Counter Offers - How to avoid them!

Samuel Hendry 25.05.2015

My Offer Was Rejected?!

One of the most prevalent reasons for offers being turned down at present is counter offers from existing employers.  The market has turned significantly across certain sectors and specialisms and this has led to company’s upskilling internally on their counter offer abilities.  Companies do not want to lose good people and when it comes to a person handing in their notice, everything is done to try to keep them.

To go through the whole process of reviewing CVs, setting up interviews, coming to a final short list and then deciding on the perfect candidate only for them to turn around and reject what you consider a very attractive offer is a frustrating process to go through. This leaves our clients feeling confused initially and then questioning “what could I have done differently to avoid a counter offer and to get that person on board?”  If time is money then companies cannot afford to go through this process without something at the end of it.

Here is my advice to companies on how to avoid a counter offer scenario.

  1. Select CVs of candidates who are fully transparent, if not outlined on their CVs, look for reasons for leaving each job so that you can assess their motivations.
  2. If in a company a long time, question realistically why they are moving.  During a first round interview don’t be afraid to bring up the question “have you asked your current employer for everything you feel you need from them?” or directly “are you open to a counter offer from your current employer?”
  3. Alarm bells should ring if they are looking for a serious hike in their current salary, especially if they are being underpaid.  Their employer is much more likely to meet that demand once they hand in their notice especially in this employee shy market, once the reality hits of having to replace that person.
  4. Understand the full picture of what that person is currently getting – basic salary, bonus potential, life assurance, pension, health insurance (for them and their family), any additional benefits, hours of work, holidays, can they work from home etc?  All of these factors will affect the candidate’s final consideration of any offer. 
  5. Be flexible / creative in your offers.  Think about what will get that person over the line – can you offer flexible working hours, half year bonus, half year salary review, working from home, reduced rates on local amenities – crèche / gym / travel agents etc.
  6. The best person is not always the right person.  I know this sounds like a contradiction but you should be looking at the entire picture of that person – are they hungry for the role?  Will a person who doesn’t tick all the boxes from a technical perspective, be much more likely to work harder to upskill.  Will they be very appreciative of the opportunity because they know you have taken a chance on them.  These candidates are much less likely to accept a counter offer from their current employer because they are stepping up significantly into another role in another company where this opportunity may not be available to them in their current employers.
  7. Keep the interview process relatively tight without “speed interviewing”!  The process needs to be sufficiently paced to keep candidates interested and engaged.  Do not allow too much time between interviews, do not have unnecessary stages to the process to allow it to drag out and jeopardise securing a good quality candidate.  If there is an unforeseen delay make sure you are finding a way to keep candidates warm either directly or through the agency.
  8. Use an agency. This is self-serving but in reality a future potential employee is going to be much more up front and honest with an agency than a potential employer.  They have their very professional face on during an interview process, with an agency during the initial stages we get the full picture of why they want to leave and have a better sense of their motivations and true desires in the work place.  We have the ability to fully assess their overall fit for a potential future employer.

With all of the above ticked, unfortunately it can happen that you get to the final stage and your preferred candidate will still accept a counter offer but at least you know you will have done everything possible to try to avoid it.   And hopefully if you have kept everyone warm and selected candidates based on the above principles you should have a strong second and maybe even third option behind your first!

If you would like information on salaries for 2015 please refer to the attached link to Morgan McKinley’s salary survey - Salary Survey & Benefits 2015



Samuel Hendry's picture
Director | Financial Services Recruitment