1) Uncover your candidate’s motivators:
Every candidate will have their own specific reasons for looking to change jobs (lack of career progression/ challenge/ support from management/ compensation etc) and your first priority should be to discover AND qualify exactly why they are looking to leave their current employer. Remember; don’t take their reasons for face value! Qualify their reasons by discussing them in more detail and asking probing questions to dig deeper into why they really feel that way. Keep notes and document this important information as you can use it in the future to remind the candidate of their original motivations.
This is an important step as not only does it give you more control in a counteroffer situation, it also gives your more insight into the candidate and what really makes them tick.
What if the candidate is primarily motivated by money?
That’s ok! At least you now know so you’ll be extra alert to the heightened risk of a counteroffer situation. I’ve successfully placed dozens candidates whose main motivator is money – sometimes it can make it make the candidate easier to close as the motivation is black and white. Again, dig deeper and find out the specifics about their compensation requirements and the shortfall at their current employer. This information can be used to your advantage during the offer process.
2) Discover their risk factor:
Once you’ve feel confident you’ve nailed down the candidates main motivations, then ask this question: “have you raised this issue with your boss/manager/HR yet?” This can give you valuable insight to the level of risk of a counteroffer occurring. If the candidate replies “yes but he/she can’t do anything about it” then you’re pretty safe. If the answer is “no I haven’t” then they could be high risk. I usually probe further here and sometimes, depending on their motivations; I suggest they speak with their boss/manager/HR before moving forward on their job search (it could save you a whole lot of time and effort in the long run!).
3) Reveal and talk about the Elephant:
For the majority of candidates, the possibility of a counteroffer won’t have even crossed their minds so this is your chance to reveal the elephant hiding in the room to discuss and educate (and scare!) the candidate about the reality of counteroffers. An unprepared candidate may accept a counteroffer because they panic and they haven’t thought it through. Resigning can be an emotional experience and rash decisions can be made. A quick google search will bring up dozens of articles detailing why accepting a counter offer is a bad idea but the main 2 I use during this conversation are:
– Your loyalty will always be in question: If you accept a counteroffer, then you’ve already broken your trust with your current employer and you’ll likely be seen as a ‘flight risk’ resulting in a good chance they’ll be looking to replace you anyway.
– The figures speak for themselves: Multiple studies show that 80% of people who accept a counteroffer have left again within 6 months as money is only a short term fix to the core problems.
You could also suggest that the candidate does their own research online as they’ll quickly learn themselves that accepting a counteroffer is rarely ever a good idea.
When should I have this conversation with the candidate?
There are 2 key occasions that I recommend you have this conversation: The first during the initial meeting/interview with the candidate, and then again before you formally make them an offer to keep the negative reality of a counter offer fresh in their mind.
4) Don’t leave it to chance:
Just because you’ve already prepared the candidate to reject the counteroffer, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. Another critical step is to make sure you keep in close contact with the candidate throughout the resignation process. Ask the candidate when they will be formally handing in their resignation and agree to schedule a phone call with them shortly afterwards to check in and see how it went. This way, if a counteroffer was made to the candidate during their resignation process, you’ve probably caught it early enough to use the information you gained in step 1 to remind the candidate of their original motivations to leave before a rash or emotional decision is made.
5) Don’t give up:
Even if you perform all of the previously mentioned steps, there’s no guarantee that the candidate won’t accept a counteroffer and you could be back at square 1. If you find yourself in this situation, then the best thing to do is to keep in friendly contact with the candidate, especially for the first 6 months (remember the statistics!). If they’re a super star candidate and a great fit for your team, then the chances are you’ll still have a need for them in the future. Call them a few weeks later to check in and arrange to meet them for lunch/coffee/beers for a friendly catch up. Think about it: by keeping in touch with them, guess who they’ll be calling first when they’re back in the market within 6months time?
Counteroffers are here to stay and are becoming more common. However, by educating yourself about the negative reality of counteroffers and following the 5 steps outlined above, you can greatly reduce the risk for a counteroffer getting in the way of a successful hire.