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6 tips to avoid losing rock-star candidates to counteroffers


In a tight job market, losing a good candidate to a counteroffer from their current employer is common. It’s even more likely to happen if the person’s expertise is highly specialized or hard to find.

How should your company react to counteroffers? How can you win over job candidates when it happens? What are the best strategies for talking to candidates in this situation?  

Here are six strategies to increase the likelihood of your company staying on the winning side of a counteroffer battle.

1. Anticipate counteroffers

The use of counteroffers increases as the unemployment rate drops and the time it takes to fill positions grows. It’s vital that you anticipate competition for candidates and defend against counteroffers, particularly for those working in hard-to-fill jobs such as sales, IT, nursing and technical fields.

One way to prepare for counteroffers is to ask specific questions in the interview process that provide your hiring team necessary insights into the candidate’s mindset and goals:

  • Do you expect your current employer to make a counteroffer to keep you? What will be your response?
  • Are you interviewing with other organizations besides ours? Where are you in the hiring process with those companies?

To win out over a counteroffer, you must first understand why the applicant is looking for another job. Does she want better compensation, more responsibility, greater career opportunities, a shorter commute or an improved work-life balance?

Once you know their motivations for leaving, you have the information you need to best combat counteroffers.

During the interview and job offer, this knowledge allows you to focus your discussions on the aspects of the job that meet their stated needs. When a counteroffer happens, you’ll be able to remind the candidate of why they wanted to leave in the first place and why your company will best meet their goals.

2. Simplify and speed your hiring processes

Your business must make a good impression on job candidates from the moment they see your job posted online. Ensure your ads are well written, your requirements are realistic and your screening process is respectful and quick.

It’s also critical that hiring managers understand the expected time frame for conducting interviews and making a final hiring decision. A manager who is bogged down in day-to-day tasks may not realize that they need complete the interviews in a matter of days, not weeks.

If they take too long to schedule interviews, schedule too many interviews or dally when deciding who to hire, then you’re at risk of your best candidates losing interest.   

3. Make sure your offer is competitive

When it comes time to make an offer, ensure it’s your best offer. A tough labor market isn’t the time to play games or go cheap when it comes to nabbing talent.

Know the competitive landscape that candidates are operating in. Conduct market research to find out whether your salary range and benefits are competitive with companies in your industry and geographic area.

When budgets are tight, it can be hard to accept that compensation is the cause of your hiring holdups. However, it will be more difficult to win job candidates with lackluster pay and benefits.

4. Keep the offer simple

Make it easy for a candidate to say yes by making your offer clear and concise. The offer letter should specify:

  • Hourly wage or monthly salary, plus any bonuses, stock options, commissions or profit sharing
  • Medical, dental and vision benefits, including the provider, enrollment deadline and effective date, and the payroll deduction
  • Other benefits such as flex accounts, volunteer opportunities, life insurance, learning opportunities, or retirement accounts
  • Notification that employment is at-will

You want to make the process of saying yes to your company’s offer as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible.

5. Counter the counteroffer

If a counteroffer comes, it’s important that your recruiter and hiring manager spend time helping the candidate consider the pros and cons. Talk to them about their current and future jobs, and help them focus on why they decided to seek a new position in the first place.

This is chance to use the knowledge you gained from your early questions about their motivations. Remind the prospective employee about the opportunities you offer for career growth through challenging projects, or how the shorter commute will give them more time with their kids.

It also may help to let the candidate know that close to 40 percent of workers who accept their employer’s counteroffer leave within a year anyway, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

6. Treat them like VIPs

It’s important to consider the candidate experience. Make each candidate feel like a VIP by keeping in touch and communicating your timeline. The last thing you want is to keep your prospects wondering when they’ll get an offer and where they stand in the interview process.

It may be difficult for some hiring managers to understand that job candidates have options, often many options, when it comes to where they work. It’s important for managers to remember that they’re not just filling a hole in the org chart – they’re courting this individual.

That courtship begins with the application process and doesn’t end until the person begins their first day. After the offer is accepted, do more than call regularly.

Show them that you’re excited for them to join your team. You can do this by asking the person to lunch or coffee, invite them to tour a facility or attend a special event. If you can begin to introduce them to future coworkers so that those first-day jitters are eased, all the better.

You need an efficient hiring and onboarding system to support your company’s growth. Find out how to beat the competition for employees when you download The Insperity Guide to Recruiting and Hiring.