Recruiters – How To Handle Counter Offers

It is a scenario that repeats itself with unending regularity: You, the recruiter, have found the perfect candidate, the client makes a generous offer, and then the candidate informs you that he has received a counter-offer from his current employer. Consider what has actually happened: the current employer, realizing that one of their employees is on the verge of departing, has gone into panic mode, and they offer more money to “keep them onboard”. Well, even if you didn’t warn your perfect candidate of this possibility, there’s no reason for you to go into panic mode. Why? Simple. It’s not just about the money!

For whatever reason, the candidate agreed to talk to you and pursue a career change despite having a current position. So it follows that your candidate has a mental list of all the things at his current job that drive him crazy. Those reasons, usually unrelated to the financial rewards, will play a part in the candidate’s eventual decision. However, the promise of a large amount of money can cloud his judgment. So it’s important to remind your candidate that the extra dollars or change in title will not change the company’s faulty business model, improve the sagging office morale, eradicate the office politics nor rid him of annoying co-workers. In fact, those problems are likely to get worse if your candidate accepts the counter-offer.

Betrayal is one of the deepest ways we humans can hurt each other. It has a devastating effect on personal and work relationships. Regardless of intent, the employee who looks for another job is considered a betrayer. Betrayal breeds mistrust. Should the employee accept the counter-offer and stay with his current employer, he will be suspect any time he takes a day off. No matter how legitimate the reason or illness, the employer will assume that the employee is out looking for another job. Because the employee has “shown his cards”, he is likely to be passed over for promotions and more likely to be first on the chopping block when layoffs occur. Statistics show that most employees that accept a counter-offer end up leaving the company within three years, either through being laid off, or because the other aspects of the job made life at work unbearable, even with the extra money.

It is important to take great care in explaining these scenarios to your candidate. There is an inevitable risk that the candidate will feel trapped, or worse, sympathetic to their current employer. So use the sales technique of reinforcing the decision. Counter the scenarios of what could (and usually does) happen at the old job with the benefits of the new job. Certainly, there are the possibilities of new experiences and new co-workers with a new position, but use your knowledge of the new company to explain and reinforce the other benefits of the job (whatever they may be). Build your argument on the simple equation of old job vs. new job and leave yourself out of it. The only part that you can play is to convince the candidate that you have their best interests at heart, and that rejecting the counter-offer is the only wise move considering the aforementioned risks.

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