The counter-offer isn’t new, but its role has become an increasingly important consideration amid a job market impacted by the pandemic, the Great Resignation and soaring inflation.
Many companies are making it a priority to attract top talent while others are doing everything in their power to retain skilled workers. In today’s current climate, it’s more crucial to recruiters and job seekers than any time in recent history to understand counter-offers and be prepared to address them promptly.
Counter-Offers in Recruitment: Definition and Types
A counter-offer is a proposal from a job seeker’s current employer that’s intended to rival or surpass the offer received from a prospective employer. The counter-offer has a single goal: Entice the job seeker to remain in their current position.
Counter-offers come in different forms, including but not limited to:
Counter-offers are most often monetary. Financial counter-offers may entail a pay raise, an annual bonus or bonus system, company shares or investment plans.
The promise of more money is a leading cause of job seekers deciding to remain with their current employers. But this financial boost is often a one-time affair, and there are other critical factors to assess before jumping at a salary increase.
Promotions and Greater Responsibility
When someone works hard at what they do, they want recognition for their commitment and an opportunity to advance within an organization. This makes promotions and pledges of greater responsibility powerful counter-offer tools, even if they’re not accompanied by a raise.
Modified Reporting Structure
Employers sometimes seek to resolve conflicts between qualified employees and management by offering an altered reporting structure. This type of counter-offer may be extended in addition to a pay increase or future considerations.
Changing jobs can be a burden for job seekers and employers alike. Employers desperate to keep quality personnel, retain institutional knowledge and save on new-hire training may offer assurances of improvements or future considerations such as education opportunities, extended time off or other enticing benefits.
Disparaging Remarks about Prospective Employer or Job
It’s also not unheard of for employers to play off a job-seeking employee’s emotions. A current employer may belittle the potential new employer, or ridicule the job seeker’s role. Employers may further attempt to induce guilt or question the employee’s loyalty.
Preparing for Counter-Offers
Despite their reality in today’s job market, counter-offers often take job seekers — and even some recruiters — by surprise. Preparation is key to responding to counter-offers pragmatically and unemotionally.
Effective questioning by recruiters during the initial screening process is critical to coping with counter-offers. The answers to the following questions can help both recruiters and job seekers determine the precise reasons a candidate desires to leave a current workplace and whether a counter-offer may change their mind:
Are you actively seeking new opportunities?
Some candidates are actively looking for new roles while others may be dissatisfied but merely testing the waters. Confirming how immediately the job seeker is willing to consider a new position will help determine the next steps.
Why do you want to leave your current employer?
A candidate may be unhappy with their salary, have a horrible boss, or lack avenues for career advancement. It’s paramount to discuss a candidate’s most compelling reasons for wanting a change and to prioritize what a job seeker wants in a new position.
Does your current employer extend counter-offers, and if so why have you not received their best offer until now?
If an organization does provide counter-offers when employees look elsewhere, the secondary questions to confront are: Why don’t they extend their best offers until their best workers are considering other options? Do they value their most skilled employees every day, or just when those employees look elsewhere? What did a prospect’s most recent review say? Did the review recognize the employee’s performance, or offer any training or development opportunities? Candidates should read reviews as indications of what their employers really think of them.
What steps will you take if a counter-offer is presented?
A candidate doesn’t consider new job opportunities without cause. In the face of a counter-offer, job seekers should remember the compelling reasons why they decided to explore the market and whether the counter-offer truly addresses these issues. Examples of compelling reasons include: disruption, career growth, company growth, purpose, culture, voice, and work-life integration.
Combating Counter-Offers in Recruitment
Being prepared for counter-offers and having a firm grasp on a candidate’s motivations for seeking a new job makes it less likely a job seeker will stay with their current employer. Sometimes, however, a candidate must reconsider an organization’s strengths as they align with the job seeker’s values.
These values may include:
• Flexibility for improved work-life balance
• Career advancement opportunities.
• Organizational culture.
• Technology stacks that enhance efficiency and grow an employee’s knowledge base.
• Project scopes that provide employees with tangible, attainable goals.
• Training and educational opportunities.
At this stage, recruiters may want to introduce additional questions about a candidate’s key motivators for seeking a new job:
• If your employer offered you an additional $10,000 per year, would you accept it and change your mind about your other reasons for leaving
• What benefits does your current employer provide, and which are most important to you?
• Do you see yourself in your current position for the next two years? If not, what would need to change for you to stay in that role? What role do you imagine yourself in?
• How important is your job title to you?
• When did you last feel valued or recognized by your current employer? What type of recognition is important?
• Are you happy with your current manager? Do you flourish with a particular management style?
• How close is your current job to your home, and do you prefer office or remote work?
• Do you use your educational background, academic credentials or professional certifications in your current position?
• How do you feel about the workplace culture at your current organization? How would you improve it?
• Do you have flexibility in your work arrangements, and are there particular areas you rely on?
• What technologies do you use in your current position, and does your employer provide upskilling or reskilling programs?
• Where do you see yourself in 6 months?
• Why weren’t you offered a raise before you gave notice to resign? Is money a temporary band-aid to your real reasons for exploring new opportunities?
• Salary may be a big reason why an employee leaves a job, but it is rarely the only — or even most compelling — reason.
Counter-Offers: More Money, Same Problems
A raise doesn’t solve problems such as work-life imbalance, incompatible management personalities, lack of career advancement or excessive commute times. In fact, counter-offer raises may preclude future salary increases or bonuses.
And compensation shouldn’t trump a candidate’s primary drivers for wanting to leave. More money certainly won’t solve those lingering issues.
Counter-offers are often short-term fixes. In many cases, employees who accept counter-offers are looking for work again within a year, either because they remain unhappy or were released by the employer.
Once a candidate provides notice to leave or tells their current employer they have another offer, the relationship is cracked moving forward. Accepting a counter-offer just provides a fleeting patch.
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