The battle for talent is fiercer than ever, so companies are working harder than ever to keep their key players. Gone are the days that a signed offer letter means a search is “closed”. In fact, ensuring a successful exit can sometimes be the riskiest part of a search. So how do you keep your finalist on the rails in a counteroffer situation? Here are a few tips on how to coach your candidate through this process and avoid the embarrassment and cost of losing to a counteroffer.
Have “the talk” with your finalist prior to the offer stage. It goes something like this…
- Resigning will be tough. You’re very good at your job, so your company is not going to let you go without a fight.
- Based on our discussions, you’re ready to make a change for these reasons (replay the benefits of the new opportunity and the limitations she/he laid out about the current role).
- If you’re even somewhat open to a counteroffer, we should decelerate our discussions.
- It compromises my credibility to ‘go to bat’ for you with my CEO/Board to get you the best offer possible if you’re not serious about the opportunity.
- I can’t risk closing out or putting other finalists on-hold and risk the disruption it would cause if you aren’t strong in your convictions when you resign.
- Assuming we come to alignment around offer terms and reach an agreement, I need to know you’re 100% “in” and would not consider a counter.
- It’s important that we have this conversation now to make sure we’re on the same page and we mitigate risk on both sides.
Offer advice on how to approach the actual resignation.
- Experience shows “ripping the Band-Aid off” is the only way to go. It may feel more painful at the outset, but it ultimately leads to a smoother, more successful departure and transition across the board.
- The company will recover and long-term relationships will remain intact.
- Alternatively, if you pull the Band-Aid off slowly (i.e., “I’m thinking about making a change”), the company will seize any opportunity to keep you. This scenario seldom ends well.
- Don’t give an opening. Your boss (whether it’s the CEO or another senior officer) will extend personal and political capital to keep you – she/he will engage either the Board of Directors or other execs to come up with a compelling counteroffer that ensures you stay.
- This is when long-term relationships are jeopardized. Once this cycle begins, and you still resign, it then becomes personal and “bridge-burning” territory.
- Don’t make it personal. Give reasons for leaving that are outside of your employer’s control — shorter commute, a bigger job, more money, you don’t want to stagnate — anything that doesn’t place blame. Don’t make it anyone’s fault that you’re leaving.
Check out my partner Mike Doonan’s article on five things to avoid when resigning — it’s golden.
In a counteroffer scenario, these are the themes to emphasize to your candidate:
- It tends to be the companies under pressure or struggling to retain talent that pull out all the stops and/or use ambush tactics to persuade execs to stay. You should be flattered — but remain focused on your future. If your employer is working overly hard to keep you, the company and its leadership likely have their own worries. Beware.
- Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go within one year is extremely high. Why? It wreaks havoc on relationships and your image within the company:
- The dynamic with your boss changes.
- Other team members hear about the counteroffer and once that happens your relationship with them won’t be the same—it’s human nature. It affects trust and any promotion or recognition will be viewed as “because you resigned”.
- Your personal mindset will have changed, too. You’re no longer mentally committed. When frustrating things happen, those instances will be magnified like never before. You’ll encounter constant reminders of why you wanted to resign in the first place.
- One pep talk shouldn’t change what you’ve been feeling. Remaining somewhere you don’t want to be for short term cash, or out of guilt, is a bad decision. Invest in the long term by sticking to your convictions.
- Selfishly, your boss knows you’ll be painful to replace; it’ll cost money, time, and resources. Remember: this is short term behavior and your boss is trying to protect him/herself. It’s no longer about you and your well-being.
- Finally, and most importantly – it’s a low integrity move to accept an offer and then change your mind. Reputations get damaged for this type of behavior. It disrupts the company you had committed to join as they will have shut down other candidates in good faith. You don’t want to find yourself in this position.
Give the proverbial bear hug.
After the offer is signed, simple gestures and continued engagement from the hiring company with the candidate go a long way — such as a welcome basket with some branded schwag from their new employer; a celebratory drink/dinner with the team; or a congratulatory call from a board member or peer exec. These gestures can really cement a commitment and remind a candidate that she/he made a great decision by joining your organization!