Visualize yourself saying no to a counter offer, PLEASE!

You’re my candidate Joe and I’ve just interviewed you for an amazing sales position with a hot startup software company. It’s exactly what you said you wanted. You said your job was boring, a dead end position with no potential and the company wouldn’t let you into the sales training for a better position. You said your company never counter offers anyone, so it won’t be a problem. We go through the whole interview process, you’re a great fit for my client, the interviews all go well. I’ve sold you on the company and my client on you. The offer comes through with a bit more money than you’re currently making so everything seems ready to go. That is until you go tell your boss that you’ve found a new job and your last day is 2 weeks from today. They decide to give you a counter offer even though they have never done it before. They offer you more money and a promotion. The dreaded counter offer; what a way to ruin a recruiters day.  If you’ve been in the recruiting business for any amount of time, you’ve experienced it, that “oh crap, what now feeling”, when Joe stops returning your calls and won’t answer your emails. When should you as a recruiter prepare a candidate for the counter offer?  My suggestion is as soon as your client starts liking the candidate, start talking about it. I like this approach – ask Joe if he would accept a counter offer. Of course he’ll say no, then say ” in case you would get a counter, can you visualize yourself saying NO to the counter offer”. Make sure he can say yes before you continue the process with your client. You want Joe to start thinking about it long before he experiences the counter offer.  Why?  You don’t want him to experience the boost to his ego when he feels wanted, possibly for the first time in a long time at their current company. As the interviews continue to go well, you should ask them a few times about the counter depending on the situation they are in. It’s helpful to know “why they want a job change” and then you can remind them of that if they get a counter offer. Might be good to keep this in their notes so you can go back to it later if necessary. If you start discussing the counter offer early on, let your candidates know some of the statistics about counter offers (between 70% and 80% of those employees who accept a counter offer leave in the next 6 months). If that is true why do companies extend counter offers?  Typically to protect themselves and not lose money.  Joe’s manager suddenly realizes that Joe is a beneficial part of his team and to replace him will be timely and expensive.  They realize they will lose important knowledge that Joe will take with him. If you think your candidate may accept a counter offer, make sure to discuss a few of these things with them before they give their notice:

  1. Once you accept a counter offer, you’ve taken a risk. If there is future downsizing, you will likely be the first one let go since you were planning to leave anyway.
  2. Once your co-workers find out they gave you a raise and promotion to stay, how do you think they are going to feel. There may be some tension in the office for you.
  3. The additional salary you just received has to come from someone’s budget, so the raise you thought you’d get at the end of the year, just came early.

If you prepare the candidate for being able to say no when they get a counter offer, you’ve done as much as you could do. Sometimes you will find those candidates who just wanted a raise and wasted your time and your clients time (bummer).  I hope these candidates know if they accept a counter offer they shouldn’t call me again to help them find a job and in the next 6 months when they realize the mistake they made – best of luck to them in finding someone else to help them find a new job. Lucky for me, Joe was able to visualize saying NO to the counter offer and YES TO MY JOB!


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.