Theyre back! Counter offers have made a recovery along with the demand for talent.  Always a possibility, they are now a probability when a quality/qualified employees gets a new job offer.

Im not going to re-hash all the reasons not to take a counter offer. We've all heard/read them a thousand times through out our careers. I've certainly counseled on the dangers, etc. with practically every candidate (and client) I've ever represented.

Here I'd like to focus on why and who accepts counter offers. Quite frankly, I can usually predict who's vulnerable to them and exactly what they're going to do through the resignation process when the time comes

Of course it's more likely that a candidate who is generally happy where they're at would be more vulnerable. After all, why go through the discomfort of leaving a perfectly good job, for a few extra bucks and uncertainty? We, as our clients representative, may not see it this way. Why wouldn't our recruit want such a great opportunity with our best client? Risk still remains foremost in many a recruited candidate's mind. Were barely out of a long and deep recession and stability is not something to be considered lightly. The happy employee is more likely to accept a decent counter offer, ignore the risks and stay put for a time longer.

How about the candidate who does think they're ready, whose been passed over, underpaid, or who is maxed out with their growth potential in their present company? That's an entirely different risk profile  or so you'd think?

When evaluating a candidate through the final stages of the interview and offer process, I can usually assess what type of a decision maker I'm dealing with. The candidate who is clear cut, decisive and needs little hand holding, will very likely overcome the pressures of the counter offer(s) during the decision making process. This candidate is professionally mature, knows themselves, makes decisions with confidence and doesn't sway easily. They dont flatter easily, understand the career risks in counter offers and see beyond the short term  money fix usually offered. As early as our first conversations, this type of individual has clarity about what they require and where they're going. They are a very low risk to both the recruiter and the recruiters client.

The fence sitter, on the other hand, is the one you have to view with caution. They are more likely to go along for the ride. This candidate believes he/she is sincere in their desire to make a move for the next opportunity. They will say and do the right things, but for some reason your gut is still screaming CAUTION!

Take heed of that reaction  it's most probably accurate and here's why. A candidate who is overly analytical is often very emotional in their decision making process. They don't trust their own instincts, so  by over analyzing a decision they can either put off making that decision or give themselves the ammunition to objectify their actions. This candidate finds it safer to stay and a counter offer can be a convenient screen to hide behind, so they don't have to go through the uncomfortable motions of making a change. These candidates are generally insecure about their abilities and professionally immature. Likeable as they may be, they are not objective regarding their careers and making firm decisions. Their self absorption dismisses the damage they do to the client whose offer they've just accepted, then rejected (never mind the recruiter, who loses both income and more importantly, client cred).

What are some of the clear signs of the professionally undeveloped? For one, a lack of enthusiastic commitment. They might be going through all of the process hoops, but they never verbalize 100%, or are able to clearly define their reluctance. They go dark on you  and at critical moments in the process. They take an inordinately long time to make a decision or make excuses to extend the decision date. They have endless questions regarding the offer. They are surprised at how aggressive their current employer is in their pursuit to keep them and this after spending an enormous amount of time discussing just that! And finally you and your client are spending just a bit too much time hand holding and digging at the truth. Go with your gut on these types of candidates. Even with a strong pre-close, they can turn tail and duck for cover.

Funny thing, its not always the money that turns their heads or changes their minds. It can be a title change or promises of a future where their contributions will be rewarded and recognized; this combined with a good dose of guilt can be just enough to lock them into staying.This type of candidate isn't stupid, but they want to believe their current employer. It must have just been an oversight after all these years and they are finally getting their just reward. Fear of change, lack of confidence, complacency  these are all flaws even the most qualified candidate may exhibit through the interview process.

Though we cant always predict behavior and outcome, we can at least be prepared and know the signs of the back peddler. We all experience this type of hire from time to time. Some will stay, no matter how prepared we are and some will surprise us and take the plunge!

Views: 1087

Comment by Bill Schultz on June 5, 2012 at 2:44pm
Yup I'm holding hands with someone right now. However he turned down an offer once and the client asked me to go back again and "see what it will take"
So I think no one will be very surprised either way.
Comment by Cindy Cremona, CPC on June 5, 2012 at 2:48pm

Always a challenge to influence the held hand. Good luck!

Comment by David Gaspin on June 5, 2012 at 4:00pm

With a true fence-sitter, the new company usually finds itself at a disadvantage. There's a relationship with the existing employer. There's trust, history, a desire to please and a sense of loyalty. None of this yet exists with the new opportunity. It often doesn't matter that it's not the best decision for the candidate, or that s/he'll be back on the market in 6 months. These emotional ties are why so many recruiters work so hard to form the kind of relationship with candidates that will give us some sway when crunch time arrives.

Comment by Noel Cocca on June 5, 2012 at 9:47pm
Thanks for the post! Such a reoccurring topic that needs discussion.
Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on June 6, 2012 at 9:14am

Nice point of view Cindy.  I would also like to point out another candidate type who is vulnerable to a counter offer.  It is the candidate who is taciturn and uncommunicative during the interviewing process.  They may be great with an initial interview via phone or in your office, but when they actually go for a job their feedback is generally less than forthcoming and their follow up with you, the recruiter is lacking.  I find that these people may not have been fully honest during their initial screening.  I start working on them immediately after their first interview by asking, "Based on what you know now, is this a job you would take?"  If they hem and haw, I know that an offer might not stick, especially if there is no improvement in their enthusiasm as the interviewing progresses.  At the end of the process is prod them with specific questions about whether they would accept a counter or not. Sometimes it actually flushes them out.

Comment by Paul Alfred on June 6, 2012 at 9:27am

Hello Cindy ... No where in your blog post do I hear the Counter offer discussion being the first thing covered the minute the candidate walks in for his/her  first interview with you ...  That decision and the close has to happen in that first interview.  Long before he/she is even sent out for the first interview with your Client ...  You have to assume the candidate has integrity if you have decided to submit him/her- that means if a candidate even blinks that he or she will accept a Counter the conversation ends - you don't have time to waste nor does your client. One must be prepared to walk or prepare the Client- and, usually these candidates are very Professional - we the Recruiters are the Professionals with respect to doing  the closing work for the client - thats why we get paid those big bucks- it's not easy.  Sometimes my entire interview session is on counter offers (With high profile candidates) - if I know I have the Killer candidate, and, during the interview process it's all about counter offers consistenly right till they start on the first day of employment with your Client-  you can't win them all but atleast your client knows the deal from the first day of submission and you have already prepared the backup so you're totally covered-  I wrote a blog on this sometime ago:  my 2 cents.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on June 7, 2012 at 7:47am

Great info Paul.  When I am doing my candidate data sheet there are two things that I ask a candidate.  Why are you looking to leave and have you discussed your issues with your boss/company to try and fix them.  If my candidate tells that he has and nothing was done or there is no way they would even try to fix it, than I go into my counter offer explanation.  I make sure that I get a I would not accept a counter offer before I even complete the rest of the data sheet.  Talking about it after all the time spent with prepping for interviews, the client calls and candidate discussions is a little late.  You need to know where the candidate is on that subject before you even send them over to your client.

Comment by Paul Alfred on June 8, 2012 at 8:21am

I 100% agree with you Theresa ...

Comment by Bill Schultz on June 8, 2012 at 12:53pm

Good points, Theresa.  May I add that it's also important to continue to ask this question during each pre-close.  I have a candidate now who mid-stream got mostly everything he had asked for (months ago) from the existing company.  He did not volunteer that info, I fished it out of him.  Still accepted new role.  Hasn't started yet.  *gnawing fingernails*

Comment by Theresa Hunter on June 11, 2012 at 11:35am

Hi Bill...I am not sure what you mean by fished it out of him?  It is probably the 4-5 question I ask a candidate when I am doing their data sheet.  Why are you looking to leave your current position?  The candidate gives me their answer and we continue on with the data sheet.  When I get down to the section on counter offer I ask them point blank "Have you spoke to your current boss about the issues that are causing you to look for a new job?  It is a pretty straight forward question either they have or they have not.  If they say they have I ask them what was the outcome of the conversation and if they have not I ask them why they have not and depending on their answer I than ask would they be willing to do that before we continue any further?  If they say no then I tell them that I can not continue to help them as I don't feel that they are truly committed to accepting another opportunity at this time.  Yes, you can continue to ask and get the answer that you want to hear but if they are not truly committed  to accepting another offer there is nothing that you can do except know that you ask all the right questions and did not leave anything to chance or I hope they take it.


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