Episode #25 – How Candidates Should Approach a Counteroffer from Their Employer

Sharita: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, search consultant Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help organizations acquire top talent, while helping professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about counter-offers and how professionals should deal with them. Hello, Stacy. Thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, I’m glad to be here today.

Sharita: Stacy, where do you think we should start our discussion about counteroffers today?

Stacy: We should start with a definition, just to make sure that everybody is on the same page. A counteroffer in the employment marketplace is a situation where a company’s employee has informed the company that they’re leaving because they accepted an offer from another organization. In response to that, the company then makes an offer to their soon-to-be former employee in an effort to keep them.

Sharita: So the company is making an offer in an attempt to counter the offer made by the other organization?

Stacy: That’s correct. That’s where the name comes from. However, I think we should back up just a bit before further exploring counteroffers. That’s because there are a number of things that might happen when you tender your resignation with your employer. A counteroffer is just one of those things.

Sharita: What are the others?

Stacy: There are three I’d like to mention briefly. The first thing your employer might do is send you home.

This has been known to happen. Keep in mind that you might still get paid for the two weeks you would have worked, plus whatever vacation pay is coming to you. Also, don’t be surprised if a security guard escorts you to the door, and if that’s the case, aren’t you glad that you’re going to work for somebody else?

Sharita: Yes, that would seem to indicate that perhaps you’ve made the correct decision in going elsewhere. What else might a company do when one of its employees submits their resignation?

Stacy: They might attempt to make you feel guilty. This is especially the case if you’re considered to be an important part of the organization. But the reality of the situation is that the company is NOT going to fall apart just because you’re leaving.

Something else the company might do is try to pry information out of the employee. This could be done in ways that don’t seem obvious. In fact, it may even seem friendly in both nature and tone. However, any information you provide about where you’re going could be used against you in an attempt to convince you to stay.

Now keep in mind, I’m not saying that one or more of these things happen every time an employee resigns. But these are things that could happen, and they have happened many times in the workplace.

Sharita: And another thing that an employer might do is make a counteroffer?

Stacy: That’s right, and that’s what we’ll be addressing today. Specifically, we’re going to discuss how professionals should view counteroffers and what they should do if one is made to them.

First, I’d like to present my stance on the issue and the stance that I believe every professional should take when it comes to counteroffers. That stance is that they should be avoided. I plan to back up that stance with plenty of reasons why I believe this to be the case. But I want to state that in the vast majority of cases, it is not a good idea to accept a counteroffer from your current employer once you have submitted your resignation.

Sharita: Stacy, is that stance based upon your extensive experience as a search consultant?

Stacy: Yes, that is absolutely the case. During my more than 20 years as a recruiter, I’ve seen just about every situation that you can imagine, and I’ve seen many of them more than one time. That’s why I can state with confidence my stance on the issue of counteroffers.

Sharita: So what is the first reason that you would recommend not accepting a counteroffer?

Stacy: This first reason stems from what I believe is confusion over exactly what accepting an offer of employment is. When you don’t understand what accepting an offer means, then it becomes easier to entertain the prospect of a counteroffer.

Let’s start by identifying what accepting an offer of employment is NOT. When you accept an offer, you are not saying something like the following:

“Yes, I accept your offer of employment, unless my current employer or some other company I’m interviewing with offers me something better, in which case I will take their offer instead.”

That is NOT accepting an offer. Unfortunately, many candidates have adopted this frame of mind when deciding whether or not to accept an offer from a prospective employer.

Sharita: I would imagine that causes a problem, since the employer that made the offer expects the candidate to actually being work at their organization.

Stacy: Yes, it does cause problems. Professionals must understand that accepting an offer of employment is a serious matter. It’s not to be taken lightly. If you accept an offer, you have to realize that you’re giving your word that you’re actually accepting it and not just doing so to “keep your options open.”

After all, how would you feel if the company president said they wanted to hire you, but later changed their mind after they found somebody else who they thought was better? You’d show up for your first day of work, and the hiring manager would tell you, “Sorry, we found somebody better since the last time we spoke. Thanks, anyway.”

Sharita: I am sure anybody in that situation would be furious, to say the least. So Stacy, now that we’ve discussed what accepting an offer of employment is NOT, what exactly does it mean when you accept an offer?

Stacy: In a nutshell, it means making a commitment to the company that extended the offer and then keeping that commitment. In other words, do not make the commitment if you aren’t 100% certain that you can keep the commitment.

To illustrate exactly what this means, if you accept an offer, there are three things that you should be willing to do.

First, you should contact all of the other companies with which you are interviewing and inform them that you have accepted an offer and are withdrawing from their process.

Second, you should turn down a counteroffer if one is made by your current employer, no matter how attractive it might be and how much you want to accept it.

And third, you should show up for your first day of work.

Sharita: So if a person is not willing to do all three of those things, then they should not accept the offer?

Stacy: That’s correct. Accepting an offer of employment is a commitment, and if you can’t keep the commitment, then don’t make it in the first place.

Sharita: Stacy, so what’s another reason that counteroffers should be avoided?

Stacy: Well, let’s say that you accept an offer of employment from another company and submit your resignation. Then your boss makes you a counteroffer than includes a substantial raise. You have to ask yourself this question: “Why haven’t I received this compensation until now?”

In fact, you should ask yourself even more questions, like was your employer intentionally underpaying you because they could get away with it? Also, did you have to threaten to leave before your employer was willing to pay you what you’re worth? Or how about is this additional compensation going to be subtracted from a future raise?

One of the problems with counteroffers is that people get caught up in the feeling that companies are fighting over them. It’s a good feeling to be wanted, but there are hard questions that have to be asked. These are also logical questions to ask, and in the majority of cases, they just seem to lead to more questions.

Sharita: What if more money or compensation wasn’t the real reason that a person decided to leave their employer for another opportunity?

Stacy: That’s a great question, and that situation happens all the time. If compensation wasn’t the real reason that a person left, then what good is a counteroffer that includes more compensation? Not much good. If that reason or those reasons are still there at your employer, then what’s the point of staying? Sure, more money is nice, but it only makes the situation tolerable for a while longer. More than likely, you’re still going to leave eventually.

Sharita: Now I’ve heard that sometimes a company will make a counteroffer to an employee who submits their resignation just so they can keep them there until they find a replacement for them. Does this actually happen?

Stacy: Unfortunately, it can and it does. That’s because now your boss knows that you were looking for a new job. Not only that, but you were also prepared to actually leave for another position. If you stay, you could be viewed with skepticism. For all you know, if you accept the counteroffer, your employer could just be buying some time until they can find a replacement for you. Nothing good can come from having your loyalty called into question.

Sharita: It seems as though a counteroffer situation can be different than what it appears to be. That can make it more difficult to know what to do.

Stacy: That’s right, there’s quite a lot to consider with a counteroffer situation. That’s why your best bet is to honor your word and your commitment and start work with your new employer. And when you accept an offer of employment, that’s what you’re doing. You’re giving your word and you’re making a commitment. It’s not something to be done lightly, and you should not accept an offer thinking that you’ll only keep your word if something better doesn’t come along. That is a short-sighted mentality, and it’s one that can hurt you and your career in the long run.

Sharita: Stacy, thanks so much for all of this great information today.

Stacy: Thank you, Sharita. As always, I look forward to our next podcast!