Advance Blog

September 14, 2021

5 tips to fight counter-offers

So true, there is nothing as frustrating as getting that call from a candidate who recently signed your offer letter and employment contract.

After working for months interviewing and selecting the perfect candidate, you get the dreaded call, close to the agreed starting date, that your new hire will not be joining as agreed – or in some cases the candidate simply does not show up on the first day of work.

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future!

Would you say that there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel? That roll out of vaccine will soon bring the world back to recovery mode?

Predictions have always been a fool’s game!

It has been a year of hiring freeze, staff layoffs, and many hesitating to change jobs. When recovery starts, I see a massive candidate shortage waiting around the corner. With this scenario, you will see counteroffers rear its ugly head as employers fight for talent.

The kind of telephone call we hate

It’s a fact of life nowadays, it is no longer uncommon for new employees to walk away from an offer that they have already signed and accepted. Or even worse, they are no-shows on their agreed starting date.

It’s the kind of call that all recruiters and hiring managers hate to get. It usually goes like this:

“Sorry Khun Tom, but I don’t think I can join your client. I know I already signed the employment contract and that I promised I would never change my mind. But you see, my boss has given me a new big important project. He told me I’m the only one in the company who she can trust to lift this sort of responsibility. They are all so nice to me. And she also gave me a new title.” 

Me (after the candidate hung up): Aaaaarrrrggghhhh !*$#@#$*!!!

There is on-boarding and there is pre-boarding

The latter, pre-boarding, are the things you do during the interview process. You should ask questions like why the candidate came to see you, what was the motivation for the candidate to come and meet you? It will give you valuable insight in the motivation. Ask this question:

  • When we called you about this opportunity, what was it that got you interested in coming here today? What interests you about this position?

How will the candidate handle a counter-offer?

Today’s corporate environment has made the counteroffer an important weapon in the war for talent. In fact, the counteroffer has become part of many companies’ strategy to keep salary costs down until they absolutely have to pay their best talent.

The best way to prevent that your candidate is pushed hard by the boss to accept a counteroffer of a higher salary or title is to ensure that the candidate’s boss does not make one.

It’s a difficult conversation but one you must have with the candidate throughout the hiring process.

Check how the candidate will handle a counteroffer from their current employer and it will give you an important hint as you try to assess the risk of losing a successful candidate in the last minute.

Is the candidate serious about pursuing this opportunity? How will the candidate resign and handle a counteroffer? If the candidate insists, they will not accept a counteroffer, ask them to give you the reason why – in their own words.

  • We also have to talk about what happens if you are offered the job; and accept it. It means you will have to resign. How will you do that and what will you tell your boss? What if they give you a counteroffer? Do you have any projects running that will delay your exit? Can you leave your boss and colleagues? What about the location?
  • If we go all the way, we will be asked to do reference checking on your background. Should we expect to have any issues talking to previous bosses or colleagues you think?
  • What other jobs are you currently considering or being interviewed for? How active are you right now in the job market?

Be creative and you will have deserved the champagne when your candidate turns up day one. Good luck.

Tom Sorensen, Managing Partner at Tom Sorensen Recruitment (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years’ experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in retained executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters. He is also a Partner in NPAworldwide with 567 offices on 6 continents. For more:

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