How to Manage Counter Offers

A counter offer is when a candidate’s organisation makes them an offer to stay following receiving their resignation. This usually involves an increase in salary but can also extend to benefits or a change of job title or promotion.Counter offers are becoming more common in the current job market. With a distinct shortage of candidates and the estimated cost of recruiting a new employee at £3,000 and 27.5 days, organisations are more likely to try to do whatever they can to hold on to their best employees.

It can be really frustrating to invest time and money into the recruitment process, find your ideal candidate and then lose them to a counter offer. This is especially true as statistics show that most candidates who accept a counter offer end up leaving their organisation within six months anyway. But there are a few things you can do to try to mitigate this; here’s how to manage counter offers.

Talk to your candidate about it

In their interview, find out about the candidate’s motivation for moving jobs. This might help you to gauge whether their reasons are primarily financial and if there’s a risk they might accept a counter offer. You could also directly ask how they think their manager might react to their resignation and what they would do if they received a counter offer. How they respond will signal whether they’d be fully committed to your organisation or if they could be tempted away. Watch out for clues in their body language as well as what they actually say.

Having the conversation and introducing the idea of a counter offer also means the candidate will have thought about it and will be less surprised if it happens. Catching someone unawares can make them more likely to be persuaded.

Sell you organisation and offer the best package you can

Work out your employee value proposition and sell it to your candidate. What can you offer them in terms of culture, career development and flexibility that their current employer can’t? Match this up with the candidate’s motivations and you should be able to put together a very tempting offer for them.

To avoid getting into any back and forth, which can be tricky with limited charity budgets anyway, it’s sensible to offer the best package you can in the first instance. Use our salary checker tool to check if your offer is competitive and don’t forget to spell out details of all the benefits you can provide. Don’t assume things go without saying. If the candidate is looking for an improved work/life balance then think about the different types of working patterns you could offer.
Two people shaking hands while a third looks on

Keep in touch with the candidate

So you’ve made your best candidate an offer and they’ve accepted. They go off to hand in their resignation and begin their notice period. This is the danger zone for counter offers, so be prepared for it.  The candidate is still working for their old organisation so that organisation is at the forefront of their mind—you need to make sure yours stays there too.

Use any excuse that you can to keep in touch with your candidate after you’ve made the offer. Give them your personal contact details and encourage them to get in touch if they have any questions. Email them organisational updates and invite them back in to meet the team or to any socials you might have organised. Show them their desk, if they’ll be coming into the office, and let them know the best places to buy lunch. Or if they’ll be working remotely then why not invite them to a team video call or two?  Keep the lines of communication open and they are more likely to start to feel part of your organisation and less likely to accept a counter offer.

If you’re the hiring manager and it feels appropriate, then consider advising them on the resignation process, especially if they aren’t someone who’s moved around jobs much before. Suggesting when and how to break the news to their line manager and things to do during their notice period will help build their relationship with you and make them less likely to renege on their decision. Most candidates won’t ever have been in a counter offer situation before and will appreciate the help in navigating difficult conversations if they arise.

Don’t forget to keep reminding them of all the new opportunities that will come with their new role.

Move on if you need to

If your candidate does receive a counter offer and decides to accept it, then there’s only so much you can do to try to change their mind. Disappointing as it is, if you have to start your recruitment process again, then so be it. If they weren’t ready to leave their previous role then they weren’t the right candidate. When you interview, it might be worth keeping in mind if there are other candidates that you’d also be happy to offer to—then you can be ready to do so if needed.

In the current saturated jobs market, it’s also possible you could lose a candidate to a job offer at another organisation, even after they’ve accepted your offer. Much of the same advice applies to trying to prevent this too: gauge the risk by uncovering the candidate’s motivations, make them the most attractive offer you can and keep in touch and build relationships with them. Also don’t forget to be as flexible as possible in your recruitment requirements, then you’re more likely to find alternative candidates who are also a good match for the role if needed.


Tags: charity recruitment, charity sector recruitment, finding the right people, hiring process, hiring the right people, job market, recruitment, recruitment process

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About the author

Karen Harlow

Karen Harlow is Digital Content Manager at CharityJob.