

Creative counteroffer #8: Commit to developing the skills you actually want

One of my mentees at my final corporate job was a young woman with a lot of creativity. Despite this, she’d been pigeonholed into dry-ass data-driven work. When a new role opened up, they weren’t able to offer her a higher salary. But she was able to leverage that lame lateral salary offer to request some creative responsibilities and projects.

If you’re in a transitional point in your career, this is a great perk to ask for. When a company refuses to negotiate on salary, they’re looking for ways to sweeten the deal. They can’t easily say no to an earnest request to develop new skills.

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“I understand that this would be a lateral move for me in terms of salary. I’m happy to make that move if it brings me into closer alignment with my career goals. As we discussed, my last role has asked me to provide a lot of direct customer support, and I’ve learned that’s just not where my passions lie. If we can minimize that aspect of the job role, and focus instead on developing my technical skills, I’d be happy to accept the offer.”

Creative counteroffer #9: Get a sweet vanity title

A friend who works in a technical field recently transitioned to a new job. The salary wasn’t great; the commute sucked; and he really wasn’t excited about the work.

But he got an awesome job title out of the role .

In his line of work, it’s hard to get the word “senior” in front of your title. But once it’s there, you’ve arrived. It opens up a whole new tier of roles to explore. It’s like finding the Depths in Tears of the Kingdom! There’s puffshrooms and skellington horses and all sorts of great shit down there!

Granted, I think this strategy is best suited to a short-term placement. The company can’t afford a higher salary, so they give out a vanity title instead? That’s totally fine. But you’re not going to stick around once LinkedIn recruiters start circling like so many bloodthirsty sharks—and they probably know it. So although everyone can benefit from a better job title, I think this strategy is best suited to people ready to job-hop a few times to make up lost ground.

Keep in mind that at larger companies and in more regulated industries, they may have a system for assigning titles that can’t be broken. This gambit works best with smaller employers.

Sample script for this counteroffer:

“Thank you for the offer. I’m overall very happy with it. The one additional ask I’d make is to reevaluate the job title. It’s very similar to my existing title, and I’d prefer something that communicates the greater degree of specialization and complexity I anticipate in this role. Could I offer some alternatives—or do you have a list of other options we could explore together?”

Creative counteroffer #10: Literally any other benefit you can imagine

There are tons of benefits a company can offer you, if they really want you. I’ve heard legends of workers of yore getting benefits that feel like the shit of fairy tales.

  • Signing bonuses?
  • Stock options?
  • Company cars?
  • Equity?
  • Pensions?
  • Subsidized relocations?
  • Dog-friendly offices?
  • Paid volunteer time?
  • Annual company retreats/vacations?
  • Home office stipends?
  • Five-year sabbaticals?
  • Company-subsidized commutes?

I suppose the only thing stopping companies from providing these perks is that people don’t ask for them or expect them. So if it’s something you really want, go ahead and ask, even if it seems unusual or extravagant. You never know! Maybe you’ll roll a natural 20 on you charisma saving throw and be the one to bring back on-site company daycare!

But remember that negotiation is a delicate art. For years, all I requested from Santa was Polly Pockets and a pony. Guess who always got Polly Pockets and never got a pony?

Who's forever horseless and stuck with an employer refuses to negotiate salary?

Businesses are far more likely to give concessions if they’re accessible, customary, and of obvious value to the company. Do your research. Frame your argument wisely. Come armed with data, numbers, and counteroffers.

… Oh, and make up counteroffers from other potential employers. Obviously. They’re an employer; you don’t owe them scrupulous honesty. Invent competing offers and play them against each other like an unceasing string of Uno reverse cards. That’s just capitalism and the free market doing its job.

Creative counteroffer #11: Make THEM improve the offer

Ah. My favorite one, and it’s all sad and lonely here at the bottom of the article.

If your employer refuses to negotiate on salary, sweetening the deal is their problem—not yours. You actually don’t have to do the emotional labor of making an unappealing offer appealing! Who knew?!

Let’s say you’ve asked for more money, a few work-from-home days, or other reasonable counteroffers. Your potential new employer may say “Sorry, we can’t do that.”

The next question you should ask is therefore “Okay—then what can you do?”

Time and again, I’ve heard people underestimate the power they have at the negotiating table. They’ve interviewed for a lot of jobs that didn’t end in offers; they’ve got bills coming due; they’re feeling desperate. And nobody feels confident negotiating from a state of desperation.

What you have to remember is that the company is also desperate. They may have gotten dozens or even hundreds of applications. Through countless resumes and phone screenings and interviews and committee meetings, you stood out as special. If you’ve received an initial offer, it means that out of everyone they talked to, you are their #1 choice for this job. They want you bad. Given that, the most powerful negotiating tactic can be as simple as batting the shuttlecock right back into their court.


Listen, I know you're trying to learn how to counter an employer refusing to negotiate salary... But this seemed important.

What have you done when an employer refuses to negotiate salary?

In an ideal world, a loyal long-term employee with a good attitude and a proven track record would get special considerations from their employer. But our world is far from ideal. In my experience, your bargaining power reduces significantly once you’re on the inside. Advocate for yourself to get the compensation you deserve, whatever that looks like. Get it all in writing, if not baked directly into your contract. Do not waste years of your life overachieving in the hopes that company!sempai will finally notice you and decide to give you all the perks you never asked for.

This list includes damn near everything I could think of. But the world is wide and wild, and it’s possible I missed some interesting options! So readers, how would YOU respond if an employer refuses to negotiate salary? Tell us about what worked—and what didn’t!—in the comments below.

Today’s topic was chosen by our Patreon community. Thanks for picking a good one, Patrons! If you’d like to help us decide which topics to write about, you can join us anytime at Patreon.com/BitchesGetRiches.

5 thoughts to “If Your Employer Refuses To Negotiate Salary, Try These 11 Creative Counteroffers”

  1. I was offered a government job. The salary was mandated by the union contract so that was not within the hiring committee’s ability to tinker with. Even so, the interviewer offered me a salary in the middle of the range to reflect my years of experience (though this was still a 20% pay cut for me). But I asked for, and received, an extra week of vacation. Worked for me!

    Another time, I was at a first interview with a major soft drink company and the interviewer insisted that I tell him what my expected salary was. I countered with ‘it’s too early in the interview process’ and ‘the salary is only a piece of the compensation package, could you tell me tell me what your benefits package looks like” but no dice. This guy needed a number right then and there. I walked away from the job, ’cause dude, if you have to ask the price then you can’t afford the item.

    1. Excellent! I’m glad you got more vacation time in your government job. I’ve heard that bargaining is far more common than most people realize for roles with fixed salaries. You just need to know what you CAN ask for.

      As always, wish jobs would spare us and just post the damn range. Cowards!

  2. We all have to assertively advocate for the worth in the workplace, even when salary negotiation seems like a challenging task. You’re not only informing but also inspiring, to go with confidence. Great work!

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