Countering the Counteroffer

By: Stephanie Johnson


Why Candidates Stay and What Can be Done to Avoid Losing Them

Those of us in Talent Acquisition have seen it while others of us have experienced it. Having a candidate that checked all the boxes: they can do the job, they are willing to do the job, they are a great fit into the organization. This candidate is surely a slam dunk, when all of a sudden we’re told that they decided to decline the offer and that they are staying with their current employer. While recruiting in a passive talent pool allows us the opportunity to hand select and provide top talent to our partners, it also increases the chance that we can find ourselves on one end of a counter-offer bidding war.

As “The Great Resignation” or “The Great Reshuffle” continues to ripple through the job market, companies need to become more strategic in making sure that they can retain their top talent. Despite statistics showing that 80% of candidates that accept a counter offer typically leave within 6 months, candidates are still accepting the offer leaving hiring managers scratching their heads trying to figure out why. In this blog we will discuss a few of the reasons why and what can be done to help you counter the counteroffer.  


Leveraging the job market for upward mobility 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, while there were 10.7 million job openings there was only 6.4 million hires as of July 2022. Despite the 6.6% decrease in job openings, we are still in a candidate driven market. Because of the trends in the market, some people leverage it to appraise their value and use that information to gain a promotion or increase their salary. In other cases, the employee may even receive a retention bonus to stay.

For some individuals unfortunately they may feel that was the only way that the company would take notice. In this case, there is a little possibility to counter. In our process, consultants work to build a positive rapport as a trusted partner by maintaining an open line of communication. It is through asking the right questions that we gain insight into the candidate’s motivation and leveraging the opportunity as a possibility.  


Company Loyalty 

In a passive candidate market, we find ourselves interacting with candidates that have long tenure with their employer. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average tenure for wage and salary workers is 4.1 years. While having that tenure is beneficial in seeing that the candidate is not a “job hopper”, they may have built a lot of loyalty to their employer. In some cases where employees have had several promotions and were able to climb the ranks in the company, they may face tremendous guilt when separating from that company. That guilt could have them more inclined to take a counteroffer because of their “I can’t let them down” mentality. In our Titus process, we explore all aspects of a candidate including the intrinsic values and motivators that influence them to make a move.  

Once we see what their biggest influences and motivators are, we provide the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) as to why they should consider the new opportunity. As they advance through the interview process, we also ask what would make them stay at their current employer (in preparation for a counteroffer). This insight provides valuable information that helps position us to successfully navigate through a counteroffer. For a candidate that has established loyalty with a company, it is helpful to provide insight on the internal company culture. Are there employee engagement opportunities there? Do you have outreach initiatives that provides service the community. What are the other factors (outside of compensation) that would make them leave a good company for a great one.      


Fear of the unknown 

As the saying goes “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”. For some individuals, change can be scary, and the fear of the unknown can be very real. In some cases, although the employee may not be receiving what they are looking for in their current company, they have complacency with familiarity and starting over with a new company can be tough. While a candidate may have every intention to leave, a last-minute counteroffer combined with the fear of the unknown could be what turns a yes into a no. Fear of change can be the enemy of growth. At Titus we provide services not only for finding and bringing the right person into your organization, but we can also support successful onboarding and retention of your candidate. One thing that can help eliminate the fear of the unknown is by providing clarity on what the onboarding and training process will be. 

Our Talent Optimization team provides tools through The Predictive Index that can be used to not only provide onboarding support but also support to acclimate successfully to the team as well. After onboarding, our Performance Management platforms (M4P (Etho) and H4P) can help outline 30, 60, 90-day performance objectives which will demystify the new organization. A candidate may feel more comfortable making the move when they are clear on their training and performance objectives; candidates want to know where the bus is going before they get on. 

Although we are currently seeing a slight decrease in new jobs, we are still in a competitive candidate market. With the cost to replace an employee being one half to two times the employee’s salary, companies will remain inclined to retain their employees. Through offering a retention bonus, increasing one’s salary, or offering a promotion companies might be able to gain the upper hand in employee retention, however statistically we still see that they eventually leave. By identifying the motivators that can cause a candidate to accept a counteroffer, we at Titus work with our partners to overcome those barriers landing top talent. 

If a candidate is leaving or staying just for money, then engagement is going to become problem. Uncovering the candidate’s why (why entertain the opportunity, why pursue the opportunity, and why accept the opportunity) will help in the negotiation stage. Lou Adler, in his book Performance Based Hiring suggests not making the offer until you know it is going to be accepted. Soft closes, vision casting and providing a plumbline for the pros and cons is going to be essential in securing the candidate, or dodging the proverbial bullet.  


Partner with Titus

More than recruiters, Titus Talent Strategies are a team of Talent Optimizers who genuinely care about the work we do. We empower companies to put the right people in the right seats through informed, connected strategies that combine data with an empathetic understanding of what makes people tick. We recognize that our partners are investing in us and that results mean more than just people placed in a role. It’s about impact and connection.    

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