The Evolution of a Candidate Accepting a Counteroffer – And how to deal with it as a Recruiter

E000249Is there anything worse than when a candidate accepts a counteroffer?

In recruiting, especially at a staffing company, there are a lot of ups and downs. Deals can fall through for any number of reasons. Between all of the parties involved and the variables that recruiters have to take into account, finding and placing the right candidate is an intricate balance between understanding the candidate and client needs, along with some good timing. As such, when a great candidate accepts a counteroffer at or after the closing stage, it’s painful to deal with.

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Follow along with the evolution of a candidate accepting a counteroffer, ways you can preempt it, and how to handle it if it happens.

How to Preempt or Predict a Counteroffer During the Recruiting Process

I believe the best way to preempt a candidate going for a counteroffer is to understand their true motivations at the beginning of the process. Find out why they’re looking for a new opportunity; whether it’s growth in their career, trying to escape dated technology, their commute is too long, the culture at the company isn’t right, or they’re working with a manager whose style doesn’t coincide with their own. You have to really, really dive deep and ask them follow-up questions to make sure a career change is a well-thought-out decision. Spend the time upfront to get the full picture behind why they’re looking to move on, and be a talent advisor throughout the entire process.

I think, deep down inside, recruiters always have an idea of whether or not a counteroffer could be a possibility. There’s a multitude of indicators that should be red flags. If the candidate goes off the radar, if the candidate stops returning calls as fast as they were, if they don’t send the offer letter back as quickly as they were supposed to, if they don’t complete their background check back as quickly as they were supposed to, and so on.

There’s SO much communication that takes place during the recruitment process. Conversations regarding the possibility of a counteroffer should be one of them. Train your recruiters to have the conversation about counteroffers at the very beginning of the process, before the interview stage and during the debriefing stage.

What to do When a Candidate Accepts the Counteroffer

Despite doing your due diligence, people can be unpredictable. So when a candidate actually ends up taking a counteroffer, it’s a pretty tough thing for recruiters. One, because you’re losing the opportunity to put that candidate at a company that you’ve worked hard for but, two, you know that counteroffers rarely ever work out. In fact, according to Christopher Elmes of the Capital H Group, a human-capital consulting firm, studies show the average employee stays with his/her employer less than a year after accepting a counteroffer.

So what next steps should be taken when the deed is done?

It’s all about making as quick of a recovery as possible. First thing’s first, you need to communicate the news to the hiring manager immediately. While this definitely won’t be the most fun conversation, take a deep breath and get right to it. State the facts; be honest and upfront about the situation. Most of the time, when it happens, both parties all blindsided by it. Be prepared to speak about next steps.

Hopefully you have a couple of qualified candidates still in your back pocket. If not, it’s time to start your recruitment process over again, from scratch. Getting it done as quickly as possible with a high sense of urgency is of the utmost importance. You know that there’s a desk at your client’s site ready to have somebody in the seat. Act quickly and swiftly to get a new person in front of the hiring manager.

There are no shortcuts to recruiting the right way, and everyone will take losses from time to time. Follow the advice in this article and hopefully you can minimize the possibility of your all-star candidate accepting a counteroffer, while keeping a pipeline of candidates for insurance.

MORE: The Real Essentials for Attracting Millennials, and Keeping Them

Ryan Clutterbuck

Ryan Clutterbuck
Ryan Clutterbuck is chief operating officer at The DAVIS Companies.

Ryan Clutterbuck
Ryan Clutterbuck is chief operating officer at The DAVIS Companies.

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