Overcoming a counteroffer

After sifting through countless CVs, conducting interviews on Skype and then a few more in person to land one great candidate, you may breathe a sigh of relief when all that is left to do is for your future employee to move their stuff into the empty desk.

But then a counteroffer emerges from your perfect candidate’s current employer. Wait, what? 

Suddenly, everything is up in the air and everyone is in recruitment limbo. Here are some tips on how not to be blindsided by a counteroffer that could see your top candidate disappear back to where they came from.

Make the grass greener

A candidate who’s been drawn back to their current employer by a fishing line packed with great bait could be very tempted to be reeled back in. Staying means less change, possibly less upheaval if they’re moving a lot to come to you and it probably means they’re returning to a promise of great things.

So, what can you do to make it more attractive for them to make the move?

  • Sit down with them for a frank and open discussion about why the counteroffer appeals to them – be understanding and warm.

  • Remind them of the reasons why they applied for a job with you and reiterate the opportunities that they could have to move up the chain, perks or salary.

  • Offer to pay for their move, if you haven’t already done so. And support with the move such as a later start date, or half days for the first week to sort logistics – whatever makes it easier for them to make the shift. 

Appeal to the side of your candidate that has wanted to change jobs for a while, who wants a change, to grow, and to be supported.

Get in first

If you’ve got an inkling (or better, solid evidence from trawling through professional social media platforms or just hearing industry rumours) that a counteroffer is looming, then jump in first by warning the candidate.

You could do this as a matter of course during your ‘reeling in’ process ie. “now, your current company may try to win you back, but we really want you and we have your future growth in mind”.

Bringing this up can help prepare them for the situation with a more level head than if they’re caught by surprise, and they may be more likely to continue the path to a new job with you.

Show them the evidence

Whether you’re warning your candidate about an impending counteroffer or working with one who’s on the receiving end, giving them something outside the conversation to think about could help.

Do an internet search and show them professional articles about why counteroffers happen and why, in most cases, experts agree that it’s best not to take them. Reasons for this include:

  • Their former employer is just trying to keep them long enough to replace them.

  • All the reasons why they tried to leave in the first place come flooding back, overriding the pay rise they returned for.

  • Colleagues are wary because the candidate tried to leave. Things are just not the same in the tearoom, and never will be again.

Take charge

Given that you’ve spent time and resources recruiting this person, you owe it to your company to take some control of the counteroffer situation.

  • Ask the candidate why their current employer has only offered them what they want now that they’re on the brink of leaving.

  • From the conversation, gather information about what appeals less about your workplace than the current employer. Are there any (realistic) amendments you can make to keep the candidate? If it means supplying a car or a phone, is it worthwhile to offer that?

  • However, don’t offer more than you should. With the employment offer already signed, or nearly signed, the process of remuneration and perks has already been worked through.

  • Remind the candidate about the reasons they applied to your company in the first place, and the benefits it could bring them and their career. Also remind them (gently and professionally) that going back to their original workplace could result in added scrutiny because they had tried to leave.

Remember that the candidate may not be thinking clearly as they doubt their decisions and could feel in limbo. This is why taking charge of the situation swiftly and decidedly is important and could make all the difference between having a new employee, and having to start the recruiting process again.