You Accepted the Position – Beware of the Counter Offer

Expert Recruitment Consultant Discusses the Dangers of Accepting a Counter Offer


Numbers demonstrate the employment market is improving.  As a result the people who have jobs are beginning to dip their toes gingerly into the market.  Surveys show that 30% to 60% of employed workers are unhappy in their jobs and are waiting for the employment market to improve.  An expert recruitment consultant warns that some of these people are setting themselves up for future failure if they accept a counter offer from their current employer.

“Most people do not understand the potential impacts of accepting a counter offer.  For instance 69% of employees who accept a counter offer leave their current employer within 6 months of accepting that counter offer,” said Bill Humbert, known as RecruiterGuy ( and author of “RecruiterGuy’s Guide to Finding a Job”.  “Unfortunately the counter offer has little to do with the employee and everything to do with the current employer.”

Humbert is not a career coach; rather he is an expert recruitment consultant with 30 years of recruitment consulting experience for start-up to large multinational companies.  He knows how managers think when someone presents their resignation.  His advice to job hunters who have successfully found a new job includes understanding:

  • There is a reason why you chose to leave the company – and outside of compensation, that hasn’t changed.  Most people dislike change.  Therefore the decision to make a job change is generally a tough decision and is based on many factors including money.  RecruiterGuy says, “When I extend an offer to a candidate for my client, I warn them about the coming counter offer.  Then we have another discussion on all of the reasons they decided to find a new position.”
  • A counter offer provides resigning employees a huge ego boost – and companies know that.  The employee is thinking, “Finally I am getting some recognition of my worth around here!”  An effective counter offer by the company works on a person’s need for recognition.
  • A counter offer is all about the manager and company – and not about the employee.  Did it take a resignation for them to recognize an employee’s worth?  Do employees really feel that conditions will change for the long term?  Probably not.  Once the “danger” of the employee leaving is over, the manager will return to their old ways of doing things – the base of behavioral interviewing.  The extra compensation may just be next year’s raise – a few months early.  Remember, every position has a budget range.
  • Count how many of these statements resigning employees hear from their manager and other company managers after they resign:

1)    “I am shocked that you want to leave!  I thought you were happy.  As a matter of fact, tomorrow we were going to discuss a (promotion, raise, new project, etc.) with you.”  (Humbert says, “Call me a cynic but the timing is suspect…”)

2)    “You are a very valuable employee.  We need to see what we can do to encourage you to stay.”

3)    “I am happy that you came to me because I planned to chat with you about moving to another organization/project within our company” (that was nixed in a previous conversation).

4)    “I am very disappointed that you chose such a busy time to leave our organization.  Can’t you see the impact of your departure will have on everyone else?”  (RecruiterGuy loves that one.  “The manager is trying to put a guilt trip on the employee!”)

5)    “You manager just came to me to discuss your resignation.  I asked if I could talk with you.  You are a key person in our growth plans.  I am sorry we haven’t shared this with you sooner.  Let’s sit down and discuss the needed changes…”  (generally an executive speaking)

6)    “What will it take for you to stay?”  (At least that one is upfront in its intent!)

7)    “As you know, we rarely make counter offers here.  You are such a key person.  We will make an exception.  What do you want to stay?”

8)    “Thank you for coming to me and discussing needed changes.  Would you like to lead those changes?”  (Generally once you accept the counter offer, the desire to make the immediate changes in the organization dissolves shortly after)  Then they will say, “Let’s just finish what you are working on first.  Then we will discuss the changes.”  (Note – they won’t say “make the changes” again)

Humbert said, “One of my candidates called me after their resignation and proudly told me the company hit 8 of the 9 statements during the day of his resignation.  Then he laughed and told me he was happy I warned him.”

  • The employee’s loyalty to their current company is now questioned.  Subtly they will begin to see changes in how management works with them if they accept the counter offer.  Fewer strategic conversations and more tactical conversations as they begin the brain drain.  Management also knows the employee will most likely leave in 6 months.  Therefore, management will begin to plan who is going to replace the employee.
  • Remember the odds of further success at that company decline rapidly once the employee accepts a counter offer. Management is now focused on “protecting themselves” instead of future contributions from the employee.  They know the employee will only be in the position a short time before they have to go through the expense and time of replacing them.
  • Usually accepting a counter offer will burn the bridge with the company where the employee successfully interviewed and received an offer.  Now the employee who was excited by the company, the new position, the hiring manager and the offer has to go to the offering company and give them the news they accepted a counter offer.  Generally that conversation does not go well.  Once a manager decides to extend an offer, they begin to plan for the new employee’s start and begin penciling them in for meetings.  They are very excited they have finally found the right person for the position.  Imagine the level of disappointment when they are told the candidate accepted a counter offer.

Bill Humbert recommends, “The best way to resign is to graciously thank the manager for the experience working with them.  Then firmly tell them that they are very excited about the new opportunity and give the date of their departure (generally 2 weeks’ notice).  When a manager approaches to discuss the counter offer, simply thank them and begin discussing the transition.”

Views: 4212

Comment by Linda Ferrante on January 25, 2012 at 11:00am

Excellent article!!!  Something I have run into...someone who goes out, goes through the interview process, gets the job offer, JUST so he/she can go back and get a counter offer from the company, AND turn it down!  I had never heard of that before, until I met this one gal who did exactly that.  When she turned down the offer, she also told off the manager.  Not sure what her intent was, but it certainly was an ego boost for her.  Interestingly, she spent so much time talking about how she had them begging for her to stay that I barely had the chance to ask her why she is now leaving that new position.   Turns out, they didn't value her either.  No one seemed to value her as much as she thought she was worth.   Wonder where she is now....

Comment by Bill Humbert on January 25, 2012 at 11:13am

Hi Linda,  You know, just when I've thought I've seen everything some human being surprises me.  As you know, start talking about the counter offer when you first talk with the candidate.  The ones who lie will lie - nothing anyone can do about that.  Sounds like your candidate did not last 6 more months at her original company?

Comment by Subramani B on January 26, 2012 at 1:25am

Great Post and right on target too. The worst cases are those that you have pointed out in the first bullet point- the reasons for leaving the current job & organisation. I can understand job-seekers lying to the recruiter or even to the prospective employee about their keenness, but can't really understand how they can lie to themselves.

Comment by Bill Humbert on January 26, 2012 at 11:14am

People lie to themselves everyday.  "I won't get caught if..."

Comment by Cindy J. Biter on January 26, 2012 at 12:22pm

Dear Bill,  Excellent article!  With your permission and total credit given to you, I would love to share this with my candidates and on my website.  Check it out: Thanks very much!  I run into this sort of thing, even though we talk about it with the candidate.  I've never had someone accept a counter offer, however. 

Comment by Bill Humbert on January 26, 2012 at 1:39pm

Hi Cindy,  I wrote the blog so other recruiters could point to a creditable 3rd party when coaching candidates.  Feel free to use it with credit given to me.  Sooner or later, when you least expect it, someone will accept a counter.  It does not happen to me often, but it does occur once every 5 or so years.  Or maybe you are just more effective than me!!  It is also on my website - 


Thank you!


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