Losing a candidate to a counteroffer is one of the worst
things that can happen to a recruiter. Though the candidate will always do what
he believes is in his best interest, our job is to educate him to make sure he
understands the risks involved in accepting a new offer from a current employer.
One of the biggest parts of helping defend against the counteroffer is what
happens when the candidate gives notice. The way that I see it, if you can
discourage an employer from even giving the candidate a counter, there's no way
the candidate will accept one.
Giving notice can be the most emotional time for a candidate. The pressure
that the current employer may put on someone, as well as second-guessing by the
candidate, may take a toll.
The easier that you can make this, and the more that you can reduce stress
for the candidate, the better. Here's what I tell candidates:
"I'm not concerned that you will accept a counteroffer (you don't want the
candidate to think that you don't trust them). I just want to make this
transition as painless as possible. The way that we do this is through the
process of giving notice.
The best advice that I can give you is to be very brief when you give notice.
If it were me, I'd say, 'I have accepted another position outside the company.
My start date is _____________, so I'm happy to work out my two weeks' notice.
Under no conditions will I accept a counteroffer.'
You do not have to tell your current employer where you are going or what the
job is. I strongly suggest that you do not give them any clue about your new
compensation package. They will ask you a hundred questions; you do not have to
answer a single one. All that's important is that you are leaving. You don't
want to burn any bridges, so I'd just say that your new employer has asked you
to keep this information confidential. Just have a matter-of-fact style and
appreciate why they want to know this information (so they can use it to
counteroffer you). The less information you give them, the easier this will be.
When talking to your current employer, you can add positive things such as,
'I have had a wonderful experience at this company, and am happy to have had the
opportunity to work with you, but the time has come for me to move on.' But be
firm. If you show any kind of weakness or uncertainty in your voice or actions,
your current employer will smell it. Most managers have been professionally
trained on how to counteroffer employees.
Your boss is going to be shocked that you have accepted another position and
that you are leaving. The first thing that will go through your boss' mind is
how your leaving will have an impact on him or her. He or she may have to work
more hours until a replacement is found; your leaving will lower the morale of
the rest of the staff, and your boss may have an extremely difficult time
finding someone with your qualifications to replace you. It is much easier and
cheaper for your company and boss to try to keep you rather than losing you
(especially if it's to a competitor).
Expect your boss' boss to get involved as well. Don't be surprised if both
offer to take you out to lunch or dinner. They are going to give you all the
attention in the world. Expect a counteroffer. Most counteroffers that
I have seen have been anywhere from a 20% to 35% increase in earnings. Enticing,
isn't it? But why weren't you worth that much to them yesterday? Does it take
you leaving to get something you should have been getting anyway? If so, is that
the type of company you want to work for? Keep in mind that counteroffers come
in many other forms than just an increase in compensation. Promotions are also
ways for getting employees to stay.
Once you give notice, you are essentially breaking a trust that you had with
your employer. If you are countered and stay, your company may feel that it owns
you. You will be known as the one who caused your employer grief by threatening
to quit. You'll no longer be known as a loyal employee. Will this cause your
boss to pass you over on the next possible promotion? I've heard of stories
where companies only counter to get the employee to stay until they find a
replacement and then let the employee go. Some companies feel that it's better
for people to leave on their terms instead of their employees' terms.
I promise you that in any research you do on counteroffers, you will
not find anything that ever says, 'Take the counteroffer.' Please
research this on your own, and if you do happen to find anything to the
contrary, please let me know."
I write candidates' notice letters for them. I ask for their boss' names and
draft the documents. I also send them published articles written about
counteroffers and research on what happens with employees who decide to stay.
The whole purpose of this is to get candidates to understand what will
happen. If you prepare them to expect the counteroffer and how it will happen,
the candidates will have a heads-up on how to handle it.