When Your Top Finance Recruit Gets a Counter Offer

Counter offers should be expected, as nobody wants to lose their best people. It is a lot easier for a company to make a counter offer to an employee who is being hired away than it is to try to find a new person -- especially in the case of top talent.

 
In some strange way a counter offer is a good thing. It signals that the candidate’s current company values them. It is an indication that the person you are recruiting is top talent. That is a good thing.
 
The bad news is, now what? How should you, the new company, handle the counter offer? Should more money be offered? Should the new company match the offer? Walk away and start the hiring process all over again? Negotiate with the candidate?
 
There are lots of options, none of which are all that great. Here are four ideas on how to deal with the counter offer.
 
Commit the Candidate to You
It has been my experience that few companies ever discuss the potential counter offer with the candidate. It just never comes up. This is a mistake. The hiring manager should begin discussing the potential of a counter offer as soon as there is genuine interest in the candidate. This may be at the end of the first interview.
 
I have never yet heard a hiring manager say to a candidate, “We want to proceed with you and would like to bring you back to meet more people. I want to respect their time and yours. If we proceed, I’m curious as to how you will deal with a counter offer should your current company make one?”
 
This is important because now you are starting to tie the person down. Few candidates even think about the counter offer. By asking this question, you are beginning the process of getting the candidate to commit to you. They are starting to put their word on the line.
 
After every interview, you should continue to tie the candidate down by adding more ropes. Before the offer is made, the hiring manager should once again ask: “We are going to proceed to the offer, however, before I do that I would like to understand more about how you will deal with a counter offer should it happen?”
 
Follow up with: “We hire only top talent. I view you as that and I know if you were on my staff, I would be concerned if you left. What will you say to your current CEO when called into their office to discuss what it will take to keep you? What will your comments be?”
 
Once the offer is made you can add one more tie. “I want to make sure you don’t burn any bridges when you leave your company. What are you going to say to your boss when you give notice?”
 
What you are trying to discover is whether the candidate is leaving the door open to a counter offer or if he or she has made up their mind: “I’ve given my word and I’m completely committed to this new opportunity.”
 
This may sound like overkill but it sure beats having to deal with all the issues if a counter offer happens.
 
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