How To Counter A Counter Offer

“80% of people who accept a counter offer leave within 6 months

A famous statistic. One that’s been rolled out by every one of us at the first whiff of a counter offer. The numbers differ depending on who’s rolling it out.

Sometimes it’s 80% within 6 months.

Sometimes it’s 60% within 3 months.

Other times it’s 86.8% within 13 lunar cycles.

The premise is the same.

A high percentage of people who accept a counter offer leave shortly afterwards.

Although I’ve never found the research that supports this information, I don’t doubt the numbers are roughly right.

I took a counter offer once, and left about 4 months later. I’ve witnessed candidates take a counter offer, then come back within the month saying they’d made a mistake.

The message is fair enough. But the manner it’s delivered in is lazy and generalised.

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Any recruiter worth their salt knows you only make placements if your process is different for each candidate.

Every candidate has a different reason for moving. And everyone’s looking for something different in their next opportunity.

So, why do we only use one stock line for every candidate in combating counter offers?

Why do we treat every candidate the same, and not offer bespoke information on an individual basis?

Your website says you’re bespoke. But you’re not really living up to that claim as a catchphrase monkey.

If you really want to combat a counter offer, avoid the generic statements and try these tips instead:

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The first conversation

One of the major issues in battling a counter offer is it’s painfully obvious you’re protecting your fee.

However, if you address this issue right from the first conversation – before a fee’s in the picture – you’re simply trying to help the candidate work through their reasons for leaving.

Get to the very bottom of why they’re leaving. Not just ‘I don’t like my boss’.

Why they don’t like their boss? What does their boss actually do that they despise?

Then find out what would need to happen for this issue to be resolved.

Don’t take ‘there’s nothing they could do’ for an answer. Every issue has a price. Sometimes it’s a 20k pay rise. Sometimes it’s a new Manager.

But it can be resolved.

The next stage is to find out why this resolution hasn’t been proposed already.

If they’ve already complained, why hasn’t anyone done anything about it? How does that make them feel? Have they even mentioned anything yet?

You need to be armed with knowledge. Know their pain points. Know how deeply rooted it all is.

Now you know what has to happen for a counter offer to be a problem.

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Every time you speak

You want to stay abreast of how this pain point is developing at all times to make sure nothing’s changed.

Now you don’t have to ask this in a really formal way, but you can throw it into conversations:

“How’s it going with your manager these days?”

It shows you’ve listened to their concerns. It shows you care.

After first stage interview

The fact you know your candidate’s pain point isn’t something you should be scared of communicating. It’s actually a really positive thing. You want to make sure they don’t suffer the same issues in their next role.

On your feedback call, address their concerns in reference to new opportunities.

“You mentioned your main reason for looking is your manager doesn’t give you any flexibility. After meeting with them, do they seem like the sort of place you’d get that flexibility?”

Once you’ve fed back on the interview, don’t be afraid to ask how their issue’s developing.

“Sounds like your interview went well. How’s things going at your current place? Has anything changed with your manager?”

If you become a friend to your candidate, you’ll become a confidante. Not just another recruiter.

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Inform your client of their pain points

This isn’t a sneaky move. It’s not going behind your candidate’s back.

Your candidate has an issue they don’t want in their next role. If you’re honest with your client about what that is, they can ensure that they don’t make the same mistake.

If it’s something the client can’t accommodate, they can be frank about that in the interview. And if it’s an issue, your candidate won’t make the wrong move.

Reiterating this point to the client before final stage interview is really useful.

It allows them to emphasise how they can alleviate the candidate’s pain if they joined.

After second stage interview

Much like the first stage, it’s important to know how the candidate feels about the opportunity. And how much their current issues might be alleviated.

Although this time, go into more detail. This is the last chance you have before an offer’s put on the table. Address the issue of a counter offer without it seeming like you’re defending a fee.

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Pre-close the candidate

There are various ways to do this, and some are more appropriate in certain sectors than others.

We all have our methods of pre-closing a candidate. But it’s useful to bring in a counter offer formally at this point.

“Apologies if I come across more formal in this call than usual, I want to make sure I’m representing you as accurately as possible. If the client came back and offered X, would that take you off the market? And is there anything your current company could do to keep you?”

Pre-empt the counter

Have a chat with your candidate before they hand in their notice. Explain to them it can be an emotional affair, with some Managers taking it personally. Because of that, there can be a variety of reactions.

How are they feeling about it?

How do they feel now they’re finally going to be putting an end to their pain?

They’re going to leave it all behind for an opportunity they’re really excited about.

So although handing in their notice might be difficult, it’s the final step before moving into a better role.

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Counter offer arrives

You’ve managed your candidate through the process. They’ve taken your role over their other options. And they’ve handed in their notice.

Now, as expected, a counter offer’s arrived.

Firstly, this is a great thing. If they were bad at their job, they wouldn’t have been countered. So you know they’re a good candidate.

Now have a chat to them about it. What have they been offered? How does that make them feel?

If they’ve dismissed it immediately, you’ve done your job.

If they’re considering it, get them to talk about how the offer would improve their situation. Most counter offers don’t solve issues for the candidate. They solve them for the employer.

Some counter offers do solve a candidate’s issue however. Maybe they’ll move to a team under a new manager?

The question remains: why wasn’t this done before they resigned?

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Sleep on it

The day of a counter’s an emotional affair. But, if you’ve signposted the issues throughout, rational thought usually prevails once the emotions have settled.

Yes, a counter’s flattering. But if you’ve done your job, the candidate will be aware of deeper issues in their current role.

So, let them sleep on it.

If you want one final push, get the client to call them at the very end of the day.

Speaking to the client as the final action will remind them of how excited they are about the new opportunity. And it’ll be the freshest thought in their head as they weigh up their options overnight.

When they get back to you the next day, you’ll hopefully find they’ve accepted your offer and rejected the counter offer.

Counter offers should be addressed throughout the entire recruitment process.

And if you really want to protect your pipeline, it’s the best strategy there is.

Or, you could just wheel out a stock phrase after it’s happened, and hope for the best?