Adaptive’s NY digital recruitment specialist Stefan Siveski offers practical advice on how to manage counter offers.
Let’s clear the air before we start – the internet is littered with articles advising job-seekers on “how to manage” counter offers, 99% of them written by recruiters and almost all with a single, over-simplified conclusion: “just say no!”.
Why? Counter offers are typically the nemesis of the professional recruiter.
A recruiter can work hard to help a would-be job-seeker find the right new organization, role and compensation package only to witness the whole thing fall to pieces as the original employer suddenly changes the game once the candidate announces their intention of leaving.
So it’s no surprise to find a litany of click-bait articles online offering up “5 reasons to turn down a counter” or providing murky “statistics” around how often accepting a counter offer ultimately leads to termination shortly down the line…
The truth – of course – is much more complex.
Counters aren’t one-size-fits-all and each situation varies based on a huge number of different dynamics.
But that’s not to say that as professional recruiters we at Adaptive have no opinion on the matter, nor that we approach every situation on an exclusively case-by-case basis. In reality, we do in fact have a blanket policy on how to handle counter offers, and it’s an extremely effective one.
Our advice to candidates who ask our opinion on the topic is simple: make sure you have walked through the counter offer scenario in your head before you encounter it in real life. Whatever factors may be at play in the counter offer situation, the surest way for any candidate to handle it poorly is to be unprepared.
The first time you consider the possibility of accepting a last-minute, one-foot-out-the-door counterbid from your employer should NEVER be the moment it is happening and you are being expected to make a decision.
More often than not, candidates begin their job searches because enough driving factors have accumulated for them to seriously consider leaving their current organization. Factors including pay, responsibility, autonomy, promotion prospects, management direction, or simply doubting the competitive nature of the product/service or growing dissatisfied with corporate culture.
(Important point here – way upstream of any counter scenario – employees owe it to themselves and their employers to have either attempted to resolve these issues with their management, or at least have witnessed reluctance in their management to focus on these key aspects of their development. It’s simple professional maturity to ensure that your current grievances don’t have a simple, satisfactory fix before casting your eyes elsewhere).
When it comes to beginning the search, job-seekers can articulate to themselves and their recruiter logically and dispassionately why they are seeking to make a move. But when taken by surprise with an unexpected counter, this clear thinking can evaporate in a rush of emotion and short-term opportunism.
It’s more helpful to rehearse the moment of possible counter beforehand, and to keep in mind the typical mechanics behind a company’s decision to issue a counter…
In simple terms:
Counter offers come about when a company’s competitors feel that an employee may be ‘worth’ more than they are being paid (however slight), and offer them a new role. When the current employer realizes this, they are faced with the immediate issue of losing a trained, stable (and perhaps important) employee — plus the challenge of finding a replacement. So, they counter offer.
Counter offers can be very aggressive (big salary raises, new responsibility etc.) because the employee who is about to leave is — at least in the short term — even more valuable to their current company than they are to the new employer:
a) they already know the product/services/clients/processes of the company
b) they are a proven successful employee
c) they would leave a hole in the company if they left, which would need to be re-filled
d) the back-filling recruitment process could be slow, difficult and very expensive
Simply put, in many cases (though by no means all), counter offers are panic reactions to companies facing the major inconvenience of a key employee leaving the business. This is a key point – a counter offer is not the same as an employee-centric management system or company culture.
If you are unprepared for this and are suddenly faced with a counter offer, you may think:
“I was wrong, this company does value me after all — look what they’re prepared to offer”.
More logically you perhaps should be thinking:
“This company doesn’t value me — look how much they actually need me, and yet they haven’t offered any of this until it becomes an inconvenience to them”.
This latter thought process is especially relevant if you have made pro-active attempts to discuss your dissatisfaction with management previously, and made no progress.
So is taking a counter offer always a bad idea?
But handing in your notice without having considered how you’ll react if your employer does counter offer?
Give yourself a chance to reflect on the fact that a counter offer may not be a gesture of how much the employer does truly value you, but how valuable you have been to the company without being offered due reward and professional opportunity.
Rehearsing the counter scenario is the secret to making the right call when it happens, and taking the decision with a clear head and based on carefully-considered rationale – not on fleeting emotions or under management pressure.
Stefan Siveski recruits for digital roles across all levels of seniority (entry-level to C-suite) with a focus on Search, Social, Display, Programmatic & Analytics
Feel free to reach out to him on LinkedIn and start a conversation!
Tel: (646) 470 5958
E-Mail: stefan.siveski (at) adaptive-digital.com
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