Why Counter Offers Are Good (except for headhunters)

As headhunters were taught early that counter offers are bad and we need to make sure we explain to our candidates the pitfalls of excepting them. Obviously the time we put into a search can never be replaced or compensated for if one is on a contingent assignment. It might hurt our wallets more then our pride when they are excepted -  not all counter offers are bad, and some are really great for our candidates careers and livelihoods.


Have you been promised a promotion or salary increase?  Have you been told that the fresh challenge you’ve been craving – and worked hard for – is just around the corner?  More importantly, is it now six months or a year since those opportunities were outlined – but they have yet to materialize?

Many employees find themselves in a situation where their company has repeatedly promised to take care of them, however after months of waiting, it can begin to feel like they’re just paying lip service to the idea.

If this is you, it’s time to consider a high risk-strategy that some career-minded individuals are reaping the rewards from.  It’s not for everybody – but worth considering if you are determined to progress your career and want to give the process a kick start.  Do you want to live with the frustration of waiting to see if promises come to fruition – or are you willing to do something about it?

Leverage Can Work

If you’re good at your job and you know – or think – you are valued, there’s one sure-fire way to find out.  Get yourself an offer.  Prepare your resume, apply for opportunities outside your current company and get some leverage.   What’s the worst that can happen?  If you end up with a great offer on the table from a competitor to present to your boss, it’s crunch time.  Either they step up and increase your responsibilities or fulfill that promised pay rise – or they don’t.  If they don’t, you’ve got a good opportunity to pursue.  If they do, mission accomplished!  It’s win, win.

More often than not, its medium sized businesses where this strategy works best.  Small companies may not be in a position to boost your role; and large organizations often don’t have as much riding on individual responsibilities, unless you’re already on the management team.   Busy – and bottom-line focused – executives will overlook successful individuals over for promotion time and time again.  Whether you’re flying under the radar, too good at your current job to move on, or need progression but don’t have anywhere to go,  you need a catalyst for change if you don’t want to stay stuck in a rut.

(True story)  Nicky Hoffman decided to take this approach last year – and has never looked back.  A sales manager at a successful engineering firm, she had long been promised a senior account manager role.  She knew she could procure another position, had established a huge book of business and was confident that her clients loved her:   “One year after the promotion had been broached; I knew I had to speak to my employer yet again, but it had got to the point where it was unprofessional to keep bringing it up.  I felt I had to take control of the situation.”  Nicky soon found out if she really was a valued employee, as she had hoped.   She secured an offer with a competitor, re-approached her company and the very same day she found herself in front of the CEO accepting the role of senior account manager, along with a 45% increase.  “They knew that if they lost me, it could have been a big problem.  Some clients would have been unhappy, some may have followed me to the competitor, plus it would have been hard to replace me – or swallow the cost of retraining – in the industry I’m in.”  By proactively seeking some leverage, Nicky helped her company realize they’d dropped the ball.  She didn’t complain, so she was still viewed as a team player; instead she succeeded in strengthening the respect of her peers for making a strategic move.

It’s true, the majority of those electing to use a counter offer find it doesn’t come to fruition.    But it’s a guaranteed way to establish your true worth – and that’s as good a reason as any to give it a try.

Have you successfully procured a counter offer and ended up with a promotion or pay raise? Or did job-seeking help you realize it was time to leave?

Views: 2076

Comment by Raphael Fang on November 16, 2011 at 5:00pm
Sorry, I don't think what Nicky did was right. She used other people's time and raised the hope of another company just to get more money from her current employer.
Comment by Amber on November 16, 2011 at 5:38pm

If someone thinks they are "truly valued" because what was supposed to happen only happens after they threaten their employer, they should think again. Very unprofessional and immature to use this tactic, IMO.

Comment by Amos on November 16, 2011 at 5:51pm

Immature to use what tactic - Leverage? Either you take control of your career or someone else does. So what advice would you give her? Jump ship ? Walk back into the CEO's office and ask him one more time? Companies get busy, managers get inundated its the nature of the hustle.

Again this strategy is not for everybody  - depends on the situation your in.

BTW: Nikky was called many times by headhunters to leave to a competitor but she stayed loyal - so your comment about her being immature and unprofessional is way off.

The company loves the new role she is in - AND she helped them grow market share and developed some really cool new ideas to bring in new business.

Water under the bridge for the CEO

Comment by Amber on November 16, 2011 at 6:09pm

Yes, I think going out and purposely getting an offer from another to SIMPLY use it as "leverage" is unprofessional. I agree that companies get busy, etc., but I also find that time is made for the people who are valued.

I feel like standing by my comment that this tactic is unprofessional and immature, I said it was my opinion and it is. It was my opinion before I was a recruiter, and I don't see anything that is changing that opinion. It certainly does work sometimes, but that doesn't make it an ideal solution. Good for her and the company that they're all happy, but what's the solution that prevents these types of issues from occuring?


Comment by Amos on November 16, 2011 at 6:16pm

Here is a solution: http://www.baldrige.com/criteria_workforce/a-culture-that-values-em...

But not every company is this size and so innovative.

So what advice would you give her? to SIMPLY sit ideally by and wait or just pursue something with a direct competitor and start from scratch - that would also mean leaving her 3 Million dollar book of business that she built up over the last 3 years.

Comment by Amber on November 16, 2011 at 6:27pm

No, I would not expect or advise her to sit idly by and wait. An employee should be evaluating every day whether they are comfortable with what they are receiving in return for their contributions. I don't know every detail of the situation, only what you have written. And the ends don't always justify the means, and this is a means I personally don't happen to agree with.

Comment by Amos on November 16, 2011 at 6:37pm

Cant imagine anyone sitting there evaluating their self worth everyday and not doing anything about it. I think she did the right thing and I would advise anyone in a similar situation to do the same. Or end up just sitting their wondering what if - when and how -  do you want to take control of your career or just have someone else do it for you - you can be strategic and maybe fall on your face, learn from it and get back up or just sit and wait and wait ....

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on November 16, 2011 at 7:02pm

There's always an exception - Nicky apparently is one. Good for her I guess.. but it sort of feels like getting your boyfriend to propose by going on a date with someone else.

Comment by Amber on November 16, 2011 at 7:10pm

Amos, I never said they should not do anything about it! Of course they should. If I had to tell my employer I was leaving in order to get what I wanted, I would probably be resentful. But obviously this person wanted to stay at the company, so good for her and them. BTW, why didn't she just say she had an offer rather then actually going through the whole process with another company?


Comment by Amos on November 16, 2011 at 7:10pm

Lol - i love that analogy. Hard to argue with that - -  Unless if that's what it takes to get him to understand what a commitment looks like, apologize for his stupidity and maybe even get yourself a 6 karat rock out of it!



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