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The Secret to Countering the Counteroffer

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Written by Greg Savage

Making assumptions is where most disappointment in recruitment is born.

It has always been that way.

But in this era of frenetic hiring, skills shortages and changing candidate behaviour, the need for recruiters to manage the ‘moments of truth’ and pre-empt adverse outcomes, is now a core consulting skill.

Attempting to diffuse a counteroffer after the offer has been made is futile. There is as much chance of you turning that around as me playing for the Wallabies next weekend. Too little, too late, too bad. You have no credibility, and you sound desperate. Not going to happen

It’s a big ego stroke for the candidate when a counteroffer comes unexpectedly. And it’s usually a juicy extra money offer with other delectable goodies thrown in like a job-title change, additional responsibility, and maybe a little ‘employer-induced guilt’ thrown in.

And the key word in the preceding paragraph is ‘unexpectedly’.

It’s your job to make sure it is expected.

Not only expected, but considered, analysed… and dismissed!

Countering a counteroffer starts at the very first interview.

It happens toward the end of that first meeting, where you have agreed with the candidate the ideal job, the ideal conditions, and the required salary.

One of my clients who shall go unnamed (Oh, OK, it’s Precision Sourcingstarts the counteroffer discovery in the first screening phone call! They consider it so key to deal with, they won’t even proceed if a counteroffer is likely to be accepted)

Here is the critical skill that most recruiters lack.

You do not tell the candidate that accepting a counteroffer is a bad idea.

You don’t lecture at all.

You take the candidate, in their minds-eye, to the resignation day.

You transport them to that moment, and you ask the candidate what’s likely to happen.

It requires subtlety, and it requires patience, and it requires the ability to shut up at critical moments.

Not our core skills set, you will agree. (So yes, it was hard for me, but once I saw the benefits, I learned.)

Something like this. (Just conceptual and an illustration. Not a script. Although you could do a lot worse)

You: “Ms Candidate, I think I have a clear understanding of the sort of role you are looking for. However, when I secure you that position and you have been offered it, and accepted it, when you go to your current employer to resign, what will they say?”

Candidate: They will be very disappointed.’

You: “I am sure. You have played a key role, and you have excellent skills. What might they do or say specifically?”

Candidate:  Well, they would probably offer me more money to stay.”

You: “And how do you think you would respond to that.”

Candidate: Either, “no way” or “depends how much”.

If it’s ‘no way’, then dig into that and reinforce why the candidate would not stay.

If ‘depends how much’, take the candidate back to the reasons they gave you for wanting a move. ( career, no learning, lousy culture, lack of flexibility)

Will more money solve that? 

Get the candidate to conclude that a counteroffer solves nothing. Take as much time as it takes. You are saving a placement gone wrong here!

  • Explore the answer in detail.
  • Look at body language.
  • Dig behind the cliches.
  • Test how much they would stay for
  • Offer up scenarios as to what their employer might say.
  • If necessary and appropriate, encourage them to go and ask for a raise! Yes. If they tell you they will stay for more money, best they go and get a raise, and remain where they are, as they always were going to. Or they get turned down and come back to you highly motivated to move!

The secret to countering the counteroffer is to take the candidate to the resignation discussion, explore the likely response, and get them to turn the counteroffer down before they have even got one!

I have written in detail about Motivation to Accept.’(MTA)

Now you must dig into ‘Determination to Reject’ (DTA)

Reject a counteroffer, that is.

Then you need to return to this conversation when you brief them on the first interview you get them out on. Then another version of the same discussion in the post-interview debrief, and again multiple times through to the pre-offer close.

Sound like hard work?

Well, welcome to sophisticated recruiting 2021 and beyond.

Or ignore it and have half your ‘placements’ fall over because of counteroffers.

You can read the original blog here:




About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers. 

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