To Counter or Not to Counter?

Often times in a recruitment process we encounter candidates that are on the market and seem to have the skills and experience that our client is seeking, but when presented with a job offer the candidate thinks they owe it to themselves to seek a counter-offer. While this strategy on the surface seems fairly innocuous the reality is that it is actually laden with risks and can often utterly backfire.

Picture this– a job seeker named Tom engages a recruiter and over the course of several weeks Tom interviews several times at the recruiter’s client site. The client evaluates several prospective candidates and ultimately makes the decision that they feel the best about Tom. Tom has expressed authentic interest and enthusiasm for the client’s job, company culture and the long term opportunity… seems like we are headed in the right direction, right? Well now imagine that Tom gets a call from a friend that suggests that he’d be nuts not to ask his present employer to counter offer. Tom thinks it over and says to himself, “Why not? What do I have to lose? I’ll just go with whomever offers me the most money, the best deal for me and my family.” All of that logic sounds reasonable, and frankly, it IS reasonable from the candidate’s perspective.

The problem is that it just doesn’t seem to work out in the long run.

One of a couple of things typically happens. His present employer realizes that while they are upset that Tom isn’t as loyal as they thought he was, that now is NOT the time to lose him with the big deal right around the corner, and they figure that increasing his base compensation will buy them the time they need to find a replacement- someone who WILL be loyal. So they counter, keep Tom, but make a mental note that he can’t be counted on since he tried to bail on them once before and they sure don’t feel good about promoting him since who knows when he might be interviewing elsewhere?

Scenario two is that the new employer hears that Tom is not accepting their offer and they don’t like it because they really felt their offer was generous to begin with, but they have been in the process for months and really did feel that Tom was their guy… so they think about it a bit and offer just a little more base comp or bonus to sweeten the deal, but in their minds they realize that maybe Tom isn’t the guy they thought and the seeds of doubt have taken root. They may hire him, but they definitely don’t have the sweetest taste in their mouth based on the way the last days of the negotiations went. It’s a hard first impression to overcome.

My observation is that most people honestly want to enjoy their work and most don’t enter the job market without substantial reasons. Doctors, Engineers, Attorneys, it matters little what we actually do everyday, professional workers or blue collar workers, all of us have a deep seated desire to do something worthwhile, to help others, and to make ourselves and our families proud of us. We want to progress, to have challenging and interesting work, and to be recognized for being great at what we do.

So why do we pursue opportunities based on the desire to improve our work satisfaction and then make a decision to stay in the original situation only to earn a tiny amount more money? Money is absolutely important, I’ll be the first to agree to that- but it is simply not what defines our happiness and satisfaction at work. Money can be a good reason to seek a change, but in most every case it is not the primary reason people are seeking a change and even if they do accept at counter offer and get a bump up at their present job- it simply doesn’t fix the underlying reasons they wanted to leave in the first place! Within 6 months they realize their mistake in staying and are back on the job market.

  • Be sure to ask yourself some tough questions as you embark on your job search.
  • Challenge yourself to answer honestly!
  • Really dig deep into the reasons that you are motivated to make a change from your present employer.

Is there something bothering you that honestly could be remedied if you’d just address it?  Or is it truly time to take the leap and seek employment elsewhere?  You DO owe it to yourself to make the right decision.

Lauren Goodson, Founder and President of Cornerstone Recruitment Group and Career Expert Academy  is a nationally renowned expert in Job Search Strategies, Career Coaching and Hiring for the Professional audience. She has helped thousands of job seekers to achieve their potential and grow their career.  Through ,  Lauren has redefined professional job search training by establishing an all-in-one resource for extensive and exceptional expert information.  Be sure to visit for more info. 

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