The Art of the Counteroffer – 5 Key Tips Hiring Managers Must Know

Nothing is more frustrating for a hiring manager than finding the ideal candidate, having them accept an offer, and then losing them to a counteroffer. And with a market full of top talent, the chances of a counteroffer are high. However, hiring managers also have a unique advantage: 80% of candidates who accept a counteroffer from their current employer end up leaving within 6 months. Not only that, but 50% of candidates that accept counteroffers from their current employer are active again on the job search within 60 days. This means that for many job seekers, a counteroffer provides a band-aid type fix and one that can be avoided from the get-go with the right expertise and advisement.

For hiring managers and recruiters, these statistics are just a reality of the process and for most, they’ve heard it all before. In a world where budgets are often set without much wiggle room, it can be hard for hiring managers to feel a sense of control or fluidity when making an offer. We’re here to give you that extra dose of strategy needed to help your candidate make the right decision for both parties involved.

Here are 5 key tips to help ensure you don’t get beat by the counteroffer:

Have an understanding of your candidate’s motivations

A skilled recruiter will provide personal counsel at each step in the hiring process and probe for potential red flags. Valerie Rodriguez, Senior Director at Beacon, shares, “If the candidate hasn’t spoken with their boss about what they desire in their current role that they have not gotten thus far, then it’s a risk to represent them.” Equally, if a candidate’s motivation to make a job change is purely driven by money and nothing else, then they are a potential counteroffer risk, most likely from the beginning. But that doesn’t mean they are a lost cause – recruiters can regulate that risk by starting the conversation with the candidate immediately. Rodriguez shares that recruiters can gain a key advantage by broaching the topic during the very first conversation. Furthermore, gaining insight into what motivates them is crucial and the right questions need to be asked. Is the candidate looking for improved company culture? Do they feel like they aren’t being given opportunities for growth at their current position? Is there anything specific that’s making them want to leave? Asking these key questions can gauge where they are and additionally establish a personal relationship that can be extremely beneficial down the road, as they know you have their best interests in mind.

Give advice on the resignation process

As much as someone might be ready to make a change, the goodbye is never easy. Rodriguez says, “For candidates, the idea of resigning can cause anxiety and leave them feeling unsure of how to handle it, and that can be downright awkward.” For this reason, the recruiter should coach them the whole way through, offering advice before and after the conversation happens. This not only helps reduce the risk of them taking a counteroffer, but it also builds trust and support that can aid in making the candidate feel like they made the right decision. So how do recruiters advise skillfully before the conversation?

Rodriguez shares these tips she provides candidates when resigning:

  • Be gracious and thankful.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Ask for support with your decision.
  • Indicate your decision is final. 
  • Give no more than 3 weeks’ notice. The candidate should mention they will wrap up current projects as quickly as possible and hand off to the team.
  • Keep repeating the mantra: I hope you will support me, and my decision is final.

After the conversation is over, it’s crucial to connect with the candidate again, ask how it went, and reestablish your support for their decision.

Build Trust Every Step of the Way

As many of us know, accepting a new position can be a life-changing event. It’s hard for candidates to know if they are truly making the right decision for their future. Hiring Managers and recruiters must continuously build trust by staying in close communication, answering any questions they might have, and easing them through the hiring process alongside them. Top recruiters even go beyond providing a great onboarding experience — they make you feel like you’re already a part of the team. One effective strategy is to know when not to sell to the candidate. Instead of reiterating how great the position is after speaking to it a few times, encourage the candidate to reach out for outside advice. Whether that’s a friend, family member, or anything in between, these people can give them the insight they need to feel like they are making the right decision. This also shows them that you care about what’s best for them, even if they ultimately decide not to accept the position.

Remind Them of What They Are Getting

There’s a reason the candidate has gone through the process of applying, interviewing, and accepting your role – so remind them about it! Emphasize the fantastic elements of their new role, including the supportive team, responsibilities, company culture, the potential for career growth, title, offices, location, flexibility, and benefits – whatever attracted them to the role in the first place. There is typically something that hooked them into your company that offers something a counteroffer cannot compete with. By deciding to stay with their organization, the company culture won’t change overnight and neither will anything else that prompted them to start a job search.

Continue the conversation regardless if they take the offer

Rodriguez shares, “Recruiters usually fall into two camps: one aims to develop a meaningful, long-term relationship with the candidate; the other is transactional in nature – completes the deal and goes on their way.” Studies have shown going the long-term route not only increases your chances of beating the counteroffer but also opens doors for that candidate’s network to be in contact with you far after the position is accepted.

And if they decide to take the counteroffer? No sweat. As Mondo’s Talent Acquisition Specialist, Kate Adams, specifies, “If we sense any possibility the candidate might stay with their organization, we encourage them to stay and to reach out when they are 100% ready to leave, as we are here to support their needs.” After all, recruiting is a two-way street and a placement that just gets the role filled could backfire in a multitude of ways. If the candidate is not truly interested but accepts anyway, it could end up not lasting, resulting in another open position. Having the door open means that the candidate can reach out to you when they are ready again for a new position.

Also, you can still reach out to that candidate and tap into their network for future positions and opportunities. Recruiting is all about networking and maintaining relationships with your contacts. Once the trusting relationship is established, candidates will be willing and even eager to share those in their network with you.

Bottom line on counteroffers: The only reason to accept a counteroffer is if it is so outrageous that it is worth taking the money and running for a year. Just know, it won’t last long. Whatever was driving you to leave will still be there. Let us help you find your perfect fit now!

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