As a hiring manager or talent acquisition consultant, losing a candidate to a counteroffer is a killer. Picture this…
You are a hiring manager or talent acquisition consultant already many months into your search for that evasive talent you need to head the new business unit, your factory, your company or whatever it is in your case. You are finally down to that one person who you believe will make the difference. Your favorite candidate has indicated an intention to join and an offer has been negotiated. Both parties have agreed and you have it on paper. The head office and your local organization have already been informed about the new arrival. A sigh of relief and a pat on your shoulder.
Then the dreaded phone call comes in one morning. “Sorry, but I don’t think I can join your team. My boss has given me a new big important project. He told me I’m the only one in the company whom he can trust to lift this sort of responsibility. He said I’m the star of the company and the head office has acknowledged I’m the future for them. Actually the boss had planned to tell me two weeks ago but was too busy. If I leave, the company’s operation may not survive and it will impact on all my colleagues. They are all so nice to me. He also gave me a new title, a 20% salary increase and a new company car”.
Not only can it be difficult for a hiring manager who may lose their preferred candidate as a result, but it isn’t usually in the best interest of a candidate. If you happen to be a candidate right now, let me explain why accepting a counteroffer from a selfish employer will ruin your career.
Giving notice can be the most emotional time as a candidate
The pressure that the current employer, manager and colleagues, may put on someone can be very hard. The more a search consultant helps prepare you and the easier they make the resignation time, the better the transition will be for you. As an interviewer, I believe raising the point of counteroffer already in the first interview and continuously educating the candidates must be a part of a structured recruitment process.
Are you serious about pursuing your opportunity?
Imagine you are offered the job and accept it. How are you going to resign and what will you tell your boss? How do you think they and the company will react to your decision to move on? What if they give you a counteroffer?
Ask yourself to find the reason why you will never accept a counteroffer in your own words. Draw a square on a paper and write down your reason. When a counteroffer is extended, read your own words. And if you, however well-intentioned, admit that a counteroffer may possibly be of interest, a search consultant really has only one thing to do: forget that they ever met you. They will have to cut their losses right there. Move on to the next on their list.
To assess job and company fit (motivation) here are two other great questions I always ask when meeting candidates for the first time:
- When we called you the first time about this job opportunity, what was it that got you interested in coming here today?
- Although we are seeing some other fine candidates, I believe you have a good background. Assuming our offer is attractive, how does the job and challenge appeal to you?
Earlier rather than later in the hiring process, the interviewer must take the bull by the horns. Don’t leave it until later. They have to raise the sensitive issue of counteroffer no matter how awkward it may feel for both of you. Trust me, it will have saved you a lot of otherwise wasted time. To broach the topic without losing a candidate’s trust, I say this:
“I want to talk about resigning because I know this is a difficult time for most people. I'm not concerned that you will accept a counteroffer. I just want to make this transition as painless as possible.”
My warning to candidates! "Are you gambling with your career?"
To all you candidates, here is my warning advice: accepting a counteroffer is gambling with your career. You see, today's corporate environment has made the counteroffer an important weapon in the war for talent. Many companies on purpose keep salary costs down until they absolutely have to pay their best talent.
Your boss is going to be shocked that you have accepted another position and that you are leaving. The first thing that will go through their mind is how your resignation will have an impact on them. They may have to work more hours until a replacement is found; your leaving will lower the morale of the rest of the staff, and your boss may have an extremely difficult time finding someone with your qualifications to replace you. They are also thinking about what their own boss is going to say when a senior person is leaving the company. Honestly, this is not about you but how they get themselves out of the mess when you leave. End of the day it is much easier and cheaper for your company and boss to try to keep you rather than losing you (especially if it's to a competitor).
But ask yourself, why it is that on the day you suddenly give notice your opinions are so important to the boss. Why have the boss and company only now become concerned about your future or why the company only now is ready to talk about compensation when they are face to face with losing you? Why weren't you worth that much to them yesterday? Does it take your leaving to get something you should have been getting anyway? If so, is that the type of company you want to work for?
By resigning you are essentially breaking a trust that you had with your employer. If you take the counteroffer and stay, your company may feel that it owns you. You will be known as the one who caused your employer grief by threatening to quit. You'll no longer be known as a loyal employee. Will this cause your boss to pass you over on the next possible promotion? There are stories where companies only counter to get the employee to stay until they find a replacement and then let the employee go. Some companies feel that it's better for people to leave on their terms instead of their employees' terms. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
Decent and well managed companies never make counteroffers. Ever. Period.