Counter Offers Are Not (Inherently) Baaaad, M’kay?

Pete Wildman

Recruiters generally advise against accepting a counter offer. LinkedIn’s full of similar advice. Stats thrown around to support the “Counter offers are Baaad, M’kay” message, generally read something like: “80/90/95/99% of people accepting a counter offer will leave their job within 6/9/12 months anyway, or their legs will fall off, or they’ll spontaneously combust, or they’ll go off to join ISIS”.

It suits the recruiter’s narrative, but can these ‘statistics’ be trusted? Can your recruiter tell you the source of the figures dripping off their tongue? There’s certainly merit to being wary of counter-offers, but I’m convinced the driver is often really more about recruiters influencing people to take accept the job that they’ll earn a fee from, than anything else. It’s undoubtedly in the recruiter’s interest for you to decline a counter offer and accept a job they’ve represented you to…. If you accept my client’s job for example, I’ll make money. If you stay where you are, I’ll make nothing. We recruiters have a vested interest, and we need integrity to keep that in check. Think about that, and consider the relationship you have with your recruiter. Do you trust them to put your interests first?

Truth Bomb

Some of my candidates over the years have been right to take their counter offer. If I totalled up my lost revenue from those ‘lost hires’, I’m sure I’d cry, but I’m genuinely happy for them; It’s their career, not mine, and I’m not going to starve. The best counter offers are often based on a commitment to the employee’s development goals, or increased flexibility, rather than being purely financial – but not always.

Consider this Example

An employee (let’s call her Suzy) is key to an important project. Suzy’s headhunted, and resigns. The company dangles a financial carrot to keep her on board for the next 6 months, to get the project off the ground. Suzy loves that project, but she’s trying desperately to save a Sydney house deposit, and the new contract offer was lucrative. Accepting the equivalent counter offer, she can now stay and finish the project while chipping away at that deposit. Perhaps I’ll help her find a new role next year, perhaps even with the company she declined today – or maybe a new project comes up in-house that excites her and she stays a while longer, or until she’s the CEO. Either way it’s worked out well for Suzy and for her employer. Is a counter offer a bad thing? Sometimes. It’s all about context.

Here’s my advice: If you tell your recruiter you’ve been counter offered and they launch straight into the “counter offers are baaaad, mkay” speech before even asking you what the offer involves…. ask yourself whether their focus is on your best interests, or their own commissions? There are lots of great people in recruitment, and my intention’s not to bash recruiters, but the truth is a lot of those great people are under a lot of pressure to meet revenue targets…and if a recruiter’s worried about keeping their job, that doesn’t necessarily drive behaviours that put you first.


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