Counter Offers – A Job Seekers Guide!

Posted by Lawrence Bond August 18, 2023

As an employee, counter offers are flattering. We all like to hear that we’re indispensable and that we’re valued. It’s also nice to see your current employer trying to move heaven and earth to right their wrongs.

Over the last 20+ years, I’ve dealt with this situation so many times. I’ve been the consultant, the employee and both sides of the employer battle too.

In this article, I’m looking at counter offers from the job seeker’s perspective.

This is often THE most pivotal moment in the entire job seeking process.

To grasp the importance of this moment, let’s review your journey.

You have been offered a new job and naturally this, along with quitting your current role becomes your focus. At this point it is often easy to forget the hard work and challenges you experienced on the way to reaching this situation.

Before looking for a new job you will normally have become frustrated about something, often over a period of time. This often builds up and although not always the case, the issues frustrating you may have been raised, but to no avail.
Therefore you make ‘the’ decision and start the process of moving on.

In many cases you will have invested a great deal of time and effort in producing and fine tuning a CV, writing cover letters or emails, building and improving your LinkedIn profile, searching and applying for jobs, following up the applications, liaising with agencies and consultancies and that’s all before you even get to interview stage.

The interview process for many is stressful and this is often where your effort will have become even more intense.

Research ahead of interviews, finding time and travelling to face-to-face meetings, sorting tech and space for video interviews and working hard to ensure you come across as well as possible.
Some people have had multiple interviews and possibly even several job offers. All of this uses up a lot of energy and focus.

In any scenario, it’s rarely easy or relaxing looking for and securing a new job and when you get to the counter offer, you shouldn’t forget the pain involved on this journey.

When you hand your notice into your current employer, your boss has two main options.

1) Let you depart (ideally on good terms but that’s not always easy).
2) Fight to change your mind and keep you (this can be nice, aggressive or a mix of the two)

I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly happen at this point.

Everyone has different drivers and the most important question I ask job seekers to bear in mind, is what made you want to go through the pain of searching for a new job in the first place?

I always qualify this with my contacts at the start of their process and revisit it at various milestones, however you will be acutely aware of what drove you to look for a new role.

If it is purely for financial reasons that you started searching for a new role, this can be addressed by your current employer. Location challenges are also easier to overcome with remote working being far more commonplace now than ever.

That said, if you raised these points prior to searching for a new role and it wasn’t addressed, I would suggest extreme caution in staying in your current role.

Most other reasons for moving are not as easily overcome and, from experience, I would warn you to be extremely wary about accepting any counter offer. It rarely ends well!

Just realise that whatever your boss offers you, more money, promotion, improved conditions etc, it is nearly always for their benefit.

Counter Offers are more prevalent now than ever as employers attempt to retain knowledge within their business as well as trying to avoid the financial and time implications of replacing a leaver. It’s ultimately an attempt to make their own lives easier.

Yes, they might really like and care for you. They may even believe that they can offer you what you wanted (making it very believable), however if that was really the case, why have you had to go through such a challenging experience before this was addressed?

Your current boss should also know what makes you tick, your interests, likes, dislikes etc. They will often use this and the friendships that exist, to their benefit.

A little bit like a relationship (so I’m told!), the existing employer will try to talk their long-standing partner into giving it another go and promise change!

When I started in recruitment, I saw long lists of reasons NOT to accept counter offers.

Those lists had been compiled by recruitment agencies who were primarily seeking to protects their fees, however I have seen so many candidates ultimately return to the job market within a year or less of accepting counter offers, that I am a true believer of trusting your original decision in nearly all cases.

Although the main reason for rejecting a counter offer is that it shouldn’t have to reach the stage where you quit your job in order to be offered all the riches, praise and promises that you’re probably now receiving, there are numerous other factors to think about:

• Your future loyalty will often be questioned moving forwards. After all, you went to a lot of work behind the scenes without your boss knowing!

• Benefits being offered to keep you could well be in lieu of future rewards. It happens!

• You will always have the ‘what if’ scenario (or sliding doors moment as I call it for those who have seen the film!).

• Will you have the energy and drive to see the job seeking process through again if, as is so often the case, you’re still unhappy in 3, 6 or 12 months time?

• What would staying do to your mental and physical health and well-being?

As mentioned, the above points are all secondary to the overriding issue of your very personal reasoning for looking in the first place.

Don’t forget, if your new employer has shown an understanding, approach and offered an opportunity that your current employer was missing, don’t allow a sense of loyalty to your old boss, or a commercially minded, smooth talker to change your mind.

The loyalty or commercial awareness from your current employer should have been on show before you went on your journey.

Don’t turn back now that you have reached your new destination. However difficult it is to leave a business where there’s an emotional attachment, be strong.

Throughout your notice period, stay focused for the remainder of your time in your current workplace. Some employers will continue to be nice and professional, even increasing their effort to keep you, tugging on those heartstrings and trying to capitalise on your engagement. Others may be less caring. Either way, be mentally prepared and be professional, even if others are not.

I’ve heard some awful stories where employers have felt so frustrated by the rejection of a counter offer, that they have ‘turned’ on the employee, making their remaining time difficult. In these cases, it merely confirms that that the employee made the correct choice.

Either way, stay clear about your future, reassure your new employer regularly as they don’t know what you’re experiencing, and ignore the speed humps and distractions.


Hopefully the above information has helped and if you want to discuss a specific scenario, get in touch.

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