Handling a Counter Offer Situation

So, you think the challenging parts of the interview process are finished. You’ve met several potentials, narrowed down the shortlist and your preferred candidate has accepted your offer of employment. Time to pop open the champagne? Not quite yet when you discover that your new hire has been offered the opportunity to stay with their current employer; at a higher salary, better package or with a promotion.
Staff retention is a hot topic on most organizations’ agendas, and a counter-offer to employees looking to leave is often a last-ditch attempt to hang on to their top talent. Here at Michael Page we’ve seen a significant increase over the last couple of years in organizations attempting to ‘buy back’ their staff. While the counter-offer situation doesn’t always end in your favour, there are some steps to take to ensure that you remain a viable option in the candidate’s consideration process.
Seven actions to take to avoid a counter-offer situation:

1. Cover Counter-offers at Interview

To mitigate the chance of a counter-offer situation arising, it’s best to address it during the interview stages. Ask candidates directly about their reasons for leaving and the action they’ll take if their current employer asks them to stay. If there are warning bells at this stage – “I really like my boss and money is a big motivator in this job move” – either get to the bottom of the situation with further questioning, or focus your attentions on other contenders in the interview process.

2. Determine Reasons for Leaving:

If their sole motivation for changing jobs is for a pay raise or a simple promotion, this is easily addressed by their current employer upping their salary or changing their job title. Don’t be drawn into a bidding war and consider candidates who are interested in the full opportunity that you’re offering.

3. Keep Up the Contact:

The climax of the interview process is the offer stage, you’re happy because you’ve found a great new addition to the team, the candidate is happy because they’ve found a new opportunity that ticks all the boxes. Don’t let this enthusiasm and excitement wane – be sure to stay in contact with your new hire until they join you on their first day. By keeping touch and discovering how their boss took their resignation, you can stand a better chance of keeping the momentum going and staying at the top of their mind.

4. Sell Your Strengths

If a potential new employee was attracted by the chance for career progression, a better work/life balance or your organizational culture, illustrate these benefits clearly to those having a crisis of confidence in changing organizations. Remind the candidate of the reasons they chose to explore the market in the first place, and reassure them that the opportunities exist in your organization.

5. Offer the Opportunity for Further Meetings

When a candidate is weighing up your offer, invite them in again to meet with key stakeholders and peers. People buy people, so give new hires the chance to get a feel for those they’ll be interacting with, the leadership team and any direct reports. Address any concerns raised with open feedback and practical examples – often easier face-to-face than over the phone.

6. Use a Recruiter

Well-versed in the many different forms of counter-offers and their outcomes, a good recruiter will prepare your candidate for the possibility of being ‘bought back’ buy their current employer. They will also properly qualify a candidate’s job search motivations before introducing them to potential new employers. Those who are looking for an offer as a bargaining tool for to higher salary in their current role don’t often make the shortlist.

7. Finally, Know When to Walk Away 

The recruitment process is a two-way street and as much as you’re looking to attract the best candidate for the job, so should your potential new employee be enthusiastic at the prospect of joining your organization. Make your first offer your best one; sell the benefits of the role and organization throughout the process and let it be the opportunity that attracts the right talent – not the extra cash added to a salary at the last minute.
Each counter-offer situation is different though, so for more advice on a specific case please get in touch with your local Michael Page team.