How to Handle a Counter Offer

In the current job market, highly skilled workers are a valuable resource, and not readily available. As a result, counter offers are on the rise as employers try to retain their skilled workforce. Chances are at some point in your career, after handing in your resignation, you will be given a counter offer by your current employer; but should you accept it?

Four people in a job interview

Ultimately you’re the only one who can answer that question, but here are our top tips to help with your decision-making process on whether to accept a counter offer or not:

Before you start applying for jobs

Think about what would happen if you were counter offered – what would make you want to stay? If you can, approach your manager to discuss any frustrations prior to searching for work – you may be able to solve them without even having to attend an interview. Likewise, think about the reasons why you are looking for a new role, and what you would need from a potential offer in order to accept it.

The application process

In order to place yourself in the most suitable role, it is important to be extremely clear on what it is that you’re looking for and apply only for jobs that will improve your situation. You should be honest with yourself and your recruitment consultant about what you want to achieve and the best ways to do this. Are you looking for an increase in salary? Do you need a role that offers more flexibility? You may find it useful to produce a set of career goals to help you decide whether moving jobs is going to be the right decision, and if it is, what role will be suitable. Your recruiter will be able to offer insights into whether a position in question will meet your needs. Read our advice on how to plan your job search here.

The interview is a good time to discuss the benefits of working for a company, gain an understanding of the progression pathways, training and development opportunities, and to learn more about the role itself. You should use this as your chance to find out everything you can about a company, which will allow you to make a better informed career decision on whether the new role or counter offer is more suitable.

The job offer versus the counter offer

You’ve got this far, and you’re pleased with the opportunity you’ve been given. You speak with your employer to tender your resignation, and you’re surprised with a counter offer. What do you do now?

Consider the following:

  • It may feel flattering, but consider the real motives behind the counter offer. Do your employers value you as an individual or is it easier and cheaper to retain you than to recruit and train a new member of staff? Does the company use staff retention as a success measure? Your employer may be thinking selfishly.
  • What are the reasons you weren’t offered this improvement earlier on? Is your employer’s counter offer based on merit, or for fear of losing a member of staff?
  • Think about your reasons for leaving – have these been addressed by the counter offer? Maybe you don’t feel like you have autonomy, maybe the role doesn’t challenge you, or you have a poor relationship with your colleagues. It is rarely solely about money, therefore consider whether your concerns are going to be met.
  • You’ve now demonstrated that you are willing to leave the business. If your colleagues become aware of the situation they may resent your improved package. Your loyalty may be questioned in the future, and your employer may struggle to trust you.
  • You’ve also broken your commitment to your prospective employer. After you’ve gone through the application process, negotiated a salary and accepted an offer, you may damage any chances of future relationships with this company, and be labelled as a time-waster. In a niche industry, you may need to consider the implications for your long-term career and any future job searches.

Taking all of this into account, you may still decide that you’re going to accept the counter offer. Be honest with all parties about the course of action that you intend to take, and make sure that you don’t close off communications without formally declining the offer. The company may need to re-advertise, or there may be another candidate under consideration.

Further to this, be sure to formalise the process with your current employer. It is important to ensure that you have a formal offer in writing before you decide to walk away from a prospective employer.

More than anything, it’s important to trust your instincts.

You may also like to read: 

9 common mistakes made during job searching and interviews

The 30 second CV test

How to write a specialist cover letter

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