Counteroffers: Can You Spot the Warning Signs?

Counteroffers: Can You Spot the Warning Signs?
By Bill Radin

For a recruiter, no disaster compares to an accepted counteroffer. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that most of us would rather suffer a year’s worth of phone rejection than face those four fateful words, “I’ve changed my mind.”

To protect your investment in time, money and client goodwill, it makes sense to closely monitor the entire placement process. If you discover that your candidate lacks sufficient motivation to make a job change—or is using your client’s job as career leverage—you should immediately place the deal on a heightened state of alert.

Remember that even a clean, properly vetted candidate can catch you by surprise and jilt an otherwise “perfect” marriage. To protect against a counteroffer that may be bubbling beneath the surface, look for these common warning signs:

1. Delays or interruptions. If the candidate breaks the interviewing cycle in midstream (as evidenced by persistent rescheduling or unavailability), it could indicate a renewed affection for his current employer.

2. Prolonged indecision. A passive-aggressive candidate who takes forever to make up his mind—or constantly needs more information—never wanted the job in the first place.

3. Inappropriate consultations. When a candidate discusses your client’s job with a workplace peer (or worse, a supervisor), it’s a sure sign he’s angling for a counteroffer.

4. Surprise reviews. It’s funny how quickly a candidate’s boss will fork over a raise, especially when the candidate telegraphs that he’s looking around.

5. Mixed-message resignation letters. Always review a draft of the “goodbye” letter, especially if you’re working with an inexperienced or high-risk candidate; and strike any solicitous phrases such as, “I hope there may be an opportunity here for me in the future,” or, “This has been a difficult, heart-wrenching decision for me.”

To win the war against counteroffers, vigilance and preparation are your most powerful allies. If a deal begins to smell funny, I suggest you close the candidate once and for all—or find another candidate for the job. Otherwise, you could be in for a rough ride, with little control over the outcome of your search.

    — Sample Resignation Letter —

Dear (Supervisor):

This letter is to inform you that I will be resigning from (Company) to pursue a new position with another company. My last date of employment will be (Date). I will continue to support the projects assigned to me until that time.

I have enjoyed working under your supervision, and I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to apply my experience.


(Candidate’s name)


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