The dreaded counter offer

The dreaded counter offer

03 Dec 11:00 by Alan Jarque


An increasingly difficult challenge for us as recruiters, in this immensely candidate driven market, is dealing with the dreaded counter offer. In a market that is thriving and expanding at a rapid rate, one of the largest obstacles for us in placing good candidates is the fact that their employers are also recognising the importance of those already in their business and appreciating that replacing particularly exceptional individuals is by no means easy.

Candidates are coming in to meet with us and demonstrating how they are looking for an exciting new challenge and seem to be keen to progress with a fast growing company that will support them and help them to grow in their careers. They are going to interviews hungry and enthusiastic to impress and make a productive change to their working lives, impressing, earning second stage interviews, even sometimes third stage, and being offered. Yet after all that effort, time and energy, they are still going back to the people that they were so eager to leave. Why, you might ask?

Well it is certainly a short sighted approach and one that I simply wouldn’t recommend, for the simple fact that there is a reason they were looking to leave initially, and that reason still hasn’t gone away, and it certainly won’t in three, six or twelve months. According to GRLaw, 80% of people who have accepted a counter offer will not be at their current employer in six months and 93% will not be there in eighteen months’ time. That is a resounding fact.

I recently had a candidate who came to me desperately looking for a move, confined to working horrendous hours within a company that is constantly leaking staff, with a short-sighted approach towards targets and goals. By all accounts, this person’s company sounded like a very negative and unhealthy place to work. However, after turning down an initial counter offer, my candidate was then counter offered again and offered a managerial position, which she found impossible to reject. Undoubtedly another pay rise would have come with this added title, but does this clear all of the unhappiness and uncertainty? A question that we as recruiters are constantly asking ourselves is ‘what makes that person think that things will change, purely because they will earn more money?’ The clear and concise answer is that nothing will change and they will probably regret not taking that fantastic opportunity.

Obviously the fact that candidates are seen to be valued in the form of a counter offer is very flattering and maybe placates a few fears that they perhaps weren’t appreciated in their role. Nonetheless, the fact that they have actively sought to move away from the business also has the degenerative effect of illuminating how they are unsettled and that they aren’t a stable member of the team anymore. Thus, a once reliable employee is now seen as a potential threat to the future of the business, because they could leave at any time. So whilst they have received a financial boost courtesy of an uplift in salary, there is now not only doubt from you the employee, but also from them, the employer.

All of this suggests that accepting a counter offer is a very risky decision and does not solve any of the issues that were initially there in the first place. The bottom line is, it is not advisable to think that money will solve everything because it simply won’t, primarily because your reasons for leaving will always be there and the seed of doubt that has been planted will only continue to grow.