Counter That! How to Handle Counteroffers

When it comes to counteroffers from a candidate to whom you have extended an offer, proceed with caution. It is best to plan for the possibility of your offer being countered so you can respond quickly with a prepared response without stalling the process. Time lost at this stage of the game can hurt the potential new hire’s impression of your company.

Candidates arrive at counteroffers in different ways:

Their current boss begs them to stay. This could be because their employer sees them as an irreplaceable member of the team and their leaving would be damaging to the company. Or their employer is simply being short-sighted and not considering the best interest of the employee. If a candidate comes to you with a counteroffer in this situation, my advice is to decline to negotiate further. You’re creating a short-term solution for a long-term contingency, and the candidate would be wise to understand the eventual outcome of accepting an offer to stay.

They have been actively seeking other roles and have competing offers on the table. In this case, the candidate is in a situation where he or she is weighing options and wants to give you the opportunity to meet or exceed the other offer. This typically happens when the candidate truly wants to work for you and feels it is important to counter your offer and risk you saying “no” so they can make that difficult decision. In this scenario, a counteroffer is suggested if you can understand from the candidate what they are looking for to say “yes” to your offer and determine if it is within the guidelines you set for a possible counteroffer.

They were truly only passively looking for another opportunity and your offer is not what they envisioned to warrant making a move. This scenario often blindsides you as the employer and, if not properly prepared with a plan to counteroffer, can lead to a disappointing end to your recruitment of that hard-sought-after talent. Try to find out early in your conversations with passive candidates what motivates them to talk to you. What do they want to accomplish in their next career move? And what is it they want to leave behind in their current role and company? If you find out your company cannot offer the candidate what they are looking for, eliminate them early so you’re not disappointed in the end. If you determine what you can offer fits with what they’ve envisioned, ask them about current salary and benefits so you know what you’re up against as you move along the recruitment process.

Keep in mind that counteroffers can blindside the candidate as well, leading to frustration and stress. Have a plan to manage this step of the recruitment process effectively in a way that causes minimal anxiety for both parties.

For tips on handling your candidate's counteroffer, click below.

Counter That!

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Cole is an associate with You can find advice on recruiting, talent management and more on the Talent Harvest Blog.  Visit to learn more.


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