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How to handle a counter offer


The candidate rich market we saw in late 2020 has flipped, and vacancies are outperforming active candidates. So it's more than likely that your chosen new hire is already in a job.

You’ve done enough to entice them, they’ve come through your interview process and they're the perfect fit for your team. Time to celebrate! So you offer them the job, but then things go quiet…

It turns out your perfect employee received a counter-offer from their current employer when they handed in their resignation. All of a sudden, that promotion they wanted or pay rise they’ve been asking for materialised. 

Counter-offers are a common recruitment challenge in a candidate short market - where the demand for skills is higher than the active candidates available. This is especially true for digital disciplines.

It’s frustrating to spend the time hiring to find your dream employee, only to have it fall down at the last hurdle. So below are our seven top tips for avoiding counter-offer situations.

1. An offer should never just be about salary

Although salary is still a key driver for leaving a role, 14% of candidates said it was their top reason in our 2021 Pay Report, a 'new challenge/more interesting work' came in a close 2nd at 13%. Half (49%) of the professionals re-evaluated what they value in an employment package during the pandemic, mainly in support for flexible working. Likewise, benefits and working culture now play a crucial role in attraction and retention techniques. All of these elements contribute to your Employer Value Proposition (or EVP). 

An EVP is the unique set of associations and offerings which an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities and experience they bring to a company. These are often the less tangible, but ultimately more important, elements of what makes you a great employer, such as benefits, working practices and culture. 

Be wary of any candidates that focus on salary too much throughout the interview process. Likewise, an employee that doesn't take an interest in the wider aspects of your EVP is unlikely to be loyal in the long-run. 

2. Gauge their commitment

Try to get a feeling for the commitment of your chosen candidate(s) to you and their existing company throughout the interview process. Asking why they're leaving is a common interview question, but if you have any concerns in the response it is ok to probe further. Candidates are often told to not bad mouth their current employer in interviews, but you can get a feeling of what they think of their company or boss. Ask them what their motivations for leaving are. If it's something as simple as a promotion or pay rise, this may be easily resolved with their incumbent employer. 

3. Sell your EVP throughout the attraction and interview process

It's up to you to sell the reasons for joining your company throughout the hiring process; from the job advert down to the final interview (and even before this but we'll leave employer branding for another time!).

Job adverts aren't job specs. Your job spec is a list of requirements that you need a person to do or a list of skills you require a candidate to have. A job advert is just that, a creative advert. It is your opportunity to sell the role, your company, your opportunity. You'll attract more like-minded employees if your job advert is compelling and includes all the great reasons for joining your company.

Be prepared to answer questions on why your interviewees should work for you. Do you know your benefits package? What is the company pension scheme? Do you know what your flexible working policy is? Are showers available for people who cycle to work? Your interviewees will all value different attributes, so ensure you don't' get caught out mid-interview.

Ultimately, if your candidate is bought into you, the role, and your company throughout the process they are much more likely to be committed to YOU rather than their incumbent employer. 

4. Be competitive

Having said all of the above, when it comes to deciding what to offer your chosen candidate your salary or day rate does need to be compelling. Offering a candidate £2-3,000 over what they’re already earning can be easily rebuffed by their current employer. And in today’s uncertain market, you need to consider the perceived risk the candidate might have in moving companies. 

5. Maintain contact after offer

It's always nice for a new employee to feel included with their soon-to-be new company. An email or message here and there from their future line manager or team members can be a nice and easy way to continue the enthusiasm and commitment for your company, especially if they are serving a lengthy notice period. Things like inviting them to work socials before they start can be a great way to not only ingratiate a new employee, but to maintain their commitment to you whilst they're still reporting to their old boss. 

6. Consider your options

You may have found The One, but, it's always a good idea to have a Plan B. Interview a range of candidates and whittle down at least two to final interview stage. And, assuming you've found at least one that will meet your brief, be prepared to have two packages on the table. Candidates do fall out of processes unfortunately for all kinds of reasons; you don't want to have to start from scratch. If you have a backup candidate and an offer for that candidate signed off, you'll be ready to secure your nearly-dream candidate without any time wasted.

7. Let your recruiter handle them! 

Finally, a good recruiter will manage the hiring process well enough in the first place to ensure that counter-offers don't arise and that your chosen candidate is as invested in you as you are in them. And if they do, your recruiter will always have that plan B up their sleeves. 

Every counter-offer situation is different. If you would like any more hiring advice please contact one of our specialist consultants
Tags: Hiring

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