Executive Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd

Countering the counter-offer

Employers won’t let their top talent move on without a fight...
Countering the counter-offer

Everything looks perfect. Your candidate has impressed your client, they’ve agreed to a salary and you’re just helping to firm up a start date… when the phone rings. It’s your candidate. They’ve changed their mind, they’ve decided to stay put for now. Their current employer, it seems, has made them an offer they can’t refuse.

It’s frustrating, but you know exactly what happened – when your candidate went to hand in their notice, their manager panicked and did whatever they could to keep them. Typically, they might have offered a promotion, a better salary, or another type of benefit. However, that trinket of persuasion has turned into a major headache for you and your client.

It’s something Jo Sellick, Managing Director of Sellick Partnership, has seen all too often. “Counter-offers in recruitment are an everyday occurrence,” he explains. “Employers will often offer more money or try and agree on a new set of terms in order to retain talent and avoid having to find a replacement.”

Research from The Creative Group highlights how prevalent this is – a quarter (23%) of employers make counter-offers because they don’t want to deal with recruiting someone new, and 37% offer them to avoid losing a valuable skillset. As a result, 44% of the 1,000 workers polled said they had been given a counter-offer when they handed in their notice.

However, the new deal on the table might not actually be that sweet for your former candidate. The Creative Group found that of the workers who were given a counter-offer, only 53% decided to stay put and were happy about it.


“Candidates should make a list of the pros and cons of both offers and weigh them up side by side in order to make an informed decision that is right for them,” advises Sellick. “Candidates can easily be swayed by more money or colleagues asking them to stay so their decision can be influenced for the wrong reasons. If this is the case, then it is likely they will return to the same issues if they accept the counter-offer, but with a little bit more money.”

But, as recruiters, there’s no need to sit back and watch your candidate slip through your fingers. Matt Weston, Managing Director at Robert Half UK, suggests there are key questions you should ask your candidates to consider before they drop out.


Will it address the real issues?

“What prompted your candidate to look at jobs or respond to other inquiries in the first place? Is the reason on your must-have list?” Weston asks. He explains that it’s never wise for jobseekers to look for other opportunities simply to try to create a bidding war in their favour.

For example, if they asked for a raise a few months ago, but didn’t get it, to now receive a salary boost just because they’re considering leaving won’t change any of the problems they may have experienced in their former job. In fact, doing so may actually cause disappointment. Weston explains that candidates should remember, that if their employer truly valued them, they would reward excellence without being forced by circumstance.


Additionally, you might want to point out that the candidate’s current employer now knows they have serious concerns about their workplace. The researchers found that the number one worry of employers who have had their counter-offer accepted is that the candidate will not be loyal in the future. The second is that they may be unable to address the problems that led them to hand in their notice to begin with.


But Sellick adds that building up a strong dialogue with your candidates as you move through the recruitment process can help to avoid the thorny issue of the counter-offer altogether. “In my experience many candidates that do accept counter-offers decide to move roles soon after, so I believe it is important for organisations and recruiters to help candidates make this decision,” he explains.

“Personally, I always discuss reasons for leaving at numerous points throughout the recruitment process to ensure I fully understand their motivations. That way if a counter-offer comes in I can discuss it with them, and ensure they are making the right decision for their future.”