On Counteroffers

A strong economy yields boom times for our industry. Yet there can be no light without the dark. Problems also abound in such a market. For some – the inexperienced, the poorly trained, or those lacking in mental vigor – these can appear to be insurmountable. To others, however, the attendant mild difficulties and their solutions are yawningly predictable.

Foremost among these are the accepted counteroffers and falloffs encountered by some. The natural tendency under such circumstances is to rely on perceived selling skills – saying the right words to the candidates. It is certainly true that all problems in our business eventually yield to superior selling skills. The best verbiage, however, will not serve if major systemic flaws in the search and placement process exist. A major part of correct selling skills is the ability to coolly analyze that process – and then to make appropriate changes.
Following are the questions to be asked:

1) Are you selecting the right search assignments?
Working on the wrong assignment leads inevitably to placements that disintegrate. A poor offer, a slow-growth client, an unmotivated hiring authority, any of the 21 keys to selecting the search, if ignored, leads to doom. The first principle of “Making the Sale” is selling the Best Product. In a market where it is easier to get search assignments, it is also easier to work on the wrong assignment.

2) How are you obtaining candidates?
“Recruiters” whose main sources of candidates come from means whereby all others have easy access – ads or the Internet, for example — will always lose a high percentage at the end. When scores or hundreds of others (including clients) have the identical candidate, how can all this competition not result in turndowns? If an actively looking candidate has many opportunities from which to choose, there is a tendency to delay or simply not to choose yours. If you are not doing real recruiting as opposed to cheap non-recruiting, you guarantee yourself problems. The “Easy Way” is frequently the hardest.

3) Are you recruiting correctly?
“Target” recruiting on a specific, well-selected search yields serious, motivated candidates who accept. Old-style, “generic” recruiting — “We have many opportunities to help your career” — yields shoppers, accepted counteroffers, turndowns, and fall-offs. “Indirect” recruiting also yields reduced effectiveness. The proper way to recruit in today’s market is directly, professionally, with a strong sales-oriented presentation which answers the prospective candidate’s question, “what will this specific opportunity do for my career?”

4) Are you properly obtaining in-depth candidate concerns?
Working with candidates not actively looking to make a change is very different from doing so with the unhappy, unqualified, or unemployed people to be found through ads or the Internet. Beyond the obvious difference in quality is the change in techniques necessary to obtain candidate concerns. What does the person not like about their present position?
A recruiting call is inadequate if “softeners” are not utilized to thoroughly elicit in-depth and total concerns. Without these concerns, you have little ammunition to counter difficulties when they arise – as they will.

5) Are you following up effectively after First Interview?
Solid selling skills here will really make a difference. Thorough use of such techniques as reinforcing positives and eliciting specifics will greatly elevate the perceived worth of the opportunity to the candidate. The foundation of our business is a serious grounding in Classical Selling Skills. Extensive reading and study combined with role-playing and taping and evaluation of these calls will yield a major boost in income. Most recruiters are extremely shallow in this critical area.

6) Are you covering the counter-offer at the right time in the process?
The most appropriate verbiage will not serve if used at the wrong moment. The time for greatest results is between the offer being accepted, and the candidate turning in their notice. This specific window of time – which may be from an hour to two or three days – is when counteroffers must be addressed, and as thoroughly and as well as possible. It will thus be freshest in their minds should this circumstance arise. To do so earlier is not only to blunt the effect of your script; it can actually put counter-productive thoughts in the mind of the candidate.

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7) Are you utilizing the best tools to assist you?

“Third-party references” – the judgements of respected outside authorities – are a proven and effective sales technique. Written material will serve to reinforce whatever you might say. Should a candidate mistakenly accept a counteroffer and then later call with a tale of woe, have them send you a letter detailing their regrets. Then use it to send to other candidates to warn them against duplicating the errors of others. Secondly, while the Internet is of questionable benefit in recruiting, it will save you hours of tedious researching of mundane subjects. See what you can find to support your case against counteroffers, and then use it at the proper time (see #6). The Fordyce Letter, our industry’s only national newsletter, has an excellent article entitled “Counteroffer Acceptance: Road to Career Ruin” which is available to their subscribers on written request or through:http://www.careerjournal.com/columnists/perspective/20040809-fmp.html

Much time and effort is spent in most search firms in an attempt to develop verbiage which deals with thetotally predictable problem of possible counteroffers. It is evident that the best possible script is necessary to reduce the incidences of this occurring. A cool and logical analysis of the entire process, however, will frequently yield major errors which appear earlier. When these flaws are corrected, a massive improvement in production will be the inevitable result.

Editor’s Note: An international author and lecturer for over two decades, Steve Finkel has been referred to by Recruitment International, Europe’s largest industry publication, as “the world’s premier trainer in search and recruitment.” He is the producer of the acclaimed DVD/video series “The Art of Recruiting,” widely regarded as the definitive work on this topic. A full line of excellent training products and services including several 300+-page hardbound books is available. For complete information, call 314-991-3177. His website is www.stevefinkel.com.

Acclaimed international author, speaker, and trainer Steve Finkel is a veteran of over 30 years and six recessions in our industry. Personnel Consultant Magazine, published by the National Association of Personnel Consultants, has referred to him as possessing "the most in-depth knowledge of search and placement in industry history." Recruitment International Magazine, Europe's largest industry publication, has described him as "the world's premier author and trainer in search and recruitment." His revised and up-to-date 360-page book Breakthrough! is now distributed in 25 countries and is also available on Amazon. Contact him at 314-991-3177 or www.stevefinkel.com.