How to handle a counter offer

In the current job market, highly skilled workers are a valuable resource, and not readily available. As a result, counter offers are on the rise as employers try to retain their skilled workforce. Chances are at some point in your career, after handing in your resignation, you will be given a counter offer by your current employer; but should you accept it?

Ultimately you’re the only one who can answer that question, but here are our top tips to help with your decision-making process:

Before you start applying for jobs:

  • Think about what would happen if you were counter offered – what would make you want to stay? If you can, approach your manager to discuss any frustrations prior to searching for work – you may be able to solve them without even having to attend an interview.
  • Think about the reasons why you are looking for a new role, and what you would need from a potential offer in order to accept it. Use this to guide your applications.

The application process:

  • Be clear about what it is that you’re looking for, and apply for the jobs that will improve your situation.
    When dealing with a recruiter or recruiting manager be open and honest about your current situation and what you’re looking to achieve – are you looking for better progression prospects, an increase in salary or to reduce your commuting time? They will be able to offer insights into whether the position will meet your needs.
  • The interview is a good time to discuss the benefits of working for a company, gain an understanding of the progression pathways, training and development opportunities, and to learn more about the role itself.

The job offer:

  • Make sure that you get details of the full package, including any benefits, so that you are able to make a fully informed decision.

The counter offer:

You’ve got this far, and you’re pleased with the opportunity you’ve been given. You speak with your employer to tender your resignation, and you’re surprised with a counter offer. What do you do now?

Consider the following:

  • It may feel flattering, but consider the real motives behind the counter offer. Do your employers value you as an individual or is it just easier and cheaper to retain you than to recruit and train a new member of staff? Does the company use staff retention as a success measure? Your employer may be thinking selfishly, you should too.
  • Why weren’t you offered this improvement earlier? Why wait for you to leave? Is your employer’s counter offering you on merit, or just for fear of losing a member of staff? If it is deserved, then why didn’t it come sooner?
  • Think about your reasons for leaving – have these really been addressed? If you’re offered a salary increase, what else pushed you to leave? Maybe you don’t feel like you have autonomy, maybe the role doesn’t challenge you, or you have a poor relationship with your colleagues. It’s rarely just about money.
  • You’ve now demonstrated that you are willing to leave the business. If your colleagues become aware of the situation they may resent your improved package. Your loyalty may be questioned in the future, and your employer may struggle to trust you.
  • You’ve also broken your commitment to your prospective employer. After you’ve gone through the application process, negotiated a salary and accepted an offer, you may damage any chances of future relationships with this company, and be labelled as a timewaster. In a niche industry, you may need to consider the implications for your long-term career and any future job searches.

Taking all of this into account, you may still decide that you’re going to accept the counter offer. Be honest with all parties about the course of action that you intend to take, and make sure that you don’t close off communications without formally declining the offer. The company may need to re-advertise, or there may be another candidate under consideration, and you don’t want to negatively impact on their career or opportunities.

Make sure that you formalise the process with your current employer. They may offer you a better package verbally and never deliver. Don’t put yourself in this position, and don’t negotiate based upon future promises. Ensure that you have a formal counter offer in writing, and get something signed before you decide to walk away from your prospective employer.

More than anything, it’s important to trust your instincts.

Good luck!


Author: Sarah Farrow