Rising Above the Counter Offer Culture When Hiring

Rising Above the Counter Offer Culture When Hiring

Posted on:
by Cathal McAliskey
IT Jobs and Recruitment Insights

In today’s recruitment market counter offers are the new norm, especially in the IT sector. Think about it, if one of your top employees hands in their notice, you are going to do everything in your power to try and convince them to stay. There is such a skill shortage in the IT tech market that companies won’t let go of staff without a fight.

When hiring you must accept that counter offers are likely to happen but understand that you can impact whether the candidate takes one or not. What I’d like to address is how hiring managers can best prepare themselves for counter offers and put themselves in a position to succeed in this counter offer culture.

It’s time to embrace the counter offer culture and think that if the shoe was on the other foot what would you do. An important first step is to accept that they happen and plan ahead.


The Clash Should I Stay GIF - The Clash Should I Stay Or Should I Go GIFs


So, what can a counter offer include?

  1. Salary Increase – the most common type of counter offer. Here a company will offer an increased salary in the hope that the leaving employee will stay. Companies usually offer more money to keep staff as they see the time and financial challenges in replacing this person.  Most candidates will share their existing offer details to see if their current company can match or better it.

  2. Promotion – candidates are offered a step up the career ladder to convince them to stay. The offer of a Manager/Supervisor/VP/Senior position may be appealing but some candidates are not ready for the extra responsibility. This promotion may or may not be financially beneficial but will provide a status increase.

  3. Increased Benefits – companies offer shares, bonuses, more annual leave, better work/life balance, remote flexibility, or a combination of these in order to keep staff. Some will try to match the benefits of existing offers also.


Work with a recruiter and listen to their insights

You couldn’t expect me to write this blog without giving recruiters a plug. Good recruiters are strong at undercovering the candidates key motivators for leaving. They will ask deep questions to probe details rather than taking candidates on face value. Recruiters will run through different counteroffer scenarios with candidates to access if they would ever consider a counter offer. E.g.

- Why are you considering new opportunities?

- What are the non-financial reasons for considering a change?

- What is missing in your current job? How does this new opportunity meet your needs?

- Have you spoken to your manager about these concerns? If so, are they currently addressing them?

- Have you spoken to your manager about leaving?

- If you did, what would he/she say?

- If they offered you a 5/10/20% salary increase would you stay?

- If they offered you accelerated career progression, and a bonus would you stay?


Also, experienced recruiters will be able to identify candidates who could potentially be using an interview process or offer as leverage to increase their current package. By filtering out these candidates it can increase time to hire. It’s vitally important that hiring managers request and listen to recruiters’ insights on the candidate’s key motivators and then speak to these during the interview process. E.g.

If a candidate’s key motivation for leaving is lack of progression, then a hiring manager can map out detailed progression pathways in the 1st interview. By articulating progression potential, it will engage the candidate and really help sell the role to them.

If a candidate’s motivation is around stability, perhaps a hiring manager can put their mind at ease by highlighting the financial strength of the company, number of projects or even substantial growth plans.


Advice for Hiring Managers

getting candidates to accept job offers

  • As a hiring manager you should explore the candidate’s motivators further in the first interview. I can’t stress enough the importance of listening here and giving the candidate time to speak. It’s key not to make assumptions on motivators or assume that the candidate is already sold on your company, a lot of good candidates are passive.  Try to get a sense of their career goals and think about how your company can help achieve these. You could talk about their current company and understand what they like and dislike about their job.

  • Once you understand what is important to the candidate and what’s lacking in their current job it’s crucial that you facilitate an interview process to engage the candidate on how your company can meet their needs. Sell the non-financial benefits of the position and your company. Remember it is not enough to just mention company culture, training programs, social issue policies. You need to bring these to life and talk the candidate through them with examples. The most common non-financial reasons for leaving are lack of progression, over-worked/long hours, no work/life balance, micromanagement, or a toxic culture.

  • I would encourage hiring managers to meet candidates face to face if possible. Face to face meetings help to really understand the candidate and to grow rapport and trust. Also, if you have a kickass office, it’s a great way to show-off.

  • A significant way hiring managers can avoid counter offers affecting their hiring plans is by setting deadlines on pending offers. Even if a candidate’s current company wants to make a counter offer, they are likely to need approval for this, which can take time. Deadlines help get the candidate’s commitment early and can prevent counter offers.

    Keep in close communication with your recruiter. This way they can give you early signs if a counter offer is on the cards. Recruiters will be able to give candidates insights on counter offers and why accepting them is a bad idea. E.g.

    - Around 80% of candidates who accept a counter offer end up leaving their current employer within 6 months.

    - Is this counter offer addressing your non-financial reasons for leaving?

    - Are they offering you more because they value you more or are they trying to avoid the hassle of replacing you?

    - Why has it taken your exit to trigger this reaction?

    - Will you be seen as a flight risk going forward?

    - By handing in your notice, has this affected the trust of your current employer?

    A good recruiter is usually able to get the details of a counteroffer, so you can decide on your plan of action.

  • Be open to negotiate. If you have a superstar candidate who receives a counter offer evaluate if you can get more budget to counter the counteroffer. If you cannot offer anything on the financial side, see if you can offer them a better title. In this situation I would advise arranging a chat with the candidate to sell them again on the non-financial motivators.

  • Always closing is a term recruiters know very well, essentially, it’s regularly selling the role while identifying any concerns or deterrents early and ironing them out. Hiring managers who are always closing can avoid counter offers affecting that perfect hire.

The counter offer culture is here to stay, especially with the skill shortage in the IT market. Hiring managers must listen to and understand candidate motivators before facilitating an interview process that engages them and addresses their needs. I would advise hiring managers to work with a recruiter to get offers over the line and prevent counter offers holding up your hiring plans. If you’d like to speak with a specialist IT recruiter, contact us, GemPool are here to help.

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