How Recruiters Deal With Counter Offers

Expert AdviceBefore I prevaricate, let me first cite my credence. I spent a number of years working in executive search. Not the current “tapping up” of candidates on Linkedin that seems to pass as headhunting these days. Real executive search with a well produced target list of candidates. The ideal candidate being the one who was happy where they were quite often; not the one who was already on the market or passively looking. Those of you who do conduct full search assignments know what I am talking about. This I believe gives me a good understanding of the psychology of working with candidates who are likely to be counter offered. I have also been on the receiving end of 5 (I had to sit back and recall and recount) counter offers. One I reflected on and took (eeeekkkk! Sharp intakes of breath from the readership!), others I dismissed out of hand.

Sitting now, reflecting on all of this I want to turn my eye to the classic “10 reasons not to accept a counter offer”. This list has been in recruitment for as long as I and probably was around since all time began. I can even remember being given “the list” and told to learn and recite to candidates. It wasn’t that far into my recruiting career that I learnt how to really deal with counter offers. There is many a trainer out there who will cite certain statistics without any real backing for their claims. I recently heard one such statistic that 68% of statistics in training are made up. No citation and no grounding. I made it up….

10 reasons not to accept a counter offer | Recruitment Dad

So to the top 10 and my own comment on each:

1. After resigning, you have made your employer aware that you were looking and unhappy. Your loyalty will now be in question.

Is that true? How do you know? The theory is sound but would an employer really ask me to stay because they no longer trust me? I think this is 50:50 really. I can remember working for one particular employer where counter offers were made to people and they continued to develop and move up the ladder. In fact not resigning in your career with that business was a serious block to success!!

2. When promotion/raise time comes around, your employer will remember who is loyal and who is not.

Again, true. Is agreeing to stay a display of loyalty or disloyalty? Walking away from “an enticing offer” elsewhere and staying is surely a big demonstration of loyalty?

3. When making difficult decisions about cut-backs, the company may begin with those that are deemed less loyal.

No. Having been part of selection panels and working with clients making “cut backs” this has never been part of the scoring matrix. It is about what you can deliver relative to your cost of employment.

4. Accepting a Counter-Offer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride, to simply be bought at the last minute.

Surely it depends upon circumstance. If the candidate has not spoken to their employer prior to resignations about their motivations to leave then that is a bit embarrassing and a little stupid yet if the “new offer” (not just remuneration) becomes “better” than what they are leaving for, then who is the fool?? The one who takes it or the one who stays?

5. Where was the extra money for a counter-offer at during your last performance review? Most companies have strict wage/salary guidelines and may be simply giving your next raise early or buying time to hire someone in your place.

True and not true. Yes – serious issue is where is this money coming from? The whole thing about next year’s salary is a real issue. The “buying time to replace you”? Horse manure!! I asked recruiters who were debating counter offers on Linkedin for one piece of evidence to prove this to be true. Not one person (even the discussion “owner” who swore blind it would happen regularly) could name an incident where either they or a colleague had seen a candidate get fired or let go after accepting a counter offer. Not one. Where did this urban legend begin?

6. The same circumstances that now cause you to consider making a change almost always reoccur within the next 6-12 months.

Not if they remove the reason for you wanting to leave in the counter offer. Yes, more money does not feather a thorny nest. If I resign because of issue X and it gets resolved immediately to my satisfaction then surely it won’t occur again?

7. Statistics show that if you accept a counter-offer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in 6 months or being let go within 1 year are extremely high.

What statistics? Taken by whom? “Extremely high” I have seen replaced by 80% on some sheets. The probability of leaving in the next 6 months depends on why you wanted to leave originally and if your issues were resolved or not, surely?? Being let go.. That means fired, right? Imagine “please stay so we can fire you at our leisure” really being the case. Again, any evidence out there to prove me wrong is greatly appreciated.

Advice for managing Counter Offers | Recruitment Dad8. Once the word gets out, the relationship you now enjoy with co-workers will never be the same. You lose personal satisfaction of the peer group acceptance.

Who will “let the word out” a disgruntled recruiter?

HR? A manager? “Guys! Just so you know Bob resigned so we gave him 10k more. If you want a payrise then write your resignation today”.

I don’t think there are many out there whose personal relationship with their co-workers is so weak that staying post resignation causes them to be downgraded or ostracised.

9. What type of company do you want to work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you are worth?

Yes, yes, yes! Totally true and well worth highlighting to your candidates (and considering yourself).

10. Accepting counter-offers after already accepting another position burns bridges with other companies, your recruiter, and ultimately shows all 3 parties that you can be bought.

Isn’t changing jobs about being bought??  Does it burn bridges if done in a way to ensure that bridges don’t get burnt? Radio silence burns bridges. No explanation and thanks but no thanks. As for the recruiter…

So you may not feel the same as I do and that is your entitlement. In truth, relying on the above to get a candidate through resignation is clutching at straws. There are much more powerful, long lasting ways to ensure you don’t fall foul of the counter offer. True consultancy to guide your candidate to the right decision for them, you and your client. Relying on urban legends and recruitment folk lore is a bit thin for me. I fully expect to hear from those who swear by the above. Good luck to you! If this is your counter offer bible, I would love to hear some real stories about when these things really did happen to a real person.

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4 Responses

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  1. Brilliant post Dad, and shooting stone dead the hoary old myths that we all used to peddle, just to get candidates to accept the jobs we wanted them to.

    The boring truth is that so many great employers are also very poor employers. That is to say, a firm that is great to work for, offers many enjoyable benefits and challenges, may also be very lax when it comes to looking after their staff. This is usually because of negligence and not malice.
    When prompted by a surprise resignation, it is very natural to reassess the importance of a staff member, and to find that you as an employer have been remiss, either in cash terms, benefits, staff development and progression, or including them in the workings of the business.

    There are sound and legitimate reasons to leave any job, and very often extremely good reasons to accept a counteroffer to stay. Only the individual can decide for him/herself, having first taken soundings from independent advisers (no, not the recruiter).

    Stephen O'Donnell 21 September 2010 at 12:23 am Permalink
  2. Fantastic! I was first taught this list back in the early 90s by the brilliant, bow tied Tony Burn (RIP) and continued to churn it out for many years – hey I might even have been that trainer! Lol! Things were less ‘consultative’ back then, less ‘trusted adviser’ and more ‘My way or the highway’ to quote TB! Actually when I was a recruiter, rightly or wrongly, back then it did give me more confidence to manage the candidate process. I really believed it so it seemed to work!

    Fiona Lander 21 September 2010 at 12:52 am Permalink
  3. To have a counter offer bible is to try and pre qualify a candidate using only a crib sheet. You get the basics more than a CV but not the true respresentation of the candidate.

    Ultimately there is nothing in your counter offer repetoire that legislates for human nature. You can discuss the facts and truths and a candidate can agree and see they all make sense but then they don’t necessarily make the informed choice. Better the devil you know?

    ‘Head-hunting’ in the traditional form you mention was/is flattery to deception in most instances and your first paragraph highlights that. “The ideal candidate being the one who was happy where they were quite often; not the one who was already on the market or passively looking.” At the end of the day they are happy and sometimes no amount of head turning will get them to move because they were happy in the first place. They don’t have to move.

    The only comment I would make is if your candidate is counter offered (and assuming in the first instance your candidate is being entirely honest with you which a large proporation in times of confrontation are not to avoid discussion and justifyig their decision against logic) understand the motives of the counter offer and the advantages you client’s offer has over this. Ultimately though, if you are at counter offer stage there is more than average chance you have lost the candidate anyway.

    The best time to ‘counter’ counter offers is before it even happens. And even then the candidate’s current employer then has the notice period, whether 2,4,8,12 or 16 weeks to work on the candidate to convince them to stay. Against the hour or so you can talk to them on the phone or the time your client invests in maintaining contact with them before they are de to start.

    The old adage “a placement isn’t a placement until they are sat at their desk in their new job on their first morning” never rang so true.

    Graeme Collie 26 September 2010 at 10:16 pm Permalink
  4. An eye opening post! Speaking in a candidate view i have in one occasion been offered a counter offer within 6 months of my last job to help keep me at the business with the view that everything will get better. Unfortunately it only got worse and my frustration started to show. My co-workers never really looked at me the same way after i received the counter offer but i was quite naive to stay on and i eventually left for my current job.
    Sometimes like my in case at the time you have to weigh up what you have and i felt that because i have a job and a wage is coming in i should stay regardless of how i felt plus i also felt that i was wanted because they tried to sort out the issue with the offer. But in the end personal feelings came into play and it ultimately lead to me leaving within 2 months of the offer.
    There’s always a good reason behind an employee leaving and counter offers can help in keeping them but it’s up to the employee to realise his/her situation and make a decision

    James Cook 7 July 2011 at 9:56 am Permalink

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