Should You Get Another Job Offer To Bump Up Your Salary?

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The mere thought of asking your boss for a raise can be enough to make your palms sweat. Is it better to strengthen your case by using a competing offer as ammunition to hike your pay?

“It’s a high-risk, high-reward value proposition,” says Jena Abernathy, author of “The Inequality Equalizer.” There are right and wrong ways to play the game.

Key Takeaways

  • If you're happy at your job but want a boost in pay, you could explore your options outside the company and get a job offer to take to your current employer.
  • Knowing what you're worth, keeping a list of your accomplishments and having a feel for your audience could help you leverage an outside offer with your current company.
  • However, be prepared to walk away or to lose trust if you use an outside offer to get a pay bump.

Here’s what to consider before using a competing offer to up the ante at work.

Exploration Can Be a Good Thing

“It never hurts to explore,” Abernathy said.

Checking out other offers can be an opportunity to network, and it's a good way to gauge how your value has grown in the open market.

It’s also a means of determining whether there are other companies you’d rather work for—or reaffirming your commitment (and contentment) with your current workplace.

“You should evaluate your opportunities every three years,” Abernathy said.

Do You Want More Money, or Do You Feel Undervalued at Work?

The two questions aren’t necessarily one and the same. Do some soul-searching before you start your looking outward, and ask yourself what’s really driving your push for more money.

“If it’s just money, and you really like your job duties, the company culture, and your relationship with your supervisor, then proceed with caution before going in [to present a competing offer],” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of staffing firm Robert Half International Inc.

Make sure you’re considering your total rewards package—not just salary, but benefits, working relationships, sponsorship, and work-life balance. Some of these intangibles provide both short-term and long-term value. If that’s the case—and a raise isn’t in the cards—then perhaps your employer can offer other incentives like working a day or two from home or more paid vacation days.

Know Your Number and Know Your Audience

Feeling underpaid isn’t the same as knowing you are, based on your credentials and experience. Head to sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Fairygodboss (which is specifically for women) to get an idea of what other employers are paying for the same skills and experience as you.

Once you have a specific number in mind, you also need to know your supervisor’s personality, McDonald said.

“It’s hard to script something out and not hurt feelings otherwise,” he said.

Preparation is always recommended, but particularly necessary if you’ve noticed that your boss has a tendency to become sensitive or defensive.

“Role-play out with a mentor how the conversation is going to go,” McDonald said. “That way, you’re prepared with what you want to say.”


Play out any possible reactions your employer could have, so you're prepared for anything.

Treat It Like You Would Any Other Salary Negotiation

If you’re using a competing offer to leverage a raise, the last thing you want to do is to come to the table with the offer alone. In addition to knowing your number and your audience, also come prepared with evidence of the high quality of your work. You have to know what you are worth, and then prove it.

Or as Abernathy puts it: Always be keeping score.

"(Say) 'Here’s what I brought to the company, and here’s what I’d like to have in return,'” she said.


Confidence is one thing, but coming in with an inflated ego is another. Leave it at the door, McDonald said: “Diplomacy is critical.”

It might help to keep a list of all the things, good and not so good, that you’ve done for the company. When you’re in front of your supervisor, go through the things you think have been successful and then the things that haven’t gone so well, with an emphasis on what you learned from them.

You Have to Be Prepared to Walk

“If you have a competing offer and you’re contemplating whether to go to your employer to negotiate a raise, you have to be prepared to take that offer,” McDonald said.

Even if you want to stay and you’re only trying to use the offer as leverage, your employer could just say they're sad to see you go and provide no counteroffer. So if you want to stay but also want to bump your pay, try something like the following:

I have to tell you I’ve received another offer, but my preference is to stay here. How do you see my career playing out in this role, and what should I do from here? It’s not one or the other, but I wanted to make you aware out of respect. It’s not personal; it’s business.

This Move Works Once Per Employer

So what happens when it works? Abernathy has gone exploring a couple of times over the course of her career, received competing offers, and then received matches. Yet in both situations, she left a year later.

“I think the reason I left is that I’m not sure there was ever that trust [again] and the comfort level wasn’t the same,” she said. “I can remember a boss saying to me, ‘I’m surprised you went on a job interview, I thought you were happy here.’”


How do I tell a company I have a competing offer?

Using a simple and respectful approach will likely get the best results, according to experts.

How do I negotiate my salary without competing offer?

There are a few steps to negotiating a salary. Gather research, average raise data, and your recent achievements. Have a clear idea of what you want, but be flexible to other offers. Then request a meeting with your supervisor to discuss salary.

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