7 Tips to Prevent Job Candidates From Accepting a Counteroffer

By Brenda R. Smyth

You’ve spent many hours sifting through résumés and interviewing candidates. You narrow the field to your top three applicants, bring them in for a final interview, make your decision and your offer…. And it’s accepted!
A day or two later, the candidate calls to tell you his current company has made a counteroffer and he’s decided to stay where he is. Obviously, you have two other strong candidates to choose from, but is there something you can do (or could have done) to help prevent counteroffer acceptance? Here are some suggestions:

-Once you’ve begun collecting résumés, keep things moving at a quick pace. Waiting weeks to begin interviews and then spending too much time selecting candidates for second interviews can seem like a red flag to applicants.
-Early in the interview process, talk about why the candidate is leaving his or her current job and how his or her company will react. Author Paul Falcone suggests finding out if money is a primary motivator. The question of counteroffers fits nicely into the discussion about the work the prospect is currently doing and why he or she is planning to leave. If the candidate indicates that compensation is a large part of the equation, Falcone suggests that you advise him to discuss his needs with his boss now. “Joe, why don’t you go back and speak with your department head about your needs before we go any further? If you get the extra money you’re looking for, then you’ll have to agree that my suggestion was good for your career.  On the other hand, if you don’t get the added compensation that you’re looking for, then call me back and I’ll address our offer a little more seriously.” Another approach might be to ask why the individual wants to work for your organization. If she’s done her research, she’ll have some solid reasons.
Be passionate about your organization and the job. Don’t sugar coat. But do be enthusiastic about the great things your company has to offer. Mention the perks so doing the math is easy. Remember, they can’t be completely satisfied with their existing job or they wouldn’t be interviewing.
Make a competitive offer. Know the salary range for the position. And give the job candidate your best offer verbally and then in writing. Include the wage and any bonuses, commission or profit sharing. Outline all benefits in an uncomplicated way.
Handle hiring paperwork quickly. While you do want to give candidates time to consider the offer you make, be sure that the offer letter reaches the candidate the same day you make the verbal offer. Delays in getting this paperwork out leave room for candidates to change their minds or secure counteroffers. Quick, efficient handling also shows the candidate that getting him or her on board is a priority for you.
Stay in touch with the candidate after you’ve made the offer and it’s been accepted.  Let them know about new things happening at the company. Email press releases. Send details about what to expect on the first day along with any forms you need completed. Have your HR department call to touch base (this is in addition to, not instead of, your own personal contact). Or call and invite them to lunch before their actual start date.  These contacts can help keep your candidate mentally involved from the get-go.

Counter the counteroffer. Remind the individual of the reasons they gave you for wanting to leave their current organization, along with the things that seemed to pique their interest about the new position.
Finding and hiring the perfect job candidate can be tricky and time consuming. Don’t let counteroffers from current employers undermine your efforts. Anticipate these offers and counteroffer-proof your candidates…and don’t let your recruitment efforts be derailed.

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