Preparing for Counter Offers before they Occur!

Slouch’s blog post on “ A Counter Offer of Biblical Proportions” enticed me to share some thoughts on why it’s important to deal with the Counter Offer issue very early on in the recruitment cycle; regardless of whether or not your candidate will get a Counter Offer.

Some veterans may disagree that the minute that candidate walks through your door part of the interviewing process has to deal with whether or not the candidate will accept a Counter Offer- it is after all apart of the closing process “Before the candidate meets your Client for the first time”. Is he or she fully closed or as I like to always say “ Have you made the hire for the client?” . It’s what we do folks.

I will even go one step further and say that you stop the interview all together if the candidate tells you they will accept a Counter. “But I am Oldschool” .... He/She does not get to meet your client for that initial interview... And you let them know point blank “ I can’t waste my time or my Client’s time you are obviously not serious about making a move at this time. I understand ...” That sounds like what I would say verbatim ...

Why do I feel this is necessary, for starters-you get a chance to determine the real reasons the candidate is on the market in the first place outside of: closer to home, less travel and work life balance etc, and so on.., is the candidate looking for a raise from his/her current employer and if so perhaps he/she should be asking for one now and not later.

Your time and more importantly your Client’s time is valuable and important –the candidate is forced to re-evaluate whether or not they are ready to make the move as you have educated him/her on what happens when you accept counter offers.

And, Ofcourse the candidate can look you in the eyes and tell you “ I will not accept a counter offer” even if it was a $20k increase and you probe them because he/she supposedly gave you the “Real” reasons they want to leave and in that process they gave you the dollar amount they would accept to make the move to your Client... The candidate is closed... and closed before they meet your Client ...

If after that process you still feel deep down the candidate would accept a Counter you can now aptly prepare your Client for that possibility and have them ready to make a Counter proposal and at the same time look at your backup candidate.

We can’t control everything in the Recruitment process - but the more we can control the better. So now you have a Client that really respects the fact you covered all your bases regardless of the deal outcome, you have prepared them. You have a ton of ammunition for the candidate who is contemplating a Counter offer (Reasons the candidate provided in making the move to your client in the first place) – also part of the re-closing effort – Outside of a (Slouch’s) Google /FB Counter offer, its going to be more difficult for the candidate to take the Counter and harder to swallow even if he/she does eventually accept it.

In the end, by dealing with the Counter Offer head on, you eliminate surprises, you know you have fully closed the Candidate for your Client’s opportunity. Your Client is prepared for all outcomes. The Candidate respects you in the end- your reputation stays intact.

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Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 17, 2010 at 5:31pm
Paul, what's that ole adage about age and treachery as opposed to...seems like it has something to do with youth and skill but i can't seem to exactly remember.

Nothing sends a recruiter into overclose, overdrive that makes a candidate feel pressured like the candidate putting off an acceptance. If the candidate starts to panic all one has to say is, "Whoa, don't let some recruiter who is more concerned about a fee than you making the best decision, push you into something before you are ready." "It's your life and your career not mine or any other recruiter, if you feel like the offer is what you want i will cancel this interview and wish you the best."

One of the biggest mistakes recruiters make in my opinion is when they push a candidate too hard to accept right now and/or overtalk a buyback or another interview when there is another interview on the table. When either happens to me i slow things down and start working with the candidate to help them think it through. Comparisons like the devil you know as opposed to the angel you don't know.
Comment by Bill Ward on November 17, 2010 at 5:38pm
Why are you suddenly worth more today than you were yesterday? that's a great question to ask. The simplest way to address a counteroffer is to take the flattery out of it. As everyone here knows, you're covering the counteroffer scenario as soon as you have decided the person is a contender. The key is to let them know exactly how the scenario will play out and the real reason why the counteroffer will be taking place. The best part is when it happens, they usually come back to you saying "it played out exactly as you described and I did exactly as you said." When you prepare you candidates appropriately, the counteroffer is no longer is stroke to their ego, but rather a slap in the face from the sense that their employer obviously didn't value them as they should have...or until there was a motivating circumstance like a gaping hole in the department because succession planning was never implemented.

In terms of comparable offers, you need to know the candidate better than your competitor. You need to have a client that is willing to do whatever necessary to help attract that individual. If all your doing is comparing two offers on the basis of dollars, the candidate's in control, not you. As a recruiter, if I lose control of either side, I lose.

Paul, you're right. In some instances, it's about instant gratification. Some people talk a good game, but in the end, a 10k jump in pay and fancy title to continue doing the same job is more important than keeping pace with the market in terms of professional development. Ultimately, those people wind up unemployed because their skills have not kept pace and they have in fact priced themselves out of the market. You see this a lot with employees that have been with one organization for most of their career.
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 17, 2010 at 6:29pm
Yes Sandra ...Perhaps the toughest part is knowing when to be less aggressive like a poker game after the turn card - candidates would trust their recruiters more if they hear in the end its your life.
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 17, 2010 at 6:34pm
Thanks for the comment Bill. Yes I really agree with you there ... You need to paint the scene early as to how the future could play out with that Counter offer in play ... Perhaps Count Offer issues could be easily handled amongst recruiters if its equated to being apart of closing the candidate on the opportunity ...
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 17, 2010 at 6:37pm
I appreciate the response James. Just another way to look at handling the Counter Offer ...
Comment by Ken Forrester on November 18, 2010 at 11:09am
Certainly has been a lot of conversations about counter offers as of late. Maybe this means that hiring is starting to pick up. And if thats the case, a counter offer is the biggest threat to making a placement. Paul is right-you got to close the candidate before the first interview. It's not a 100% placement guarantee, however it will save you a lot of time and credibility with your client. Send this short video to your candidates, it will help in getting your message across.
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 18, 2010 at 11:27am
Thanks for the feedback Ken ...Not sure though whether the conversations on Counter Offers is an accurate indicator of Hiring being on the rise .. I wish that were so ...
Comment by Tom Byrne on November 18, 2010 at 5:06pm
You should prepare candidates for counteroffers early and "often" throughout the process. Often times even the most experienced Recruiter fails to prepare the candidate to begin to "emotionally detach" from their existing employer. Emotions will fly once he/she resigns. Company's do not like to be "fired" it is not something they expected and usually cannot control. In essence "firing" the employer is exactly what a candidate is doing when they resign. Sometimes panic sets in and emotions come to the surface. Supervisor's scurry to get approval to match the offer while rallying the department troops to woo the departing employee (your candidate). They tug on the candidate's emotions, asking them why are you leaving?, don't leave - we are all like family here! It won't be the same without you! You will have to start all over again at that new company, etc., etc.

Bottom line, resigning and giving notice can be fearful for some people. Take the fear out of the equation early on in the process. Tell your candidate to expect a counteroffer and prepare them to begin to "emotionally detach" from their employer and their co-workers. Remind the candidate (often throughout the process) of all the reasons why they want to leave in the first place. Moving on is really in "their" best interest.
Comment by Paul Alfred on November 18, 2010 at 6:22pm
Thanks Tom for you feedback and insight ... Sometimes I think though that through the process of finding out why a candidate wants to make a move his/her reasons might show that they should probably stay where they are....

I don't cover counter offers because I only expect them to get a Counter .. I cover the issue as part of my technique when closing a candidate on a realistic base salary increase for his/her next move... If during the closing process I uncover that they will accept a Count Offer then I get deeper into the unforeseen issues that could come up on accepting one...

My point in the end is, the Counter Offer issue has to be included in your close conversation... Instead of being treated as a separate issue ...
Comment by Slouch on November 18, 2010 at 6:36pm
It's protecting your investment. You put time into it and you want to send an invoice. Good post again Paul.


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