E Interview preparation academy E Negotiating Your Salary E Bouncing back from an unsuccessful salary negotiation

Bouncing Back from an Unsuccessful Salary Negotiation

Bouncing back from unsuccessful salary negotiation

Salary negotiations are considered to be a daunting process. According to a survey, less than 40% of professionals negotiated salaries in their last jobs. This is because salary negotiations may come with the anxiety and fear of being judged and coming across as unprofessional. However, negotiating your salary offer is your best shot at getting what you deserve. That said, not all negotiations are successful.

What to do when a salary negotiation is unsuccessful?

An unsuccessful negotiation can lower your confidence, confuse you, and may even leave you helpless. Regardless of what it feels like at the moment, you still need to focus on the next steps. Here is our advice on what you should do in such a situation.

1) Negotiate further

While looking for a new job, do you make only one application? Of course not! Similarly when you prepare your salary negotiation plan, think about your backup plan, too. What if the employer does not accept your proposal? Would you propose another offer? Would you accept their counteroffer? It may be difficult to think about all scenarios on the spot, so it is best to think about them in advance. Your plan B could be:

a) Meeting them in the middle

In a situation where your first offer has been rejected, you could negotiate for the next best option. This could be a middle option between the employer’s current offer and your initial counter offer. Again, this isn’t something that you can make up on the spot. You have to be prepared with all the research and support it with facts.

If the employer finds your first offer too high but is not on a strict budget, they may be open to meeting you in the middle. Thus, we strongly advise you to do your homework and know your BATNA. BATNA or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement helps you understand what you are looking to achieve in a given scenario and how you can leverage the next best thing. It strengthens your bargaining power. Some factors that may influence your BATNA include:

  • Your experience
  • Your expertise and skills
  • The demand and supply of your target role in the labor market

However, multiple rounds of negotiations may be risky. So we recommend doing it only when you know it will not impact your relationship with the employer. If you think it may burn your bridges, think again before making the second counteroffer.

b) Negotiating other parts of the package

What if they aren’t flexible to negotiate salary? What could be the next best thing to do? Accept the current salary? Well, maybe. If it aligns with your expectations and needs, go for it. However, you can still ask for something more. It is not only your salary that you can negotiate for. Some of the other elements include:

i) Annual leave

While some countries have generous leave legislation, this isn’t always the case. However, taking time off is always important for talent. No matter where you’re based, you can and should negotiate your holidays. We suggest starting by requesting additional paid time off. Then, you can also discuss unpaid time off if needed.

ii) Remote working

The ongoing pandemic made remote work mainstream. However, some employers have now returned to the office. New vacancies may be offered as office-based, remote, or hybrid. No matter how the opportunity is advertised, don’t be afraid to negotiate the work location as long as the role allows location independence. If you are looking to optimize your negotiations, lead with a business case, explaining why remote work won’t affect your performance to the employer.

iii) Childcare support

If you are a parent, you would know better than most others how challenging it is to raise a child with a full-time job. So, check with your employer what they can do to support your child’s care. Childcare benefits may include:

  • Childcare subsidies
  • On-site childcare services
  • Flexible work schedules
iv) Duties & responsibilities

If your experience and expertise justify more senior responsibilities, don’t be afraid to discuss the scope of the role. Being responsible for a wider or deeper scope could be a win-win, giving you exposure to interesting projects while the employer benefits from extra value. Plus, if the scope changes, you may have another opportunity to discuss compensation. If you feel this argument is relevant to your case, you can bring it up during the negotiation process. However, we suggest going down this route only if your candidate background allows it.

v) Job title

“A job title doesn’t put food on the table or put money in your bank account.”- they say, and we agree. However, it could make a difference in a future job search. If you feel that the current title is inaccurate, you can discuss this during the job offer stage. Keep in mind that a title that accurately reflects the scope of the role may be key in finding a more senior opportunity in the future. As a rule of thumb, startups may be more open to negotiate titles than corporate employers, as the latter may have a more structured and rigid job title system.

vi) Development opportunities

You are required to continuously grow as a professional. This means keeping in touch with the industry trends and best practices. For this, you may need to take up courses and workshops regularly. We suggest checking with the employer if they provide any related opportunities. If they don’t, you can pitch in your idea. Remember to keep the conversation relevant to them by explaining how your development will allow you to help them further.

While all of the above may be relevant to you, we suggest selecting the ones that would bring you the most value. Also, some research can help you identify the elements that the employers may be more likely to discuss. During negotiations, aim for requests that would make a difference to you without requiring excessive resources or effort from the employer. Also, limit your requests to a few, as otherwise it can get overwhelming. Remember, a win-win mindset is always the best.

2. Plan ahead

If the compensation you had in mind isn’t feasible at the moment but you are still keen to take the job, there is one more card you can play. You can ask the employer what you have to do so that you can discuss a higher salary or promotion in the future. This approach can put you on track to understand your goals, fuel your growth, and reach your desired end-point.

If you go down this route, we suggest building your goals based on this conversation, maintaining a work tracker with all achievements, and discussing this again at regular intervals. Having said that, make sure that you keep your focus on delivering high-quality work that adds value to the employer and your hiring manager. Coming across as someone motivated by their own agenda may not help you, while overdelivering is always the best way to get this promotion. Lastly, keep in mind that these conversations aren’t contractual. While it may be a good idea to align with the employer, following through is at their discretion.

Tips to help you get through an unsuccessful negotiation

In this section, let’s have a look at some tips to help you get through the uncomfortable rejection process.

1. Don’t take it personally

While it is easy to take the rejection straight to your heart, we want to reassure you, ‘it’s not you, it’s them’. All companies have a designated budget for each role. While they can go a little beyond what they offer, it is difficult for them to accept each demand made by a prospective employee. This is why we recommend looking at the industry standards in advance so that your demands seem feasible to your employers. In any case, if your salary negotiation doesn’t go the way you expected it to, don’t be disheartened. Reflect on your conversation, look for areas of improvement, and work on them. This experience will enable you to become a stronger negotiator in the future.

2. Keep yourself calm and professional

Money is a controversial topic. So even with the best intentions at both ends, things may get out of hand. If you find the situation getting messy, make sure to remain calm and professional irrespective of how the other party reacts. If it gets too uncomfortable, thank them for their time and let them know that you would like to pass on the opportunity.  In any case, you don’t want to work with an employer that doesn’t respect someone’s views and thoughts. That said, don’t burn any potential bridges. Be classy and close it on a positive note.

3. Don’t go overboard with your counteroffers

It is natural to feel let down when something doesn’t work in your favor. We understand that at this point, you want to optimize your available options. Yet, it is important to maintain a balance between negotiating effectively and maintaining a good relationship. We recommend assessing the environment and then pitching in your next counteroffer. If you feel that your interviewers were uncomfortable with your initial counteroffer, we would say don’t go for your second pitch. In this situation, it is best to choose between the available options.


Unsuccessful salary negotiations can be harsh and effort-intensive. But there are always methods to bounce back successfully. Communication and preparation are the keys to get what you deserve. If you are in a similar situation, we suggest following the above measures. If you still struggle to pitch in for better pay, we would be happy to advise you on it.