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Beware the false positive

Applying for a job is not necessarily a strong signal that a candidate wants another job.

Attending an interview is not necessarily a strong signal that a candidate wants another job.

Progressing through a hiring process is not necessarily a strong signal that a candidate wants another job.

Receiving a written offer from another employer is, sometimes, the objective of a candidate’s job search – they prefer to stay with their current employer but they need another offer to force their current employer to stump up more money.

Although recruiters, and hiring employers, bemoan this insincere job-seeking behaviour the evidence overwhelmingly shows that job-seekers are quite rational in doing so – because it works.

A new report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released earlier this week surveyed 2,003 HR professionals and decision-makers in the UK from June to July 2023, and found that employers are giving counteroffers at a higher rate than in previous years.

Of employers who made counteroffers, 38% made offers that matched the salary of the new job offer, 40% offered higher sums and 51% have increased the number of counteroffers they have given over the last 12 months.

London employers were the most frequent users of counteroffers with 58% of London firms saying they’ve made a counteroffer in the last 12 months.

The commonly accepted wisdom, used by recruiters to dissuade a candidate from accepting a counter offer, is that accepting a counter offer is only a short-term fix – the underlying reasons for wanting to leave remain and “you’ll be back on the market within six months” and, “even if you stay your loyalty is suspect” and “your relationship with your manager will never be the same”.

Unfortunately, for recruiters, the most recent survey evidence suggests these types of statements are mostly untrue.

A 2021 survey conducted in the United States by recruitment industry vendor Back Office Staffing Solutions revealed that a majority of employees who receive a counteroffer accept it and, subsequently have a better relationship with their employer

Of the 2061 survey respondents 83% said they were either likely or very likely to consider a counter offer and of the 38% of respondents who reported receiving a counter offer almost three-quarters (73%) accepted the offer.

Almost all of those employees who accepted a counter offer reported the subsequent relationship with their boss was no worse with  94% of those surveyed saying their relationship post-counteroffer with their employer was either the same or better, with a majority, 59%, stating that the relationship was either better or much better.  Only 5.5% claimed that it was either worse or much worse.

The average employee tenure after accepting a counter offer was just short of three and a half years at 41 months (the average tenure of all US employees in all permanent jobs is around 50 months), indicating, fairly comprehensively, that for a large majority of employees who accept counter offers the extra cash is more than sufficient compensation for whatever other work dissatisfactions they may have harboured.

Avoid recruitment myths.

The reality is candidates want counter offers; they will accept counter offers and, increasingly employers are giving in to the difficulties of attempting to replace valuable employees by tabling a counter offer that’s worth accepting.

Related blogs

Counter-offer reality: Show me the money!

How committed to their job search is your candidate…really?

The boom is back (part 2): wages set to jump (along with counter offers)

Why candidates decline job offers (and what to do about it)

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It is always a little bit cringeworthy when you hear that old saying being trotted out that (insert randomly generated % which is somehow different every time) of employees who accept counter offers are back on the market within six months. I don’t recall ever finding a strong source of data for this ‘fact.’

Recruiters should focus on critically evaluating how much of a risk their candidate is for receiving and accepting such an offer and managing that risk actively – if you’re left with no other path but to wheel this old line out, you’ve probably already lost the placement.

Just as recruiters should be sceptical of the original counter offer myth, they should be sceptical of any other data before putting their names to it, the surveys above aren’t exactly definitive and are quite limited in a variety of ways (especially the US one). The most relevant info to you is always going to be what you see happening in your own market as compared to broad all encompassing surveys and trends.

Ross Clennett

I completely agree, Scott. In fact, the full text of Back Office Staffing Solution research makes specific reference to the lack of evidence supporting the “you’ll be back looking in six months” claim (urban myth) often made by recruiters

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