Murphy’s Law: Return of the counter offer

It was November 2008 and just another day as a recruiter as I sat at my desk negotiating an improved offer of employment for an engineer I’d recruited for one of my key clients. It had been such a smooth process until now. The candidate was 100% committed to the process, we’d discussed the possibility and reality of his current employer offering a better deal to keep him, they weren’t going to let him go without a fight, I knew that and felt comfortable he was prepared and had made his decision to move on prior to receiving an offer from my client.

counter offer

I was wrong! After going back and forth several times he’d decided to stay put and leave my key client disappointed to have spent so much time and energy in attracting this person to their business only to be thrown immediately back to square one. What a pain that was, yet it was all too familiar in the years leading up to the global financial crisis which was about to hit.

Several days later the phone rang, the same client called to say thank goodness we didn’t hire that engineer as we now think we may have to let 15-20% of our workforce go. Just like that, I had 10’s of people being let go by my clients. One by one I was getting the call or email from my clients asking me to assist with finding employment for the people they had let go. From recruiter to careers counsellor overnight my role changed dramatically!

Almost 7 years forward and we are all stronger for the experience. Both employers and employees remember the tough times we all experienced like it was yesterday, the uncertainty, the reality of consequences brought by poor business decisions and economic conditions, yet have we learnt from this? Have we truly learnt from how things were pre-GFC and the years immediately following the GFC?

Can employers adapt to the changing market?


Employers over the past few years have been slow in recruitment processes, slow to make hiring decisions, too much red tape, directors and decision makers not giving recruitment priority therefore not being available when required to sign off on offers. Will they now have the ability to adapt to the current market? Employers have to realise that attracting, securing and retaining talent now requires a more streamlined approach to the slow, disfunctional processes which have largely been the norm over the past few years.

Until now, employers had the luxury of multiple candidates to choose from, luxury of time in making hiring decisions however the hiring managers who recognise the need to adapt will do well over the coming period if they improve their recruitment processes and attraction strategies.

The Ugly Counter Offer


Until November 2008, earlier or later in some sectors, employees were on easy street, great working conditions, work life balance, yet any suggestion of leaving your job and there was a minimum 10% pay rise offered to keep you. This gave employees the power as the skills shortage had peaked, no demand seemed too high.

As the economy has improved gradually, whilst we aren’t experiencing times like we had over 7 years ago the market in most sectors has already shifted to once again being a candidate short market. So have candidates or employees learned from what we’ve been through?

Short sightedness bites! Candidates who were ruthless, greedy and selfish pre GFC were caught out over the past 7 years as employers hadn’t forgotten this. We must remember the reasons we look to leave our current job, what we aren’t happy about and that more money does not change this. If it is more money you believe you deserve, discuss this with your employer now rather than using another employer to achieve this pay rise for you.

We are now experiencing the counter offer more and more, employers are trying to keep their staff as they know it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find highly skilled employees available. As this trend matures I’d like to remind both employers and employees that the majority of candidates who accept counter offers eventually leave their job within 6 months of the counter offer.

Both employers and employees must get to the bottom of the reasons for a person seeking alternative employment before assuming more money will resolve these issues.

The counter offer doesn’t necessarily improve staff performance, nor keep the staff member happy so I suggest we tread carefully with this before we slip back into the habits we had pre GFC.