How to Safeguard Against Your Offer Becoming Victim to a Counter Offer
- by Jessica Vann, CEO & Founder
If you’ve been paying attention to the job reports lately, you’ve likely been amazed to see the Bay Area unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 15 years, hovering around 3% on average per county.
15 years?! 3%?! These numbers are incredible, and even if you didn’t know the actual stats, you’ve probably been feeling them when it comes to your own hiring. You certainly wouldn’t be the first of our clients to say, “Where are all the candidates?!”
The candidate market is competitive: you must be strategic and thoughtful to attract, interview and successfully close the candidate you want. A very real risk in this competitive market is the dreaded counter offer! If you’ve fallen in love with this candidate, you better believe there is always the chance their current company loves them enough to go to extreme lengths to get them to stay.
So, what can you do? We’ve navigated our fair share of counter offers, and here are our tips.
1. Have a Real Counter Offer Conversation:
Address the elephant in the room and ask, “What would you do if your company counter offered? Have you considered what you would do if your current company matched or even exceeded our offer?”
Err on the side of caution and assume this candidate has never experienced a counter offer. It’s important to roleplay these different scenarios to evaluate any vulnerable areas your candidate may have and to troubleshoot the potentiality that they get re-sold by their current employer.
Help them visualize how the conversation with their current employer may unfold. If you are facilitating that conversation, you have an opportunity to prep your candidate and influence how they handle the tough ‘giving notice’ talk. You also have on opportunity to really get to the crux of what is motivating the candidate to make a change in their career and craft your closing arguments accordingly.
Additionally, mapping out (ahead of time) the emotional tug-of-war they may experience during that conversation eliminates the surprise that could otherwise hijack your offer. You want your prep and guidance to take over, not their emotional side, particularly if this is someone who is conflict-avoidant. The desire to avoid conflict or disappointing someone is very real and shouldn’t be underestimated.
2. Close the Candidate, From Start to ‘The Talk’
Always Be Closing, right? You actually start closing the candidate the first moment you reach out to schedule an interview, and that closing mentality shouldn’t stop until the candidate has both signed on the dotted line and successfully given their two weeks.
The infancy period of any new employment relationship is vulnerable and requires an equally positive onboarding experience (not just recruiting experience), but for the sake of talking about how to avoid counter offers, we’re going to call a successful close the candidate accepting your offer and giving notice.
And just to be clear, ‘closing’ is your entire company’s responsibility. This means ensuring the candidate has an authentic, highly-positive, and personal interview experience with anyone they come into contact with during the process.
3. The Importance of Follow-up:
Okay, great – your candidate has accepted your competitive, totally amazing offer (see below for more), so what’s left?
Well, they still have to quit their current job.
As we’ve discussed, quitting a job isn’t always easy. There are a million variables, and a candidate can feel worried about having that tough talk with their current employer. This talk is when your ‘close’ is most vulnerable, and you don’t even get to be there for it!
This is where your follow-up is essential. It is gravely shortsighted to think you can offer a job to a candidate, negotiate terms and a start date, and expect that your next conversation with them will be on their first day. The span between giving notice and having someone start can be a vulnerable time. Ask your candidate when they plan to give notice, prep them for ‘the talk,’ and make sure you have it on your calendar to follow-up with them after they give their notice.
If their current employer has gotten in their head, now is the time to counterbalance that. If they’re feeling re-wooed, now is your opportunity to remind them of why they were looking in the first place and of all the terrific things they stand to gain by joining your company. You can’t afford for that doubt to fester, especially not with a 3% unemployment rate!
4. The Total Package
You need that candidate to be so thrilled about their new role that their current employer doesn’t even attempt a counter offer because the enthusiasm is leaking through their pores.
We alluded to this above, and it’s pretty simple – put your money where your mouth is. There may be a complete, mutual lovefest happening between your company and the candidate, but in this competitive market, if the package isn’t right, there is no way the candidate is going to settle. They don’t need to.
This is not the time to low ball, so have the salary conversation early so both parties can understand expectations. The easiest way to lose the counter offer battle is to be stingy in your initial offer and have that candidate be less than over-the-moon excited when it comes time to give notice. If you can’t meet salary expectations, get creative: more PTO, flexibility to work from home, competitive benefit packages. Whatever you do – do something to ensure your offer package meets and exceeds what the candidate wants.
To sum this all up, the best way to win a counter offer attack is to avoid one in the first place! Be competitive in your process and package. Keep a close reign on your new employee and start showing your support as a colleague even before they start by coaching them through their notice and keeping tabs on them through every stage leading up to their start. You don’t want to be left starting a job search all over again in this competitive job market because you weren’t prepared for the very real possibility of a counter offer.