What keeps you up at night?
For us, it’s the nightmarish possibility that one of our candidates will receive a counteroffer from their current employer.
We’ve all experienced it—with an offer in hand, a selected candidate spurns our opportunity after a counteroffer brings more pay, expanded influence, or even a promotion.
It’s no secret that companies are more fully embracing counteroffer practices. In a recent Harvard Business Review survey, up to 80% of executives and HR leaders believe there are acceptable scenarios to extend and accept counteroffers.
At Palladian West, we’ve had a front-row seat in experiencing this rising trend. Since we recruit high-performing, passive talent, the likelihood of a counteroffer is inherently higher. Over the last two years, approximately one-third of our placed candidates have either been formally countered or asked if they would be open to staying. In a weird way, it’s a problem we’d rather have; countered candidates are a sign that we’re delivering top talent to our clients.
The reality is, we cannot prevent counters. But we can work to prevent them from being accepted. Here are the Top 3 steps we take in “counter-proofing” candidates:
- Asking questions—a lot of questions.
Tim Sackett brilliantly calls this the “Jealous girlfriend/boyfriend” approach. We like to know everything about a candidate’s current situation at work. “What changes would get you to stay? Why don’t you just ask for that promotion? What if your dream job was with your current employer?” These types of questions aren’t meant to be invasive. They’re asked with genuine care for that candidate’s best interests. Many times, we uncover that candidates have very solvable problems at work—problems they can solve without going out and procuring an offer elsewhere. At the least, this process weeds out the rare instance where a candidate is seeking an outside offer as leverage. (It happens.) In a best-case scenario, we find out the strength of an offer needed by our client to land their top candidate. There is no downside to being a little nosy. (Although we prefer the word curious.)
- Educating the candidate.
We often hear candidates respond, when asked if they think they’ll receive a counteroffer, “I sure hope I’d receive one!” Our response: “Let’s unpack that, shall we?” No matter the stage in one’s career, counters provide a fleeting sense of flattery that can blur—and even worsen—the issues that exist in their current situation. We sometimes find we’re the only people reminding candidates of what they already know; accepting a counteroffer is, generally, a very bad idea. We don’t use scare tactics (just Google, “Accepting a Counteroffer”) and instead focus on educating candidates on how to resign and nobly exit their current role. Equally prevalent is the candidate who receives bad advice from a friend or family member. That advice usually goes like this: “Why don’t you ask for a counteroffer so you can make an apples-to-apples decision?” We step in to help the candidate process the pitfalls in plans like this.
- We stay connected.
OK. The candidate has signed, resigned and is on their way to their new role with our client. It’s time for that wonderful recruiter-friend at Palladian West to move on, right? Not so fast. There is such a thing as the “Hail Mary” counteroffer. The one that comes at the end of a candidate’s two-week notice period and is so attractive that it makes them think twice. Appearing to wow the candidate, they are often the most disingenuous. We find that frequent check-ins with candidates after their resignation keeps the positive momentum going—momentum that can often wane after the offer is signed. More often than not, candidates are navigating a lonely and confusing terrain when they’re in between jobs. Our journey with candidates does not end with the placement. It continues on for their career, most of which is hopefully spent with your organization.