7 ways to avoid a candidate accepting a counter offer 


You’ve found the perfect candidate, but their current employer has made a counter offer. How can you make sure they accept your offer? A recruitment expert weighs in.

Obtaining verbal acceptance for a job offer and securing a candidate is always a good feeling, but it’s not time to relax until they’ve signed on the dotted line.

In the era of hyperactive hiring, an usually buoyant market, skill shortages and ever-changing candidate behaviour, the need to plan for and manage the possibility of counter offers is critical.

In the recruitment market, a counter offer is an offer from your candidate’s current employer in a bid to convince them to stay in their current position. 

In many instances, the current employer will offer them one or a combination of the following: a higher salary package, additional company benefits, a promotion, a new flashy job title, a change in role, or more involvement in projects.

While the job you’re offering might seem bright and shiny to you, it would be short-sighted to believe that candidates won’t consider their options, especially if they are motivated by money or career progression.

When it comes to a counter offer, preparation is key. Here are a few ways to avoid the possibility of your candidate accepting a counter offer from the get-go.

1. Understand why they are considering a new job

When you start the conversation with a potential candidate, whether they approach you themselves or via your own outreach efforts, it’s a good idea to understand why they are considering a new job role and keep this in mind during the entire process.

Ask the candidate why they want to leave their current job and to list the things they would change if they were the boss. Many of these responses could be around mistreatment by management, a toxic work environment, lack of growth prospects, not being challenged or not reaching their full potential.

Then, get your candidate to outline their goals and what their ‘ideal job’ looks like. For example, are they motivated by money, do they want to develop a particular skill, are they looking for flexible work arrangements, do they want career progression?

By doing the above, it will be much easier for you to place them in a job that they will feel happy and secure in. This will also lessen the chances of them accepting a counter offer.

2. List all the job perks

Sell the job by listing all the perks, especially those that correspond to their definition of their ideal job. Never underestimate the power of perks, especially in the post-pandemic world.  

The biggest perk is often a meatier salary than the one they currently have, so avoid lowballing them. Be honest about your best office and be transparent about any future opportunities for financial growth (i.e. do you have a bonus or commission scheme? How often are internal promotions considered? Or are you in a position to offer them a salary bump at the completion of their probation period?).

For millennial workers in particular, there are a range of new expectations around what their employers will offer them, such as flexibility, learning and development opportunities, and the chance to develop and nurture their out-of-work interests, such as maintaining a fitness regime. Many of these were previously nice-to-haves, yet now jobseekers see them as essentials. 

At the end of the day, candidates want to know what’s in it for them.

3. Build trust and eliminate fear

In order for a candidate to feel confident moving forward with a role in your organisation, it’s important to build trust. 

They don’t want to feel like another applicant on your list, instead they want to feel like you actually care about them and their future career progression. By speaking to them like a real human and listening to their concerns, you can build a genuine connection and help them arrive at the best decision for them.

It’s also important to ensure they are comfortable with the idea of change and eliminate any worries they may have, especially if they have been with the same organisation for a long time. A good way to do this is to organise a meet and greet with the team or invite them to job shadow for a half or full paid day. This will allow them to build connections before they receive a formal offer, which may help them feel more confident about their decision.

4. Ask them: “what will you do if you get a counter offer?”

This can be a difficult question, but it’s an important one to ask. 

By asking the candidate what they would do when faced with a counter offer, it will allow them to think through their priorities and whether or not they are confident to leave their current organisation. 

When you ask this question, document their response and retain it. When you make the job offer, refer to the reasons they said they would leave and provide clarity on how this role or environment is different and exciting. 

5. Move quickly

If the candidate is a winner, it’s a good idea to move quickly on the interview and selection process.

If you take weeks to get back to the candidate, it’s likely they will either change their mind and stay with their current employer, or continue their job search and interview with organisations. 

Furthermore, their current employer might get a whiff that they may be looking and could possibly make a counter offer before you have even come up with the first offer. 

6. Help them resign

Resigning can be an uncomfortable process to navigate, so if you’re a recruiter, it’s a good idea to offer them some advice and support through the process.

This could include suggesting they:

  • Resign on a Monday morning, as it prevents their employer from having a weekend to think about the counter offer.
  • Give their current employer a written resignation with a ‘thank you’ note, and a clear last day of employment.
  • If you are a recruiter, you can let them know they can call you before they resign if they need support or a pep talk prior to resigning.

7. Keep in touch during the two-week notice

Finally, once your candidate has resigned, it’s essential to keep in touch during their two-week notice period (in some cases this time period may be longer, depending on their role and length of service). 

Give them a call after they have resigned to let them know if they are presented with a counter offer that they should reflect on the reasons they provided for wanting to leave.

By nurturing your relationship, your candidate will believe that you genuinely care about them and want to help them through the transition. 

Once they start in their new role, check in on them at consistent touch points to ensure they’re happy and that the role is meeting their expectations. It’s at this stage that you can address any small niggles, or potentially tweak processes a little, to ensure that they’re experiencing what you sold them on.

If the candidate decides to stay with the current employer or accept a counter offer, it’s important to respect their decision and know when to walk away. Because who knows, they might just come knocking on your door down the track, so you want to make sure you part on good terms.

Martin Herbst is the CEO of JobAdder.


Find out how other HR leaders manage the recruitment process, and discuss various other workplace topics, on the AHRI LinkedIn Lounge, exclusive to AHRI members.


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2 Comments
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Philip Mayers AM, CAHRI
Philip Mayers AM, CAHRI
1 month ago

That’s very good advice.
Sometimes the counter-offer is not thoroughly thought through, and the original employer hasn’t considered the consequences of a ‘quick fix’. A few months down the road the promised promotion hasn’t happened because it’s really not a great idea, or the promised salary increase has been deferred to next year, or the underlying issue hasn’t gone away.
Everybody ends up unhappy.

Max Underhill
Max Underhill
1 month ago

As a recruiter you get the occasional applicant who is using the interview and they hope offer to “pressure” there exist employer to increase their pay. If it fails they have a position to go to. A client of ours called it blackmail and fired the employee. The “new” employer (offer) then withdrew offer because they had been dismissed.

More on HRM

7 ways to avoid a candidate accepting a counter offer 


You’ve found the perfect candidate, but their current employer has made a counter offer. How can you make sure they accept your offer? A recruitment expert weighs in.

Obtaining verbal acceptance for a job offer and securing a candidate is always a good feeling, but it’s not time to relax until they’ve signed on the dotted line.

In the era of hyperactive hiring, an usually buoyant market, skill shortages and ever-changing candidate behaviour, the need to plan for and manage the possibility of counter offers is critical.

In the recruitment market, a counter offer is an offer from your candidate’s current employer in a bid to convince them to stay in their current position. 

In many instances, the current employer will offer them one or a combination of the following: a higher salary package, additional company benefits, a promotion, a new flashy job title, a change in role, or more involvement in projects.

While the job you’re offering might seem bright and shiny to you, it would be short-sighted to believe that candidates won’t consider their options, especially if they are motivated by money or career progression.

When it comes to a counter offer, preparation is key. Here are a few ways to avoid the possibility of your candidate accepting a counter offer from the get-go.

1. Understand why they are considering a new job

When you start the conversation with a potential candidate, whether they approach you themselves or via your own outreach efforts, it’s a good idea to understand why they are considering a new job role and keep this in mind during the entire process.

Ask the candidate why they want to leave their current job and to list the things they would change if they were the boss. Many of these responses could be around mistreatment by management, a toxic work environment, lack of growth prospects, not being challenged or not reaching their full potential.

Then, get your candidate to outline their goals and what their ‘ideal job’ looks like. For example, are they motivated by money, do they want to develop a particular skill, are they looking for flexible work arrangements, do they want career progression?

By doing the above, it will be much easier for you to place them in a job that they will feel happy and secure in. This will also lessen the chances of them accepting a counter offer.

2. List all the job perks

Sell the job by listing all the perks, especially those that correspond to their definition of their ideal job. Never underestimate the power of perks, especially in the post-pandemic world.  

The biggest perk is often a meatier salary than the one they currently have, so avoid lowballing them. Be honest about your best office and be transparent about any future opportunities for financial growth (i.e. do you have a bonus or commission scheme? How often are internal promotions considered? Or are you in a position to offer them a salary bump at the completion of their probation period?).

For millennial workers in particular, there are a range of new expectations around what their employers will offer them, such as flexibility, learning and development opportunities, and the chance to develop and nurture their out-of-work interests, such as maintaining a fitness regime. Many of these were previously nice-to-haves, yet now jobseekers see them as essentials. 

At the end of the day, candidates want to know what’s in it for them.

3. Build trust and eliminate fear

In order for a candidate to feel confident moving forward with a role in your organisation, it’s important to build trust. 

They don’t want to feel like another applicant on your list, instead they want to feel like you actually care about them and their future career progression. By speaking to them like a real human and listening to their concerns, you can build a genuine connection and help them arrive at the best decision for them.

It’s also important to ensure they are comfortable with the idea of change and eliminate any worries they may have, especially if they have been with the same organisation for a long time. A good way to do this is to organise a meet and greet with the team or invite them to job shadow for a half or full paid day. This will allow them to build connections before they receive a formal offer, which may help them feel more confident about their decision.

4. Ask them: “what will you do if you get a counter offer?”

This can be a difficult question, but it’s an important one to ask. 

By asking the candidate what they would do when faced with a counter offer, it will allow them to think through their priorities and whether or not they are confident to leave their current organisation. 

When you ask this question, document their response and retain it. When you make the job offer, refer to the reasons they said they would leave and provide clarity on how this role or environment is different and exciting. 

5. Move quickly

If the candidate is a winner, it’s a good idea to move quickly on the interview and selection process.

If you take weeks to get back to the candidate, it’s likely they will either change their mind and stay with their current employer, or continue their job search and interview with organisations. 

Furthermore, their current employer might get a whiff that they may be looking and could possibly make a counter offer before you have even come up with the first offer. 

6. Help them resign

Resigning can be an uncomfortable process to navigate, so if you’re a recruiter, it’s a good idea to offer them some advice and support through the process.

This could include suggesting they:

  • Resign on a Monday morning, as it prevents their employer from having a weekend to think about the counter offer.
  • Give their current employer a written resignation with a ‘thank you’ note, and a clear last day of employment.
  • If you are a recruiter, you can let them know they can call you before they resign if they need support or a pep talk prior to resigning.

7. Keep in touch during the two-week notice

Finally, once your candidate has resigned, it’s essential to keep in touch during their two-week notice period (in some cases this time period may be longer, depending on their role and length of service). 

Give them a call after they have resigned to let them know if they are presented with a counter offer that they should reflect on the reasons they provided for wanting to leave.

By nurturing your relationship, your candidate will believe that you genuinely care about them and want to help them through the transition. 

Once they start in their new role, check in on them at consistent touch points to ensure they’re happy and that the role is meeting their expectations. It’s at this stage that you can address any small niggles, or potentially tweak processes a little, to ensure that they’re experiencing what you sold them on.

If the candidate decides to stay with the current employer or accept a counter offer, it’s important to respect their decision and know when to walk away. Because who knows, they might just come knocking on your door down the track, so you want to make sure you part on good terms.

Martin Herbst is the CEO of JobAdder.


Find out how other HR leaders manage the recruitment process, and discuss various other workplace topics, on the AHRI LinkedIn Lounge, exclusive to AHRI members.


guest
2 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Philip Mayers AM, CAHRI
Philip Mayers AM, CAHRI
1 month ago

That’s very good advice.
Sometimes the counter-offer is not thoroughly thought through, and the original employer hasn’t considered the consequences of a ‘quick fix’. A few months down the road the promised promotion hasn’t happened because it’s really not a great idea, or the promised salary increase has been deferred to next year, or the underlying issue hasn’t gone away.
Everybody ends up unhappy.

Max Underhill
Max Underhill
1 month ago

As a recruiter you get the occasional applicant who is using the interview and they hope offer to “pressure” there exist employer to increase their pay. If it fails they have a position to go to. A client of ours called it blackmail and fired the employee. The “new” employer (offer) then withdrew offer because they had been dismissed.

More on HRM