Season 7 | Episode 5

coaching candidates through counteroffers

“In today’s episode of Recruiter Fuel, we sat down with Melissa and Ken to talk about a recruiter’s worst nightmare: counteroffers. The two had a great conversation about coaching candidates through counteroffers and other common objections.

Counteroffers Happen

Ken opened up the conversation by asking melissa about how she handles the counteroffer situation.

“Before the candidate even gets the offer, the first thing I do is prep them for all sorts of scenarios that their current employer might come at them with when they go to turn in their resignation. One of the things is obviously counteroffer with pay, and I think the second biggest thing is the promotion…maybe their current employer will say they’ll get a promotion or a new job title.”

Get Ahead of the Counteroffer

Ken agreed that getting ahead of the counteroffer was key.

“I start way back in the conversation, during the initial stages. I think that’s the most imperative time to get in front of that counteroffer. There’s not a worse feeling in the world as a recruiter than having a candidate, taking them 99 yards, getting them into the end zone, and then ultimately fumbling the ball by taking a counter.”

Melissa elaborated on how it’s crucial to understand a candidate’s true motivations.

“What are their motivations? Do I see a counteroffer on the way…and I actually talk with them a bit about what a counteroffer may look like at their current company. Is it likely that they are in a key role where the management might come back with them with a counteroffer?”

“I also think prepping the candidate even before that official talk happens…I do pulse checks. After every interview, whether it’s on the phone or on-site, having a real conversation with them of “how did it go? What were your thoughts?” And if you sense hesitation in their voice, what wasn’t covered?”

Getting Cold Feet

Of course, one of the most common hang-ups when someone accepts a new job offer is the sense of guilt or cold feet from candidates. They may feel bad leaving their existing team or feel guilty about abandoning them in the middle of a big project, for example.

Melissa advised starting out with understanding the counteroffer. What exactly was offered and why is the candidate considering the counter?

“You want to know, what do I need to address first? Is it pay? Is it title? Did they offer a week’s vacation that they previously didn’t have? Or sometimes it’s not even something like that…it could be their attachment to their manager.”

Once Melissa understands the reasons behind their hesitation, she goes through it point by point. Lastly, she circles back to their initial conversations to remind the candidate of why they wanted to leave in the first place. Sometimes all someone needs is a bit of a reminder that they wouldn’t have interviewed elsewhere if they were satisfied with their current position.

“And then I always make sure to ask…was anything given to you in writing?”

Sometimes companies don’t keep their promises, so making career decisions without anything in writing is always a bad move.

“Why Did it Take Your Company So Long?”

Ken also emphasized the fact that counteroffers do make you question how much a company values the candidate.

“One of the questions I often ask candidates in this situation is…why did it take your company so long? Why did it take until the very end of potentially your road with your company for them to make concessions to you or give you that raise you were looking for or that new title or new responsibilities you were craving for…so are you truly valued there, versus another company that will give you that day one?”

The Statistics Don’t Paint a Pretty Picture

Ken asked Melissa about the statistics behind counteroffers.

“If you accept a counteroffer…I think it’s six months average that you stay, and I want to say it’s in the 80 or 90% and then you end leaving to go to another company.”

“They’re still at the core unhappy with that role…from that first conversation you probably had with that candidate, they probably expressed why they were looking to leave and their motivators…that never changes. You can get something waved in front of your face to tide you over for a bit, but those core things that somebody is looking for, those aren’t going to usually change, or if they do it’s going to take more than six months.”

Counteroffers Are Avoidable

Melissa and Ken also brought up some important points that accepting a counteroffer rarely addresses the reasons why someone wanted to leave in the first place.

Furthermore, they emphasized that if a recruiter understands why someone wanted to leave, they can help coach a candidate through the counteroffer and avoid the rejection.