by Matthew Squirrell


So, they’ve decided to take the Counter-Offer? What now?

Any hiring manager will at some point receive the disappointing news that despite having done everything required (even going above and beyond the norm) the candidate that you were looking forward to having join you on the journey has decided to stay put. 

It’s frustrating, annoying, heart breaking, and I feel your pain - I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing it myself. Sometimes it’s a phone call, sometimes it’s an email, sometimes it’s an excuse (“my hamsters’ great-grandmother has died”) and on the rare occasion you get a candidate who doesn’t even have the decency to tell you, but either way they’re not joining you after all. There’s a couple of reactions to this bad news:

“That candidate will NEVER get the opportunity to work with me again!”


“That TIME VAMPIRE will regret the day they ever dared reject with me!”

I have to be honest, on occasion I have felt the same. But in reality, although I’m happy to lay the blame at their door I’m inclined to think: Is there another way to react? After all... What could I do to prevent a candidate from accepting a counter offer?

Identify a TRUE reason for leaving.

There are a number of reasons people want to leave their current job and it’s usually not money - although it’s a popular first answer (especially when recruiting for sales roles). My advice to anyone looking to leave because of money is to arrange a meeting with your current manager and ask for it. This saves them, our clients and us time spent creating the same situation when someone hands in their notice.

MANAGE the notice period.

Just because someone has verbally accepted or even signed a contract don’t assume all will be ‘sunshine and rainbows’ - a month is a long time for the current employer to chip away and tug on the heart strings of an exiting employee. Weekly calls or meet ups beforehand allow the chance to gauge what’s really going on. And should you ever begin to feel that your contact is not being reciprocated it’ll give you the chance to work on Plan B. Hoping it’ll be okay is not a strategy - it’s inaction!

CONFRONT and test the counter-offer possibility before it becomes reality.

Before I register an applicant to our books, I will begin talking about the certainty of counter offers at the end of the process. If someone is shaky now, then they’ll be falling over at the end. Address things early and gauge the reaction. I will even suggest how the applicant can go about securing a pay rise or hours change or promotion internally before even considering registering them. Why would I do that? Firstly: If they get the payrise/promotion it’s me who knows what they’re talking about - referrals in abundance! Secondly: If they don’t get what they’ve asked their employer for I have a candidate who is loyal to me and who knows that if a counter offer comes at the end it’s too late.

Look for the SIGNS and show openness to change.

If the applicant goes cold and begins the process of ‘ghosting’ it should send your recruiter senses tingling. To avoid being on the end of the dreaded ‘let down’ call/email you should have a Plan B. This could be that you either reignite conversations with your second-choice applicants or even interviewing from the beginning. I myself had to advise clients recently that the applicant who accepted their job a week ago is not returning calls, emails or texts and therefore we should tell the applicant that we will be interviewing other candidates, and should another suitable candidate be found before they respond their job offer will be rescinded. It generates one of 3 responses: 1) Immediate contact with the apologetic applicant 2) Confirmation from them that they’ve accepted a counter offer 3) Further ‘ghosting’ which again confirms Plan B is a Go! Either way: we have action.

Hoping for the best is not a strategy - it’s inaction.