I’ve been thinking, and I’m sorry but……..

I’ve been thinking, and I’m sorry but……..
I’ve been thinking, and I’m sorry but……..

It’s likely that we’ve all had it happen. You’ve found what appears to be the perfect candidate for your position. You’ve agreed terms, discussed start dates, and now they just need to hand in their resignation to their current employer. Then you get the phone call. “I’ve been thinking, and I’m sorry but ……..” Yep, they’ve had a counter offer from their boss, and they are taking it.

In one short call, you are back to square one

And it happens more and more. With competition for the top talent fiercer than ever, in 2017 a survey showed that 58 percent of senior managers across multiple professional fields had extended counter offers to keep employees from leaving.

Here’s some more worrying stats: 44% of employees say they’ve been made a counter offer after handing in their resignation. And of those who received such an offer, 66% accepted.

So is it just something you have to accept?

Not at all, there are steps you can take to minimise the chance of your perfect candidate backing out because of a counter offer. As part of your recruitment process, you can prime and equip them to handle the situation.

Remember, it may just be the latest hire for you, but for the candidate, the move is potentially life changing – and a bit scary. You owe it to your organisation and to your candidate to manage the situation well because more often than not, counter offers don’t work out long term. In fact, 50% of candidates that accept them are actively job hunting again within 60 days.

So what can you do?

Raise the issue during interview. The time to start the discussion is during post-shortlist interviews. Ensure you know why your candidate wants to move on and ask up front how they would react to a counter offer. Understand what motivates the person – in case you need to dangle a bit of a carrot in the event that they are wavering.

Explain why companies make counter offers. Make sure that they understand the practice is all about the organisation and not much about the individual. The current employer is thinking ‘how much will it cost me to replace them?’ ‘they hold key customer relationships’ ‘I’ll lose their skills and knowledge’. And plant in the candidate’s mind that really, their current organisation should be paying them what they are worth now – not just when they say they are leaving.

Remind them of why they are sitting there. There’s a reason that person has gone through the process of applying, interviewing and accepting your job. Highlight again the challenge of the new role, their great new team, the potential for progressions, flexible working – whatever it was that attracted them in the first place. It’s often not all about money.

Start to involve them. Once you’ve offered the job, invite that person to meet the team. Give them a tour of the office and get a couple of enthusiastic employees to talk about why they love working for you. And invite them along to any social events that might be happening during their notice period.

Make sure you keep in touch. Ask them to give you a call once they have resigned. Reassure them as to how much you’re looking forward to them joining the team. And then continue to contact them throughout the notice period. Some organisations leave it to the last minute to broach a counter offer, putting the person under time pressure to accept. If you’ve had regular contact, perhaps getting future meetings and business trips in their diaries, sending them relevant information to read, asking their opinions on things and so on, it will be easier for them to resist.

Ultimately, you can’t avoid losing some candidates to the dreaded counter offer but follow this guidance, and you’ll minimise the risk. It’s all about making the candidate feel that your opportunity is the best thing for them professionally and that they are absolutely ready to take it.

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