The War for Talent is Raging – The Rise of the Counteroffer

June 23, 2015  |   Posted by :   |   Uncategorized,YPHR Blog

The job market is yet again changing as a matter of fact, it is on fire if you are a job seeker!  The unemployment rate is remaining steady at around 5.4% (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), depending on the part of the country you live in.  For those of us in Human Resources industry, the number seems much lower!  One might feel like they are back in the late 90’s when looking for candidates with specific technical expertise.  Just a short year ago, it was not a stretch to gather 8-10 solid candidates for an opening.  Today, you are grasping for two!  To add to this dilemma, both of these potential hires are employed and actively interviewing.  Even if you get them in to interview and quickly extend a generous offer, there is still no guarantee they will accept the position.  This is what many recruiters refer to as the “probationary period” – or the period of high alert.  This is when the dreaded counteroffer comes into play!

ScenarioYou are a growing medical device manufacturer and are desperately looking to add to your Quality and Regulatory Affairs Department.  The candidate must have the right educational background, years of experience, product knowledge, and be a great cultural fit with the company.  Let’s be realistic:  the pickings are slim, regardless of where this company is located!  You identify and meet with two great candidates, but one stands out as an outstanding cultural fit as well.  You are thrilled!  You let him know you are planning to move forward with an offer, and proceed to follow the hiring protocol.  The candidate even provides you with the name of his current supervisor, who provides a fantastic reference!  You cover all of the traditional questions, including “what can your current employer do to keep you?” You receive all of the right answers.  The offer is extended and you are anticipating an almost immediate acceptance.  Then it happens.    canstockphoto4590801

The lines of communication go dead for a day or so.  You then see an update on his LinkedIn profile – he now has a new title with his current employer.  You begin to over analyze this.  He never mentioned that he was anticipating a promotion.  Why is he not returning your calls?  Have you been played for a fool?  The recruiter speaks with the candidate, who is still interested, but is now countering with a higher number because of the promotion.  You come back with more money, but it is still not enough to get the deal done.  All of the reasons your Golden Candidate provided for looking have all but faded away.  The employer has promised him a title and responsibilities that you are not willing to match.  He declines the job offer.  And just like that, you are back to square one!  

This is all too painful for some. If you have been in this industry for any period of time, you know that regardless of the economy, this can happen.  The best talent have always been valued.  Retention strategies are at an all-time high.   Managers are being trained to effectively reward and recognize employees for achievements.  The goal is not to risk losing your top performers in the first place.  Despite these efforts, however, it happens.  A war is being waged on the job front, and it is a bloody battle from every angle!

You can read article after article, the majority of them advising against accepting a counteroffer.  It compromises credibility with an employer.  It questions loyalty.  It  can indicate indecisiveness, which is never a strong leadership quality.  However, money (and to some, status) talks.  Should an employer engage in a bidding war for a candidate they really want?  I would advise against it, for many of the same reasons.  If the candidate really wants to work for the potential employer, opportunity and challenge should be the motivating factor, not simply dollars and cents.  An ideal candidate (and employee) is one that is consistently moving forward, never questioning their decisions.

The logical advice is to be prepared for the probability of a counteroffer.  If at all possible, have more than one candidate that fits your ideal criteria (and realize that this may not happen).  Start with a strong offer, and let your candidate know this is firm.  Do not give the candidate the opportunity to delay the start date significantly.  The more time that lapses, the more time the candidate has to question his or her decision and/or interview elsewhere.  Most importantly, let that person know how excited you are to have him as part of the team, and begin the recognition process from day one.  That is the best guarantee that you do not lose him to another opportunity!  Top talent is sparse – do not get caught in the war.

Your Partner In HR utilizes established networks, progressive recruiting methodologies and tools to identify, interview and deliver qualified candidates.  For specific strategies and recruiting support, please contact Natalie Lemons.  To learn more about Natalie, check out her Partner Profile here.






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