One of our recruitment network’s members recently shared that she experienced not 1, not 2, but 3 different candidates accepting counteroffers from their companies. This is an age-old problem in the recruiting industry, and something that we are seeing more and more of these days in a candidate-friendly market, especially when working with strong candidates. It’s up to the recruiter, as part of the whole interview process, to discuss and really dig down and find the truth of what the candidate would do if their company presented a counteroffer to them.
Here’s some suggestions our other members gave on how to handle the counteroffer situation:
- Question their motivations for seeking a change – “What I have found to be vitally important is to really peel back the onion during that initial conversation to find out why the candidate wants a change; if it’s just more money, you’ll be hard pressed to come up with a good solution unless it’s MORE money. However, if they told you during that initial conversation that the reason they were leaving was: lack of challenge / poor management / no career path, then remind them that hasn’t changed, just the money.”
- Ask what they’d do if their company presented a counter offer to them – “We discuss the ‘What if’ scenarios at the initial interview and throughout the recruitment process. When we explore their motivations for change, we make sure we truly understand where financial motivators sit in terms of preferences. If financial sits down the rungs of preference, then ultimately its an easy situation to manage. If they are up the rung in preference and an offer / counter offer is made, we attempt to get in the head of the candidate and ask him why only now since another organization is interested do they value him/her.”
- Assess whether they are using you to get a pay raise where they are – “I discuss counter offers up front with a candidate in our first conversation and work it into future conversations before any interviews with the person, to see if they waver about why they are looking or tell me they will consider a counter. I have canceled interviews if I thought the candidate was playing me to get a better offer from his/her employer.”
- Get it in writing – “I have also found that getting the candidate to sign an Offer letter prior to giving notice to current employer somehow makes it more committing to them.” Another recruiter added: “You could always put in your candidate agreement that if they accept a counter offer then you will take a % of the increase in salary that they took.”
- Show them the facts – “As much as we prep candidates on the dangers of accepting or even entertaining a counteroffer, it can still happen. We start the counteroffer conversation as early as possible and suggest they don’t just ‘take our word for it’ but actually research this on their own, and suggest they Google ‘should I accept a counteroffer’. In my experience, the statistics don’t lie.”
- Change can be difficult – make it easier for the candidate – “I think that its important the candidate has bonded with their potential hiring manager – all the counteroffer advice doesn’t mean enough if the potential employee doesn’t feel a real connection with the new team. For this reason, I encourage the hiring manager and even his boss to reach out to the candidate during the time between acceptance, resignation and starting a new role.”
- Explain what will happen in the future if they take a counteroffer now – “We usually ask (and provide a counter offer document to review); ‘what will happen when you walk in and resign; will they throw money at you?’ Then we support that statement with ‘all counter offers fail’. Just think about this for a while: if you accept a counter offer you will have forced their hand and very soon your employer will confidentially start looking for your replacement.”
- Another member added: “In the end, most research I have read says that if they were genuinely seeking a new role, after taking a counter offer and staying where they were, they will usually leave again in a matter of months as the reasons for seeking the change usually haven’t been addressed. Money isn’t a motivator – but it can be a golden set of handcuffs.”
Counteroffers shouldn’t be the elephant in the room when talking with a candidate. It’s important to really understand where they’re coming from and their motivations, so as to not waste your time and your client’s time.