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Successfully Navigating the 'Counter Offer' - an Employers Guide

Written by: Ashley Kate HR
Published on: 4 Jun 2014

After an extensive search and carefully considered recruitment campaign, you have just received the fantastic news your candidate of choice has excitedly accepted. You busily start putting plans into place to bring them ‘on-board’ carefully considering how to make their induction as engaging as possible. However, your plans are halted a week later, when you get a reluctant call or worse email saying they have had a counter offer from their current employer that’s too good to turn down. It’s a blow and it takes you by surprise and now you are ‘back to the drawing board’ after several weeks sometimes months of recruiting.

Counter offers cost time and money.  At some point in your hiring career you are likely to be put in this precise position.  So what steps can you take to avoid a recruiter’s nightmare?


1)  Define your role clearly and know what you want. Does the role require a ‘best of best’ approach? How important is the role  to your organisation and where is your target candidate likely to come from?

2) Consider how well you know the recruitment market place and use the right tools.  When recruiting top talent do you know enough about your competitive hirers to offer a competitive role, salary and package? Engaging with a specialist recruiter can give you wider access to market trends, help you uncover your candidates’ real motivations (as they are more likely to be more open with a third party) and provide you with a welcome ‘buffer’ for those careful negotiations late stage. 

3) Use your networks wisely. Don’t just concentrate on recruiting active “jobseekers” through job ads or contingent recruiters. Instruct a third party to do a full search campaign and supplement it with your own networks.

Ataninterview [square]AT INTERVIEW

4) Find out at interview the real drivers for your candidate’s search and their long term aspirations. What is lacking with their current employer and why will a move assist them?  I always try and aim for three reasons to leave at interview.   You should avoid progressing anyone who is motivated purely by a financial uplift as these are the most likely contenders to accept a counter offer.  Vague responses also don’t cut it: ‘time to move on’ needs to be followed with why? 

5) Ask them to consider what they would do in a counter offer situation. What would their employer have to offer them to stay? Ask them, would it resolve their three reasons to move?

6) Make sure you know what’s on their radar.  How interested are they in other roles compared to yours? Adjust your interview process accordingly if you are losing your candidate to timescales and don’t assume the role you have on offer is the best out there.

MakingtheofferMAKING THE OFFER

7) Make an offer that takes into consideration a potential counter offer.  Your candidate’s initial feeling towards your offer counts for a lot. Most people when making a move will also hope for an increase in remuneration. A good offer is a sign of how they are viewed by the business they will be joining and a mark of respect for the expertise they will bring.

8) Get your paperwork out quickly. Whilst a verbal acceptance is still binding most people don’t feel they have fully committed until they have got the offer in writing and responded.  Keep up to speed with when paperwork is being returned and make sure it is accurate and timely.

9) Keep in touch and offer your support. Handing your notice in can be a daunting prospect. Be there to offer your advice and support, know when they are about to do the deed and get them to call you immediately afterwards to let you know how it went.


10) Think about how much you really want them if you have offered a great offer in the first place, think carefully before trying to match a counter offer particularly if it is purely a financial attraction. If you have fallen short on point 7; ask yourself if a late increase really sends out the right message to a prospective hire.

For additional advice on this matter read Gemma Turner’s article on Getting your On-Boarding process right

If you would like any further information or would like to discuss any HR recruitment issues you may face please feel free to contact me,  Ashley Kate HR on or calling 0845 413 3200. We welcome your comments on this matter.

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