Recruiting and Countering a Counter Offer

Posted by Mauri Schwartz

December 12, 2012


(This is the third in a series of three blog posts to help recruiters and hiring managers seal the deal.  Earlier posts include Avoid Last Minute Surprises:  What’s Your Competition? and Closing an Offer: Salary Negotiations)

CounterofferIn an earlier post I recommended staying close to your candidate, keeping current with her other search activities so that you are clearly aware of your competition.  One potential source of competition not to be overlooked is her current employer.  Among the questions to ask early on is “Why do you want to leave your current company?”  Be sure that you are clear as to what she considers the pros and cons of her current job.  This information is essential to your ability to ensure the placement.


Early on ask if there is anything her current employer can do to keep her.  Ask specifically what she would do if the company were to offer any incentives to remain – whether it be money, title, or something else. You do not want to be caught off guard.  Prior to each step of the interview process and before extending an offer, emphasize that you want to respect her time and that of your hiring manager.  “How will your current employer react to your resignation? How would you respond to a counter offer?”

A counter offer is to be expected; no one wants to lose a key employee.  It is easier to make a counter offer than to find a the short term.  If you find yourself faced with counseling a candidate who has received a counter offer, remind her of why she wanted to leave her current job and point out the dangers.  

Damaged reputation

Historically, accepting counter offers quite often results in career suicide.  If she has withheld information from you and you feel that she has not cooperated in good faith throughout the interview process, she will have acquired a reputation for dishonesty which will not be good for her future career.

The potential future employer will have a tarnished view, and while initially satisfied to have kept her, after a while, her current employer will remember that your candidate had been unhappy.   

Career barrier

He may fear that she will be looking again soon and not be inclined to consider her for better assignments or career advancement...creating a self fulfilling prophesy.  Unhappy once again, she will resume her job search.  Statistics indicate that most employees who accept a counter offer to stay are gone anyway in six months or so, leaving a bitter taste of disloyalty for everyone involved...your client/employer, her employer, and you.   

Unresolved issues

Whatever the reasons she was looking for a new job, they still exist after accepting a counter offer...unless her search was motivated solely for more money in which case you were destined to have difficulties closing a deal anyway.   

During a successful interview process, excitement and enthusiasm build up to the moment an offer is extended and accepted.  Many recruiters and hiring managers consider it a fait accompli and move on to something else.  However, the two to three weeks between offer acceptance and start date can be fraught with danger. In fact you should try to minimize the length of this time period because this is when a counter offer will be made.  

Stay close to your candidate, keep communications open, check in to learn how her resignation process went.  Ask for details of what she said and how her manager responded.  Inquire specifically if a counter offer was made and its terms, as well as how your candidate responded to the counter offer.  Gauge her mood so that you can determine how likely it is that she will accept it.  The better your relationship with your candidate, the more likely you will be able to conclude the placement successfully.

Read the other parts of this series:

Part I of this series

Part II of this series


Mauri Schwartz

Mauri Schwartz is President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm, and is a leading figure in the San Francisco Bay Area career management community.  She is a frequent speaker at conferences, job fairs, and career panels and serves as Adjunct Advisor of Career Services at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.