The Oxford hiring market report: Counter offers are creating havoc



It’s fair to say that here at Corriculo we talk to a lot of hiring and HR managers. As well as recruiting for their IT vacancies, we like to find out what their challenges are. The number one complaint they have in the Oxford area is a lack of candidates being exacerbated by a high rate of accepted counter offers. If you’ve gone through the full interview process (which can cost considerable time and money), the last thing that you want is for someone to accept your offer, and then accept a counter offer. The chances are that you would have burned your bridges with your second choice; no-one wants to be second best and so you will have to start the process all over again. This isn’t just a problem though recruitment agencies, it is a problem our clients are experiencing through all their recruitment methods. We know of several companies that have had at least 5 consecutive hires fall through because of counter offers.


Why are so many companies making counter offers now?
Well, if you work in HR or have tried to hire anyone in the past few months, you will know that there is a shortage of suitable candidates across many different sectors. It is something that technical roles are particularly suffering with at the moment. The last thing companies want to do is lose the staff they already have if they are struggling to hire new ones anyway. In short, it’s easier for you to keep the current person, even if just for a short time.

A counter offer is usually just delaying the inevitable with approx. 80% of people who accept counter offers ending up leaving within 6 months anyway. That 6 months though can allow you to find a replacement and you might need that long, as counter offers are making the hiring process longer for everyone as you have to keep starting again. If everyone is counter offering because they think their new hires will be counter offered, eventually it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For more on why counter offers are a bad idea check out my recent blog here.


Why are candidates more likely to accept counter offers now?
Partially this is because the self-fulfilling prophecy is starting to become a reality. Counter offers are so common that it is almost inevitable that candidates will receive some form of offer when quitting. Some candidates are job hunting with the main purpose of getting a counter offer from their current employer. Also there have been some international issues recently that may have made people think twice about accepting a new role; the Grexit, unemployment figures etc.

One of the main reasons though is that a counter offer is flattering. If someone thought they were undervalued and suddenly they are being offered a promotion and a pay rise, why wouldn’t they stay? As I’ve mentioned though, it’s usually just a short term fix but it still makes people think twice.


What can hiring managers do to stop counter offers ruining their recruiting?
I personally think not enough is done during the recruitment process to tackle counter offers before they are made. Being forewarned is being forearmed. No-one wants to ask “what will make you stay with your current employer?” This is an attitude that needs to change. When hiring, you need to know, before any offer is made;

  • How likely is it that the candidate will be counter offered?
  • Take the answer with a pinch of salt – they may not know what the company policy is
  • What would their current employer be able to offer that would make them stay?
  • Don’t ask “is there anything that they could offer?” It’s too easy to say no
  • Is that enough to overcome the reasons for leaving their current role?
  • Are you able to match or exceed that offer so you do overcome those reasons?
  • Once you have the answers to these questions you should have an idea if a candidate is likely to accept a counter offer. If they will, they don’t make them an offer in the first place. Go for your second choice.

Your recruiter should be doing a lot of this groundwork for you, but making sure you have this information will hopefully reduce the number of accepted counter offers you have to deal with.

You might also need to look at your internal recruitment process. Are you giving candidates enough information throughout the process to know that they are making the right decision? Are you offering the right salary? Are you looking after them once the offer has been made and accepted? Issues with any of these simple things could increase your risk of a counter offer being accepted.
Victoria Watkins is Office Manager here at Corriculo Ltd. After working as a Recruitment Consultant for 5 years she moved to Office Management for an IT consultancy 6 years ago. Victoria was one of the first members of our team and deals with all of our administration and accounts. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter


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