4 Ways to Minimize Losing Candidates to Counteroffers

March 21, 2016

I was part of an interesting group chat online recently where a recruiter asked this question:

Is anyone encountering counteroffers like crazy right now? How are you communicating this to your clients? I have a new client who's made two offers and the first one got a full time offer from her contract job for 7k higher than my clients, and the other one got an amazing counteroffer. I know the talent market is at war, but I have never seen it like this at the entry to mid level. Thoughts?

Counteroffers are definitely on the rise

In the private career coaching platform my company runs, we’re seeing an increasing number of members coming to us with job offers and counteroffers, asking for help analyzing which one to take. We do our best to have them take a look at the entire situation, stressing the value of the right corporate culture, benefits, and company stability.

We also point out that counteroffers are often “hazard pay” where the company is doing it to save themselves from losing the candidate unexpectedly, only to find their replacement and fire them later on. I wrote this LinkedIn blog post for job seekers on why they shouldn’t take counter offers. Still, it can be hard for a candidate to say no to a pile of cash.

That being said, here are some ways you can minimize the chance the candidate you worked so hard to get doesn’t leave you at the alter.

1. When it comes to staying in touch, treat them like a V.I.P.

From the very first interaction, the candidate is seeing you as an extension of the company. How you communicate with him or her is a reflection of what it will be like to work there with other employees.

Candidate experience is such a hot topic these days. It’s not enough to be nice, you need to engage the candidate throughout the process. The TLC you provide will be recalled when the counteroffer comes in. Recruiting expert, Stacy Zapar says it’s all about the “pre-close” - a consistent selling of the company, which for her, goes like this:

Mine's a constant dialogue from the very first conversation. I also stay in constant communication with my candidates so we're always on the same page and surprises don't spring up (nothing's airtight but this helps!).

2. Acknowledge they have options

Pretending they aren’t in-demand is ignoring the elephant in the room. Letting them know you understand the market and their need to choose the right opportunity opens up the conversation so you can coach them on the downsides of a counteroffer.

Look at it this way: if they aren’t getting a counteroffer, you know either A) you gave such a good offer, the employer can’t compete with it. Or, B) the employer doesn’t want to keep the person - which says something about the candidate. In short, if you’ve got the right candidate, you should be expecting a counteroffer and act accordingly.

3. Try to talk them out of the your job

This is the last thing a candidate expects you to do. Instead of pleading with them to take the job, you actually push back and share why she or he may not be truly ideal for the position. Why does this work? It reminds them they don’t have the job yet. It also shows just how committed you are to getting the right candidate.

But most importantly, it manages their expectations so they know they aren’t taking a “perfect” job. That way, when the counter comes in, you can say, “Since we know there’s no perfect job, what are the imperfections of the role they’re offering you? Did they discuss them with you as I did?” Your honesty and transparency is your credibility.

4. Identify and speak to their must-haves

Like it or not, recruiters are now career coaches who must ask candidates early on in the process what their non-negotiables are. By getting to the emotional triggers causing them to look at alternative employment, you can reinforce throughout the candidate experience how your position will alleviate their pain and increase their professional satisfaction. It also doesn’t hurt to figure out their nice-to-haves too so you can offer them up as icing on the cake.

Fight the counter offer before it arrives

When it comes to counteroffers, a good offense is the best defense. Don’t let the ideal candidate get seduced by the money. Keep them engaged and attracted to your employer brand throughout the candidate experience so you can minimize the allure of the counteroffer.

My name is J.T. O’Donnell and I’m passionate about helping companies reveal their true employer brand. Contact me and my team today to learn more on how we can help you brand yourself properly to attract the right talent.

*Image from The Simpsons

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