Counter Offers – Career Killers

· by Herb Dew

Herb is the CEO of HTI. He founded HTI in 1999 along with John Knight and David Sewell, and remains heavily involved in the organization today.
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You have been unhappy with your current employer for a while. Whether it’s because of limited opportunity, lack of technical challenge, weak leadership, or money…you have decided to move on. You have interviewed and decided to accept a job with another company. You turn in notice and all of a sudden your current company comes back and says they can’t lose you. They outline your importance, their oversight on paying you too little, and maybe even discuss the plan they have ALWAYS had for your progression.

You all of a sudden feel warm and fuzzy. You are in danger of accepting a counter offer.

I was taught as a young recruiter to watch out for candidates who might be susceptible to declining an offer due to accepting a counter offer from their current employer. Over the years, I have taught my recruiters that they have a responsibility to explain to candidates how companies view this strategy of keeping an employee in order to avoid finding a backfill.

The question is really simple. Is it likely that the company you are currently employed with had an epiphany? Did they value you that much that they actually changed their outlook at the point in time that you have indicated you didn’t value them? It’s highly unlikely.

I liken it to dating someone who indicates that they want to break up with you. The person has been with you for a while and you really care about them. But they walk up and say “I don’t see this working for me”. You do and say whatever you need to keep that person. Maybe you use guilt, or you tell them you will change something about yourself. You make promises. And maybe they accede to your wishes and stay with you. You have counter offered the person who wanted to break up with you.

Here is the big question. Do you EVER trust that person the way you did before they tried to break up with you? Nope. Once the person has indicated they WOULD leave you, that person loses some measure of trust from you.

This is an accurate example of what a company feels when you’re turning in notice. And that company will never see you as loyal as they once did. Maybe they were able to KEEP you…but the fact that you were willing to leave means you might again.

I have told many people who liked their company but talked about looking for another job, “Before you go interview, sit down with your employer and outline what issues you have and see if they can correct them for you”. If the company is genuine, and they see you being honest with them, they will begin to make adjustments. If they don’t, then give 110% in finding that next company that can fulfill your needs.

But don’t use the job search as a negotiating stick. You may get a short term win, but in a vast majority of cases, you’re DOA with that company in the future.

US News published an article this last March that stated:  “In fact, the rule of thumb among recruiters is that 70 to 80 percent of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year.”

I agree with this based on my experience.I have never once seen a person accept a counter offer who didn’t regret the decision in some way.

Herb Dew