Counter Offers are Counterproductive

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counter offers are counterporductive

Counter Job Offers:
We each bring our own personal experiences to the table.

One of the search firms where I worked several years ago dealt with a pretty severe counter offer situation. A very difficult-to -fill manager position had been open for quite some time. The perfect candidate had been found but when he revealed to his employer that he was taking a new position, a substantial counter offer was placed. This possibility had been discussed at great length. Unfortunately, the candidate’s response to the counter surprised even himself, he took the counter offer from his current employer.  He had previously thought a counter offer was an impossibility.

Four months later, the position was still open… trust me when I say it was difficult to fill. The former candidate, as a result of taking the counter, was dealing with terrible fallout. Not only were his counter offer promises unfulfilled but a serious level of trust had been broken between he and his employer. The very valid reasons which caused him to even consider a new position were still in place. Nothing had changed, which led him to his belief that nothing would change. And like most employees experience after accepting a counter offer, feelings of not being valued lingered every day. When he found out that the other position was still open, he asked if he might be able to throw his hat back in the ring.

Interestingly enough, he had been such a strong candidate that no subsequent candidate or applicant had lived up to his candidacy for the role. And when the Hiring Manager was approached with the former candidate’s interest, he practically jumped up and down – of course, they were still interested. He was practically hired on the spot. Lucky for this candidate, ultimately the new hire, his acceptance of a fated counter offer had not ruined his chances, though almost. Even with the time lost, it worked out best for both new hire and hiring manager. Gotta love it when a plan, though unexpected, comes together…

The passive job seeker needs to think about the possibility of a counter offer and what their answer would be.  Flying blind into a resignation of a current job for a new job never brings good results.

The recruiter or hiring manager must have the counter offer conversation with every currently employed candidate or applicant – it has to be broached and discussed at length with the candidate/applicant, especially when the candidate is strong and a valued employee at his current organization.  And a good recruiter will know when a serious job offer is forthcoming.  With this knowledge or gut feeling comes the preparedness responsibility. Both sides of the equation must be prepared to for the counter offer and how it will be played, how the applicant will decide. And while it is your responsibility, it is not always your good fortune, to know with a certainty, the outcome. It is a rare occasion when an accepted counter offer actually works out in the long run for both employer and employee.

Avoid the counter offer

A former mentor, with whom I debated this issue often, was heated and adamant about the assurance he felt that counter-offers were counter-productive. And yet, when it came down to it and a well-liked employee gave her two-week notice, he was there ready, willing, and able to extend a psychotic counter offer. The well-liked employee, of course, didn’t take the offer.  She had heard him rant on about counter offers being crap.  The employee begins to feel undervalued, why hadn’t an increase in pay or responsibility been offered already – why had it taken a threat of leaving to produce a counter offer that showed the value a company placed in that employee?  And for the employer, an overzealous effort to not illicit change within an organization – the disruption of a valued employee leaving and new one coming on – had served only to create an environment of distrust and pettiness – was the employee who had been disloyal in looking for another job really worth it? Recruiters know – they know. Don’t be fooled or fall into the traps to which we see clients and hiring managers so often succumb.  Be ready and know the answers before an offer is made.  It may change the offer.

The fall isn’t so much what hurts, as is the lack of bounce.



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  1. Great post! I have strong feelings about the counter offer as well! I have learned that if you have a reason to look, that reason doesn’t go away just because there was a nice salary boost or other perqs thrown at you at the last minute. The true reason will always resurface and you’ll always be right back where you started.


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