Recently I successfully head-hunted a fantastic candidate for a top client of mine – a role that was highly involved, very niche in the sector and that took time, a lot of dedication, hard work and tough negotiations. I did it! I got my candidate the offer he wanted from my client and he signed on the dotted line, ready to start at the beginning of May.

Then, the message came through from him “please let me know when you are available to chat” and my heart sank; he had accepted a counter-offer from his current employer that he couldn’t refuse. The company clearly saw him as a very valuable employee that I had managed to poach and place at my client and now they wanted him to stay and he did. I was disappointed to say the least and despite all my efforts to ensure that he was ready to start, he didn’t.

Thankfully, my client was understanding, and the candidate explained it all to the client in writing, which meant a great deal to them. It means a lot to a Recruiter having an upstanding candidate like that.

Now, as a Recruiter, you need to move on from these things and accept the “defeat” without being disheartened after all the hard work, and sometimes it’s not easy to do. However, it’s reality – companies are holding on to their top performers with whatever they can, and we have the fight on our hands to change that.

We generally say that no one should ever accept a counter-offer – if your company undervalued you in the first place, why are they only valuing you now when you threaten to leave or hand in your resignation? Surely some trust bridges have been burnt in this.

Accepting counter-offers are not always just about the money. It can be accepted for other reasons like Career Development, gaining Management Experience and Company Exposure. All these things, apart from money, come into play.

On the other side of it, research shows that “39% of employees report that they don’t feel appreciated at work” – when this comes into play, accepting a counter-offer wouldn’t be a problem, it wouldn’t happen.

How can we avoid it in the future? There are some steps to take to avoid it:

1. Cover counter-offers at interview stage – Ask candidates directly about their reasons for leaving and the action they’ll take if their current employer asks them to stay. If there is a red-flag in any of the response, focus attention on other possible candidates.

2. Determine reasons for leaving – the REAL Reasons – there are always 3 reasons for leaving that candidates have:

– What they tell their friends are their reasons for leaving

– What they tell their Managers are their reasons for leaving

– The REAL reason – that reason that you’ll uncover with the right questions.

3. Keep up the contact– despite me doing this continually in the 5 weeks before my candidate was due to start, he didn’t – but it’s important.

Don’t let the enthusiasm and excitement dwindle away – be sure to stay in contact with your candidate until they start. By keeping touch and discovering how their boss took their resignation, you can stand a better chance of keeping the momentum going.

4. Treat your candidate like the VIP they are when they have accepted the offer with your client. I did this and it’s important to make your candidate feel valued and important, because they are. Sometimes you’ll still lose the battle, but in the war, you’ve gained excellent territory.

5. Keep your Client informed continually during the Recruitment process – keep the lines of communication open and transparent

At the end of it all, never assume that a candidate will never take a counter-offer. Try and manage the Recruitment process on an assumption that there might be a counter-offer and follow the steps above.

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