It is the recruiter's job to make sure that the candidate is screened thoroughly to understand their true motivations when they're seeking employment.

Is the candidate just using you to angle for a raise or promotion and strategically seeking out a job offer so they can announce to their boss they've been offered another opportunity hoping for that counteroffer?

Nothing is worse for a recruiter than losing an ideal candidate to a counteroffer made by the candidate's current employer because the recruiter has invested so much time, effort, energy and resources.

In fact, at this point, you've made all three sales; You sold the client on their ability to find a candidate, sold the candidate on the idea of interviewing for the position, and then sold the client on the candidate.

So, after all this recruiting "dating" happens and the client extends an offer to the candidate, the candidate gives an ultimatum to their current employer and their employer makes a counteroffer. This is the nightmare we would all like to avoid as recruiters.

There are a few common red flags that can alert you to indicate you may be dealing with a risky candidate:

  • Have They Put the Hunt on Hold: If the candidate doesn't sound so enthusiastic and delays scheduling the interview that may be your first warning sign that your candidate is not seriously interested in your position. Candidates that don't make themselves readily available or avoid interviews by constantly rescheduling may be already changing their minds.
  • Can't Make Up Their Mind: An evasive candidate who passively-aggressively delays making any decisions or constantly asks for more information probably wasn't ready to make a move yet or maybe wasn't even truly in the market to begin with.
  • Spread The Word: A candidate that sincerely wants to make a smooth transition doesn't 'trumpet' the fact that he's got a better opportunity coming his way, especially if he hasn't been offered the position yet. Someone who tells coworkers or superiors about the potential job may be angling for a counteroffer by applying pressure through gossip.
  • Shares With You That Their Employer Had an Impromptu Review: Like the warning sign shared above, if the candidate is trumpeting his dissatisfaction about his compensation package and is holding your job offer as a threat to his supervisor, they may very well be strategically angling for that counteroffer.
  • Didn't Show You The Resignation Letter: Always make sure you get to see a copy of their resignation letter because they may have slipped phrases in it that give the employer the impression that they are resigning  hoping that there could have been growth opportunity that would have permitted them to stay. They may be including 'phrases' to manipulate a counteroffer.

Most recruiters would prefer a bad cold-calling day over a lost candidate any day. It's your responsibility to always keep a keen eye out for the counteroffer risk, and if you don't trust that the candidate will follow through, move on to the next candidate. Your time as well as your client's, is extremely valuable. In addition, you always want to maintain a level of trust with the client.

Have you ever dealt with the 'dreaded counteroffer?'

By: Jeanna Zivalich

Views: 504

Comment by Matt Charney on December 30, 2013 at 10:06am


Outstanding post with some excellent (and practical) recruiting advice here. It's imperative, to your point, for recruiters to start closing a candidate before there's even an offer on the table, and I've seen so many reqs stay open way too long because the recruiter doesn't anticipate the fact that if they're truly going after top talent, their current employer won't let them leave willingly. I think that many of the resulting issues with counter offers can definitely be alleviated by following your advice here, and think candidates could certainly benefit knowing that taking a counteroffer is counterproductive - they won't be there for long if they're already putting the possibility of a move out there...just doing their employer the benefit of some extra time for succession planning.

Thanks for sharing this post with our community.


Comment by Jeanna Zivalich on December 30, 2013 at 12:47pm

Thanks, Matt. I agree. Most employers wont let top talent leave willingly without first presenting a counteroffer.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on December 30, 2013 at 2:16pm

Thanks, Matt. IMHO, a recruiter who has discussed a possible counter-offer (and indicated its dangers) with an honest candidate doesn't really have to worry, and if the candidate lies- then you're better off with out them, however much time you've invested. An analogy: dealing with counteroffers is like men leaving a men's room: you check your fly, make sure it's closed, and then you don't have to worry about it.


Keith "Hope that Was an Appropriate Comment" Halperin

Comment by Will Thomson on December 30, 2013 at 11:18pm
Great post Jeanna! I love your first point. Deep down recruiters know when things aren't right with the candidate, yet we want to believe them. Then something happens like the counter offer. Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Jeanna Zivalich on December 31, 2013 at 11:22am

Thank you, Will

Comment by Stephen Nehez, Jr. on January 3, 2014 at 10:18am

In our industry (automotive engineering), indulge by adding a couple other gems:

1.  Better-half, significant other, spouse, girlfriend, or mommy/daddy NOT ON BOARD and the candidate whimpers out.  We've countered this by not accepting cryptic responses when asking the cand if everyone in the family is 'cool' with the move.  Nothing's perfect.  The power of love is incredibly damaging with counter-offers.  (I say that tongue in cheek.) :)

2.  Candidate's MO (evil plan) all along was to create a situation for a counter-offer.  Let's just say there are certain demographics we are keen on who play this stunt on regular basis.  Our response to this is to crank up our assertiveness (and sometimes aggressiveness) on obtaining a CLEAR and CONCISE REASON for them job hunting and NOTING IT (this is key).  (TRICK:  When presenting the candidate via e-mail, you can write yourself some very, very brief notes IN the presentation e-mail and change the font to white thus making it disappear.  If you keep your code words undecipherable, even if the client finds them buried in the e-mail it'll mean nothing.  We do this because in our industry it's common for candidates to be revisited after a long duration and this is like the string tied on our finger.)

Great article.  The sting of the counter-offer is ONLY damped by LOTS of DESK activity.  Happy 2014!

- Steve

Comment by Jeanna Zivalich on January 5, 2014 at 6:57pm

Interesting Trick, Steve.


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