Why Counter Offers Are Good (except for headhunters)

As headhunters were taught early that counter offers are bad and we need to make sure we explain to our candidates the pitfalls of excepting them. Obviously the time we put into a search can never be replaced or compensated for if one is on a contingent assignment. It might hurt our wallets more then our pride when they are excepted -  not all counter offers are bad, and some are really great for our candidates careers and livelihoods.

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Have you been promised a promotion or salary increase?  Have you been told that the fresh challenge you’ve been craving – and worked hard for – is just around the corner?  More importantly, is it now six months or a year since those opportunities were outlined – but they have yet to materialize?

Many employees find themselves in a situation where their company has repeatedly promised to take care of them, however after months of waiting, it can begin to feel like they’re just paying lip service to the idea.

If this is you, it’s time to consider a high risk-strategy that some career-minded individuals are reaping the rewards from.  It’s not for everybody – but worth considering if you are determined to progress your career and want to give the process a kick start.  Do you want to live with the frustration of waiting to see if promises come to fruition – or are you willing to do something about it?

Leverage Can Work

If you’re good at your job and you know – or think – you are valued, there’s one sure-fire way to find out.  Get yourself an offer.  Prepare your resume, apply for opportunities outside your current company and get some leverage.   What’s the worst that can happen?  If you end up with a great offer on the table from a competitor to present to your boss, it’s crunch time.  Either they step up and increase your responsibilities or fulfill that promised pay rise – or they don’t.  If they don’t, you’ve got a good opportunity to pursue.  If they do, mission accomplished!  It’s win, win.

More often than not, its medium sized businesses where this strategy works best.  Small companies may not be in a position to boost your role; and large organizations often don’t have as much riding on individual responsibilities, unless you’re already on the management team.   Busy – and bottom-line focused – executives will overlook successful individuals over for promotion time and time again.  Whether you’re flying under the radar, too good at your current job to move on, or need progression but don’t have anywhere to go,  you need a catalyst for change if you don’t want to stay stuck in a rut.

(True story)  Nicky Hoffman decided to take this approach last year – and has never looked back.  A sales manager at a successful engineering firm, she had long been promised a senior account manager role.  She knew she could procure another position, had established a huge book of business and was confident that her clients loved her:   “One year after the promotion had been broached; I knew I had to speak to my employer yet again, but it had got to the point where it was unprofessional to keep bringing it up.  I felt I had to take control of the situation.”  Nicky soon found out if she really was a valued employee, as she had hoped.   She secured an offer with a competitor, re-approached her company and the very same day she found herself in front of the CEO accepting the role of senior account manager, along with a 45% increase.  “They knew that if they lost me, it could have been a big problem.  Some clients would have been unhappy, some may have followed me to the competitor, plus it would have been hard to replace me – or swallow the cost of retraining – in the industry I’m in.”  By proactively seeking some leverage, Nicky helped her company realize they’d dropped the ball.  She didn’t complain, so she was still viewed as a team player; instead she succeeded in strengthening the respect of her peers for making a strategic move.

It’s true, the majority of those electing to use a counter offer find it doesn’t come to fruition.    But it’s a guaranteed way to establish your true worth – and that’s as good a reason as any to give it a try.

Have you successfully procured a counter offer and ended up with a promotion or pay raise? Or did job-seeking help you realize it was time to leave?

Views: 1478

Tags: advice, career, counter-offers

Comment by Stephanie on November 18, 2011 at 1:08pm

@ Amos. I'm a headhunter too, but whether headhunter or recruiter I just can't condone unethical practice. I believe that everything in life is a choice. You choose to be happy, disgruntled or accepting things as they are. I would have told her she has a choice: 1. Speak to your boss again and firmly make him understand that you expect him to keep his promises, 2. Look for another job with another company that WILL value your skills & knowledge, or 3. Accept things as they are and wait until they make good on their promises. I would have told her to look at the pro's & con's of each possibility, writing it down so you can refer back when you start doubting your choice at a later stage.

The choice will be hers and she would have to marry that choice with her morals & values. Once she has made the choice, she has to stick to it because she had very valid reasons for making that choice which ever one she chose.

If she can live with herself with the choice she made, I wish her good luck but still am glad she's not my friend/candidate. I prefer working with & befriending people/candidates/clients with the same set of morals, values and ethics as I have.

So I don't agree with you condoning what she did - remember she used a lot of people, wasted their time & resources, and left them treading water in her wake. 

Comment by Amos on November 18, 2011 at 1:24pm

Stephanie - I will agree to disagree with u - if your giving clients advice on careers no matter how tough - it should be honest and not sugar coated with morals & values which have nothing to do with ones livelihood.

1. Speak to your boss again? after the 3rd time I beg to differ.

2. She didnt have to look -  she was in demand. and the other offer was very lucrative.

3. Accept things as they are?  Really cant get far in life or career doing this. Control your destiny or someone else will do it for you.

I condone taking action. Everyone treads water at some point - you cant always win.

"Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come." -- Og Mandino

Comment by Stephanie on November 18, 2011 at 1:38pm

Confidence... thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live. - Franklin D Roosevelt

To me all choices in life should be guided by your value system, how else will you be able to work/life/sleep with a clear conscience? That includes career choice, call it sugar coating if you want.

Comment by Amos on November 18, 2011 at 1:45pm

Nicky was guided by her value system - so was her company. and both are sleeping better now with a clear conscience because they cleared the air and recommitted their obligations to each other, just like in any potential long term relationship. The confidence to take action is the point of the article > it has nothing to do with sacrificing your value system and its not about sitting and waiting for the best to happen.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 18, 2011 at 1:58pm
I love when we get into a job choice being a reflection of ethics and moral depravity, so here's my question. If Nicky had interviewed with two new companies, through two different recruiters, gotten two offers and decided to take offer 2 instead of offer 1 would she still be a morally depraved piglet with no ethics?

After all, she left company 1 and offer 1 treading water in her wake, used recruiter 1 wasted both the time of co. 1 and recruiter 1.

While I mostly agree based on past history that counters accepted many times end up as a case of the dismals I have a hard time with any ethical/moral label being put on a candidate who chooses to stay instead of go but, it's ok to take one new offer over another because she feels one is better for her than the other.
Comment by Stephanie on November 18, 2011 at 2:06pm

As long as she's open and honest with both recruiters, informing them that she is also pursuing another job with another recruiter. Then the recruiters will also be able inform their clients in advance and they will be prepared for possible disappointment, and probably have another candidate on ice should this one not work out - BIG difference. No one is mad, no bridges burnt and everyone accepts the outcome. I rest may case. 

Comment by Amos on November 18, 2011 at 2:09pm

Cant argue with that @Sandra - hypothetically if is she became really active I think she would leave.

Comment by Amber on November 18, 2011 at 2:15pm

@Sandra, I agree with the fact that anyone can pick whichever offer they want. In your example, as a recruiter (or a candidate) I think a person has to choose the option best for them. I don't even think the candidate HAS to let me know all their plans, I don't tell all my candidates how many people I'm sending, or how many my client might be interested in.

I guess I read the original post as a person going out and getting that offer solely as the means to force her employers hand, which is a different intention than just deciding between offers/counteroffers. It sounds like she is a valuable employee, and it's sad that the company had to be hit over the head with it before they made the right changes and kept their promises to her.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 18, 2011 at 2:18pm
So a candidate who doesn't tell you they are looking at several jobs is unethical and immoral. What if they didn't tell you until after they accepted the one you sent them on? Would you then have placed an unethical immoral person with your client. Rebuttal is a bitch after one rests one's case.
Comment by Amos on November 18, 2011 at 2:28pm

I will tell candidates - (if they ask) how many people are on the shortlist. Hopefully it will lift their interview game up and make sure they are really prepared and not just the purple squirrel (i hate that analogy) needle in the haystack?.oy. Most candidates dont volunteer information anyway - job search is emotionally draining as it is - . Even when you get them an offer so amazing you probably still wont end up on their Christmas list or their thank you list. Why rest your case I thought we were just getting started..

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