How to respond to a candidate who gets a counteroffer

You’ve spent weeks working through the recruitment process, interviewing candidates, completing reference checks, and have now made a formal offer to your preferred candidate. You pat yourself on the back and say ‘job well done’.

Not so fast.

After taking a few days to consider the offer, the candidate tells you they’ve accepted a counteroffer from their current employer and have decided to stay where they are. As Don Corleone would say, they’ve received an offer they simply cannot refuse.

As you think about the hours, and perhaps days, you have spent on the recruitment process up to this point, you feel your blood boil. Not only do you feel like you’ve wasted your time and others in the business, but you no longer even have any one else on the shortlist you could even make an offer to.

What can you do?

Assume every candidate will receive a counteroffer

Have a think about what you can do from the beginning of the recruitment process to ensure you’re moving forward with candidates who are most likely to accept your offer. It’s important to be really clear and specific throughout the whole process and ask that the candidate offers the same to you in return.

It’s best to simply assume that every single candidate you make an offer to will be counteroffered by their current employer. By incorporating this into your recruitment process, you are best positioned to deal with it because you are prepared and it will not be a surprise.

Prepare to deal with counteroffers

How can you prepare to deal with your prized recruit being made a counteroffer? I recommend you follow these three steps:

  1. During the engagement and interview process clearly establish the main reasons why the candidate would want to leave their current employer and what they are looking for in a new employer. List these out in order of importance and write them down as you may need to refer back to them later.
  2. At the appropriate time, ask the candidate outright ‘if we made an offer that ticked all your boxes (e.g. exact salary package, responsibilities, progression) is there anything that would stop you from accepting it?’
  3. Once you have made a verbal offer to a candidate, but prior to presenting the formal offer, ask them ‘would you stay with your current firm if they matched or exceeded the specific items in our offer?’

At each of these steps when the answer is not what you want to hear or if there is a delayed, long or  rambled response, it’s important to dive in a bit deeper. You might ask, do you have other offers? Has anything changed following our first meeting? If you had to make a decision on our offer today, what would your answer be?

The purpose of asking direct questions is to ensure a) there is mutual understanding between all parties and b) to get more certainty on whether the candidate will accept your offer. If there is any uncertainty it might be worth pulling back to avoid wasting any more time.

If you are losing your candidates to counteroffers, start to incorporate these steps into your recruitment process and monitor the change in success rates. Sometimes having an independent party like Talent Blueprint to broker the deal can mitigate the risk of losing good quality candidates at the final hurdle. If you would like to learn managing counteroffers or other recruitment advice, get in touch with me on 07 3041 4212.