John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC
Gallatin, TN

The battle to attract and hire top talent has returned. And so has the risk of losing your candidate to a counter-offer.

With a little bit of planning, you can immunize yourself against this risk.

Once they have your offer in hand, candidates open the door to a counter-offer for all sorts of reasons. Some will do it innocently enough – thinking that loyalty compels them to at least listen to what their employer has to say. Some naively underestimate the response that a resignation will generate. Still others are more devious and think, “Why shouldn’t I see how much they’ll offer me to stay.”

In the end, the motivation doesn’t matter. The result is the same: heartburn for you who has done everything you can to make an attractive offer.

How do you immunize yourself?

During the first face-to-face interview with a candidate, use this script (verbatim!):

You: “I don’t think ethical people take counter-offers.  Do you?”

Candidate: “No.”  (Or the equivalent.  What else are they going to say?)

You: “That’s good because we won’t pursue candidates who are prospects for counter-offer.  If you’re going to use this process as a means to that end, I’d prefer that we invest our time with other candidates.  Is this something that we should be concerned about?”

If you hear anything other than an unequivocal “No”, listen carefully to the rationale the candidate gives for considering a counter-offer.  Usually, it will have something to do with leaving the door open to the possibility that the candidate’s dissatisfaction might be resolved at the eleventh hour.  Diplomatically, but firmly, tell the candidate that you will suspend the interview process to give him/her time to approach the employer in an effort resolve the issue.

If the candidate insists that the problem is unresolvable, repeat the question:

“Does that mean we should not be concerned that you are a prospect for a counter-offer?”

When you are ready to make an offer to the candidate, raise the issue again:

You: “In an earlier conversation, you assured me that you weren’t a prospect for a counter-offer.  I am prepared to make an offer and wanted to know whether there was any change in your view.”

Nothing can fully protect you against losing a candidate to a counter-offer.  With a firm and clear-headed approach, however, you can buy as much protection as you can.

John Borrowman