Why You and Your Candidates Should NEVER Accept a Counteroffer

(Editor’s note: With so many new ERE members coming on all the time, we thought that each week we’d republish one popular classic post. Here’s one, below.)

For the sake of this article I’m going to assume you know how to qualify your candidates regarding opportunities from the moment you first speak to them until they’ve signed the offer letter and started their new job. I’m going to assume you’ve been communicating effectively throughout every step of the interview process and have been asking quality, qualifying questions to ensure you’re not getting “sunshine blown up your skirt” regarding their interest in moving on to a new company.

There’s nothing 100% foolproof and guaranteed, but good methods of pre-qualifying candidates regarding counteroffers will make your life less stressful and more financially rewarding. In addition, if you are straightforward and authentic in your qualifying methods you may even weed out any candidates who would accept a counteroffer and possibly leave you and your client/company hanging.

Step Away From the Counteroffer!

First, let me say that I know the word “never” is a strong one. It’s absolute and I don’t use it lightly or without substantial consideration because the world I live in, both personally and professionally, is gray. That said, when it comes to considering whether or not to accept a counteroffer, remember that accepting a counteroffer only works out positively in a fraction of the cases; it’s just not worth the risk. I have known people who accepted counteroffers and in the vast majority of situations they regretted it.

Career Suicide

Accepting a counteroffer can be career suicide on a number of levels. A counteroffer may be tempting, flattering, and very appealing to a candidate who isn’t truly committed to leaving his job. After all, who doesn’t get an ego boost when, upon giving notice, the employer offers more money or a promotion to stay?

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As a recruiter you must resist the temptation to persuade candidates to accept an offer if you have even the slightest hint that the position in question isn’t the right fit for your candidate or that the candidate is using your offer to get his company to cough up a counteroffer. It’s hard, especially if/when you’re depending on acceptance to make a living. People often buy on emotion, and enticing someone to take your offer (or the candidate’s current company getting their employee to accept a counteroffer) by getting him excited and hopeful is just plain out of integrity. Temptation can be very seductive and hard to resist. As George Bernard Shaw said, “I never resist temptation because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.” That said, let’s look a some of the reasons not to accept a counteroffer. Make sure you use these methods to qualify throughout the recruiting process.

  1. The current employer is attempting to cover their tush. When an employee quits they lose money. When an employee quits the manager looks bad. Better to keep the employee on board until they can find a replacement. And don’t think this can’t happen; it can and it does. A pink slip may follow sooner than the candidate thinks.
  2. The employee becomes a fidelity risk to the current employer. He’s threatened to quit once; it’s only a matter of time before he does it again, and smart companies won’t allow themselves to be put into this situation. The employee will never be perceived in the same way by the company once he’s threatened to quit, then decided to stay.
  3. Any situation that causes an employee to seek outside offers is suspect. For example, if money is the issue why does it take a full court press for the employer to pay more? If the employee is worth more money now, why weren’t they worth it 15 minutes earlier when they said they were quitting?
  4. The reasons for wanting to quit will still remain, even if they are temporarily shaded. For example, if the employee has issues with his manager those issues will still be there at the higher salary.
  5. Quality, well-run companies don’t give counteroffers … ever! How would you feel if one of your employees forced you into something? ”If you don’t X, then I’m quitting.” I know I’d be angry. I’d be more than angry. If they don’t like working for you then they should go.

If you do get the urge to accept a counteroffer, just be prepared for the consequences whenever they do show up.

Carol Schultz

Carol Schultz is a pioneer in the recruitment process optimization and career strategy industries. She has built a client base of countless individuals and myriad companies from early stage pre-IPOs to publicly traded companies. She uses 20 years of recruiting experience where she honed her industry expertise and formed an intrinsic understanding of successful recruiting processes and the critical nature of alignment with corporate goals and objectives.

She takes a thoughtful approach to talent and focuses all her time on assessing, analyzing, and deploying recruiting strategies and processes that work. Her consulting and training company, VerticalElevation.com offers a fresh approach to talent strategy and incorporates the executive management team’s core values so they permeate every aspect of the hiring process. As an advisor and coach to corporations, she makes a stand for best practices to attract and retain the best and the brightest.