You’ve been interviewing on the hour for the past four days. If you have to shake hands with another smiling, nervous applicant you might just have to scream. Then, in walks someone confident, assured and with a near perfect match of resume to job spec. Suddenly, you think your recruitment consultant is a guardian angel. The minute this gem walks out of your office after the interview you can’t grapple for the phone quickly enough to convey a job offer. The following afternoon, you hear the dreaded words: ‘She’s been counter-offered’.

  • That sinking feeling
  • Use your advantage
  • Things are looking pear-shaped
  • How can you avoid it?
  • Anticipate

That sinking feeling

Your heart sinks as you think ‘back to the drawing board’. You had already offered more than your budget allowed and have been hauled in and berated by a grumpy finance director. You justified until you were almost grovelling but got the nod in the end. There is just no way you can better the counter-offer financially. Is there anything else you can do?

Yes. Money is not the only factor convincing someone to stay. Your ex-would-be employee’s boss has got an advantage over you. That’s true. They can throw money at her. And she already knows them. She’s proved herself, she fits in, she knows everyone and can do her job backwards. It seems too easy and too cushy a situation to leave. You can see that.

Use your advantage

The advantage you do have is the fact she wanted to leave for a reason in the first place. Just hope money wasn’t the sole factor. It usually isn’t. And, if she wanted to leave her current employer because of a lack of progression, poor promotional opportunities, an unsatisfactory office environment, a personality clash, location or scope of the role – then you might be able to turn the situation around.

And your recruitment consultant will be able to help you. It may be the case that by arranging to see her again you’ll be able to address the reasons she wanted to move in the first place and to reaffirm the reasons why joining your company will be the right move. And of course, if all of this fails, look on the bright side – if money was the only thing she was interested in she wasn’t necessarily what you were looking for anyway. You’ll get someone else. Perhaps someone better.

Things are looking pear-shaped

Unfortunately there is more than one way an interview offer already accepted can go topsy-turvy. Besides being counter-offered by a current employer, in most cases, applicants on the hunt for a job will interview with more than one company, often within a couple of weeks. This of course means that:

  • Another company might offer them a role first, meaning you don’t even get a chance
  • Another company might offer them more money/additional benefits
  • A jobseeker could play off various companies’ offers against one another to try to get themselves the best deal

How can you avoid it?

Jolene Lawson, recruitment manager with a large experience house, has had plenty of the counter-offer situations, and of dealing with recruitment consultants. Experience has taught her that speed is a crucial factor when trying to head off counter-offer culture.

Be quick

‘If you’ve seen a job seeker you really like and are keen to offer: do it!’ she advises. ‘The sooner you can get your offer out – courier a written letter rather than waiting for the mail – the sooner you can get a signed acceptance letter in return. Arrange a start date as quickly as possible to steer clear of the possibility of other options coming up for your new recruit in the meantime. Listen to your recruitment consultant, and use them.’ Jolene suggests asking your consultant about other interviews and offers on the go for your preferred interviewee and seeking their advice as to how to make sure you hold the advantage over your competitors.

Be certain

Know the candidate’s motivation for leaving. How do you find out? Ask!

Sell the job

If you are dead keen on a candidate, be sure to sell the job to them. Make sure they have no doubt about whether or not they want the job.


Anticipate the counter-offer and seek the person’s reaction. While it’s not a cast-iron guarantee people will generally feel less comfortable changing their mind or letting you down if they have given you their word. Of course an easier solution would be to avoid the situation altogether. It’s not as hard as it may seem. A survey of recruitment consultants revealed that some questions are crucial to ask potential applicants as early as possible:

  • Why are you unhappy in your current position?
  • What have you done to address the situation?
  • Have you told your employer of your concerns?
  • What was their response?
  • If you are successful obtaining this position, do you expect to be counter-offered?
  • If so, how will you respond?
  • Will a monetary counter-offer only solve the problem in the short-term, meaning you will be in the same position you are in now again in six months time?
  • Under what circumstances, if any, would you stay?
  • If you would not accept a counter-offer, why not?
  • How committed are you to your reasons for leaving?

Unfortunately, if you recruit reasonably often, you will undoubtedly come across the dreaded counter-offer. Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you won’t. But, remember, you’re not the first to go through it. You won’t be the last. And your recruitment consultant can help. They’re the experts so you don’t have to be. Use them!

Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time should you have any questions regarding the contained information, or require any recruitment assistance.