Career clinic: how to handle a career counter offer

Meeting room group office
By Michael Taggart, Regional Manager, FPSG

27 September 2018

“The art of managing a counter-offer could be the best career move you ever, or never, make.” Recruitment experts FPSG discuss the best way to handle a job counter-offer.

When a candidate has committed to entering into a formal process, where their CV is introduced by FPSG to a potential new employer, one of the first questions I like them to answer, for our mutual benefit, is “What will you do when your current employer gives you a counter-offer and tries to persuade you to stay?”

There are a number of classic responses that tend to come back to that question. They range from “I won’t get a counter-offer”, through to “I never even thought of that” and “well I’d need to give it some serious thought”, all the way to my own personal favourite….”It doesn’t matter a jot what they offer me, I have my own motivations for moving and nothing they can offer me will keep me here.”

Knowing what you want from your career

Let me explain why the latter is the music to my ears - it is simply because it is the clearest indication from those four example answers that the candidate that we are working with is pretty sure about what they want.

Anyone who has good skills, should reasonably expect to be made a counter-offer and any job-seeker who is not prepared to have that open, honest and frank conversation with themselves at the beginning of their candidate journey is destined to find themselves in a bit of a flap at the end of the process.

That’s where mistakes get made and decisions that later cause regret are harvested. To put a rule of thumb on it, the average tenure of someone who accepts a counter-offer is typically around 6-12 months. It is important to understand that it’s far more worthwhile and cost-effective to increase a salary than to find a replacement.

Have open career conversations

The reason they last less than 12 months in their current role, is because the real reasons that any candidate, regardless of their skills, is looking to move in the first place, is not going to be solved by an improved package. The yearning for change that they harbour, or dis-association with their colleagues or management is very unlikely to be solved by money.

If someone doesn’t want to be somewhere, then they are better off not there as there are more cons than pros when it comes to accepting counter offers. Accepting a counter offer may tell an employer they are only interested in financial gain resulting in loyalty being questioned which could reflect in future advancement decisions.

If all they really want is an improved salary, or package, my advice is that they should simply book an appointment with their immediate superior(s) and discuss it.

At some point in a candidate journey, that conversation needs to happen. It might as well be when the candidate is questioning themselves on what is right for them. If it is too difficult to have a wage-rise, promotion or personal development conversation with the person you will ultimately also have to resign to, then perhaps it will help in being decisive to move.

Professional recruitment advice

Whether you are looking for your next career move, career advice, or just want to see what is currently available in the market, FPSG want to hear from you.

Contact FPSG

This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS.


  • Career development
  • Leadership and management

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