Andrew Fennell is a former recruiter and founder of CV advice centre StandOut CV. He also contributes careers advice to websites such as The Guardian, CV Library, Total Jobs, Business Insider, Huffington Post and Fast Company. Here he talks about how to reduce the risk of counter offers.
Counter offers are a recruiter’s worst nightmare.
You work tirelessly on a role for months, finally find the perfect candidate, and the hiring manager loves them.
Filled with a mixture of excitement and relief, you phone the candidate to give them the good news.
Then they deliver the bombshell… “Sorry my current firm have made me a counter off that is so good I just can’t turn it down”
Within seconds, all of your hard work is undone, and it’s back to the drawing board for that role. Once you’ve had the pleasure of relaying the bad news to the hiring manager of course.
Whilst you will never be able to completely eliminate the chance of your candidates being counter-offered, there are a few practical steps you can take to mitigate the risk.
Clarify the candidate’s motivations
Understanding the reasons behind a candidate’s desire to find a new job will help you to recognise the likelihood of them being tempted away by a counter offer some months down the line. If a candidate is driven by a range of factors such as; a desire for more opportunities, a chance to take on different work, global travel etc. and it’s quite obvious that their current organisation can’t provide them, then it’s fairly safe to assume that they won’t be tempted back, if you can offer them these things in a new role.
However, if a candidate is only motivated by the need for a pay rise, then it’s a lot easier for their current employer to simply offer them more money to stay – so that’s a candidate you’d want to be a bit cautious with.
By asking the candidate if they’ve already requested their new requirements from their current employer, you can quite easily get an idea of whether they really have exhausted all avenues at that workplace. If it seems as if they haven’t, then you may just have a candidate who’s looking to test the market and find out what they worth – as opposed to someone who is serious about moving to a new employer.
Find out what’s really motivating your candidates and try to work with the people who you can truly offer genuinely attractive opportunities to.
Leave some room for negotiation
When discussing rates or salaries with a candidate, don’t mention the maximum salary that the hiring manager is willing to pay in the early stages. If you do this, you’ll leave no room for negotiation if the candidate receives a counter offer to yours.
You should have a detailed conversation with the hiring manager and identify the rate they would like to pay, and what the maximum rate they would pay for a perfect candidate is. Then when you’re having early conversations with candidates, you should look to identify their current salaries so that you can discuss rates that improve them without going to the top of your budget.
Now, if your candidate gets counter-offered, you have some leverage to negotiate with. You can reply by saying something like,
“If I can get you an extra £5k salary, can I get your word that you’ll accept and won’t look at another counter offer”
And you can say it with confidence, because you know there is room in the budget to get that extra funding.
Of course, this isn’t guaranteed to work every time, but a lot of candidates will appreciate the effort you’ve gone to in getting them a salary increase – and their former employer will be less likely to make a second counter offer if they fear getting dragged into a bidding war.
Build strong relationships with candidates
If you invest time and effort into your relationships with candidates, it will pay off hugely in the long run. Too many recruiters focus all their efforts on client or hiring manager relationships, and don’t make the time for candidates that they need to.
You can’t meet every candidate you speak to of course, but if somebody is progressing through to the latter stages of application for a role, you should endeavour to meet them face-to-face and keep them updated with the status of the role.
Firstly, this will allow you to find out more information about them, which will help with the above point of understanding their motivations.
Secondly, if you’ve built a good bond with somebody, they are more likely to answer your calls and emails and hear your point of view in a counter offer situation.
In conclusion, reducing the risk of counter offers requires you to get to know your candidates well, build strong relationships, and ensure that you’re offering them roles that genuinely excite them – which are strategies you should be bringing to every aspect of your recruitment role anyway.