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How To Handle A Counter Offer

Counter offers; they happen! The question is, why do they happen, and what should you do if you’re counter offered?

Over the last 18 months, I’ve dealt with a few counter offer scenarios, and to be honest they tend to follow a similar pattern:

  • Candidate feels frustrated by process and company structure, and usually feels underpaid and undervalued – looks for fresh new challenge where they can add value and get paid more for their effort.
  • Candidate finds ‘dream’ role, goes through interview process, is successful and is offered the role, better salary, fresh new challenge!
  • Candidate hands notice in to existing employer.
  • Candidate is pulled in to a meeting either that day or a few days following, and a counter offer is laid on the table.

Now, occasionally a candidate is expecting a counter offer – their company may be known for doing it or have been more vocal about being keen to hold on to talent.

Usually though, a counter offer catches the candidate totally off-guard and it can feel incredibly flattering to be wanted. Along with this, promises of change and more money in the bank can make it very tempting to ‘stick with what you know’, as opposed to that fresh challenge that had initially lured you in! However strong your character, being the ‘new’ person is never easy, and while going through an interview process can be demanding, the reality of an offer and a new role can be overwhelming.

The counter offer usually involves more money, but more importantly more responsibility; a ‘bigger’ role and a total ‘CHANGE’ – this change could be in company structure, the processes that were the cause of the frustration, or a combination of these things.

The big question is: ‘Should I accept the counter offer’?

At Beyond The Book we very much value honesty and integrity and we will always say to candidates that we can offer some solid advice based on our experience, but it’s got to be their decision, and they will know in their gut what the right decision is. Furthermore, we point them in the direction of some useful articles online that come straight up when you Google ‘Should I accept a counter offer’. One of the best of these is on the Forbes website and is entitled ‘Why You Should Never Accept A Counter Offer When You Resign’.

I would say around 90% of candidates who are counter offered, and decide to stay where they are, find themselves back on the market in 6 months or less; but why is this? When you are considering accepting a counter offer here are some things to consider:

  • Will this opportunity come along again? For many, finding the perfect job is no mean feat; if the role, the company and the chemistry between you and the person you’ll be working for/with felt right, don’t risk waving goodbye to that for a little bit extra in your pay packet!
  • Will my current employer trust me? As mentioned in the Total Jobs article about counter offers, “It’s not just your employer’s credibility that will come into question when it comes to a counter offer; if you choose to stay in your old job, yours will be too. If you decide to stay you’ll have to prove your loyalty and commitment to the organisation, especially if you only stayed for a higher pay packet or a company car. And when it comes to promotions, don’t be surprised if you’re over-looked for a while…”
  • Pricing yourself out of the market. If the counter offer is big (we’ve known clients increase a candidate’s salary by as much as £10k), then it’s worth noting there may be a reason for this. A large increase can price you out of the market so that you’re in a more difficult position to look at moving on again in the coming months/years.
  • Why are you only now being offered more money? Why did it take you handing in your notice for your current employer to offer you more money? If they really valued your worth, could this have happened earlier?
  • Change is easier said than done. One of the most common reasons we hear for people deciding to accept a counter offer is the promise of change. If you’ve been somewhere for a number of years, it’s natural to feel a loyalty to the people you work with/for, so when you hear what you’ve been hoping to hear for the past few months or years, of course you want to believe that there is change afoot. The main question here is, why has it taken for you to hand your notice in for them to implement change? Are they really going to change the structure or processes that have been in place for many years just to keep you on board? Think of it like a break-up with a partner; often promises of change are empty words, so take heed and approach with caution.

In essence, when you’re faced with a counter offer, and you were motivated and had fully considered your reasons for moving on in your career, remind yourself why you set out to do this! Be true to yourself and stick to your guns! Good luck!

By Emma Simkiss