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: 2019

Comment by Stephanie on November 17, 2011 at 11:46am

If I can put my 2 cents in Amos, I think doing what Nicky did is selfish. She never took the other people in this process into consideration. She used a lot of people to get her own way!


1. Most recruiters work on a commission only basis, meaning they only receive remuneration once a candidate is successfully placed and DON’T receive a secure monthly income as you were offered. To facility the recruitment process up to the stage where an offer is extended requires considerable time, effort and resources to be expended. Extend your recruiter the courtesy to expend their energy and resources on another, more suitable, candidate in order to earn their daily bread.

2. For every offer that is extended to you, at least one other candidate has been declined. The other candidate may have been retrenched/are in the process of being retrenched due to economic factors and desperately in need of employment. You may have deprived another candidate from the ability to care for his family.

3.The client is left in the lurch when you feign interest and enthusiasm just to decline the extended offer. They undoubtedly declined other interested parties and have to recommence the entire recruitment process. They too invested time and resources and are left with a bad taste in the mouth.


I hope she stays with her current employer forever as she burnt quite a few bridges to get her own way!!

Comment by bill josephson on November 17, 2011 at 11:48am

Derek, agreed. 

People can usually justify themselves acting in their own self-interest, but have a tougher time justifying others'  doing the same.  Specially when not in their interests damaging them.  I wish all were morally pure.  But that remains a wish, not reality.

Comment by bill josephson on November 17, 2011 at 11:54am

I've seen situations where a counter has worked out.
A candidate tired of 30% travel but liking their boss/company doesn't have the courage to try to change the situation ahead of time, gets an offer, and leverages it to reduce their travel.  happened 2 years ago, person's still there.

Candidate dislikes working with a tough client.  Gets an offer.  Is able to use it to be switched to a different client.  Happened 4 years ago.  Person's still there.


Bottom line, passive candidates will use an offer to correct what's wrong in their present environment.  If successful, they often stay.

Comment by Amber on November 17, 2011 at 12:11pm

If this person went on the interview that led to the offer because she was at the point of leaving her employer, that is a whole different scenario as far as ethics and professionalism. I read this article to say the offer was pursued for the sole purpose of having "leverage" with her current employer.

Self interest is fine but it still doesn't make any and all actions o.k. We all live with our decisions -  and as Nate said "karma is a b*&$h".

Comment by Dan Nutter on November 17, 2011 at 1:12pm

Sure. Take the Counter-Offer. And - if you prefer a particular color, you may as well decide ahead of time what you'd like the HUGE TARGET on your back to look like.

Comment by Amos on November 17, 2011 at 2:01pm

Sandra - I think playing games with your employer is wrong. if your going to take action or make a move - do it so you have a plan B with something in writing and not just a phantom strategy.

Todd - Loyalty is a 2 ways street.

Nate - 8 months after Nicky was promoted she also took the reigns and helped the company build a social media strategy. So the 6 month theory is sometimes right BUT if you have a string work ethic and create change you value will actually go up.


Robin - Nice moves - great strategy - reminds me of this quote "Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action." ~Benjamin Disraeli

Derek and Bill: Your right  - in some situations you need to act in your own best interests and take control - especially when buying a car! The option B for Nicky was just as good monetarily - but she didnt want to leave all she wanted was her employer to tell her the truth - and then back it up - which they did.

Stephanie - What Nicky did was not "selfish" - its was a high risk strategy for her future. Not for her employer.

Amber - Karma was on her side on this one.

Dan - The only thing on her back right now is a new fur coat which she bought when she got her raise. The CEO actually likes the fact she made an aggressive move and respects her even more now.

Again this strategy is not for everyone -  If you were in those shoes what would you do? or if this was a friend of yours asking for advice woudl you tell them just to leave and not look back? Nicky built up a great reputation with her client base in her company - but not all companies have the time or even manpower to identify the future talent within. Thats why companies need to do a better job succession planning.

Comment by Bill Ward on November 17, 2011 at 2:11pm

Last time I checked, none of us go to work for free. Talk all you want about culture, career growth, etc. The one thing I admire most about people who make a ton of money is that they don't let someone else tell them what their worth. They negotiate like hell and then PRODUCE. One without the other means you're an overpaid stiff whose time is about to run out.One thing to remember when employing this strategy is that if you're going to draw a line in the sand, you better damn well be ready to walk if your employer tells you to pound sand.


Comment by Stephanie on November 17, 2011 at 2:19pm
In my opinion it IS selfish - she stepped on who knows how many people for personal gain because she didn't have the guts to approach her employer again. Maybe you think blackmail (because that is what she did to her current employer) is ethical? In my opinion she is a narcissist, capable of blackmail & who knows what for personal gain & satisfaction. Glad she's not my friend or candidate!
Comment by FREYJA P. on November 17, 2011 at 2:22pm

I don't think this is a long term solution at all. How much loyalty does your company now feel for you now they know as soon as there is any lag time in getting you what you want -  you will walk to a competitor. I think she's got one big behind the scene's strike against her and if I was her I would watch out for her company chipping away her book from her.

Comment by bill josephson on November 17, 2011 at 2:26pm

All I'll say is when the candidate would rather not leave and either gives notice or suggests they have another opportunity with offer in hand they're never sure how it will play out.

They're not likely to have the guts to express dissatisfaction to their boss unless they have another option as they don't want to be let go for being a malcontent.

But as Amos stated, they're prepared to walk if their dissatisfaction in their present situation isn't rectified.


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