I’ve spoken with some other recruiters here about the issue of counter-offers; a major pain in the you-know-what for recruiters trying to fill roles. I know you are imagining a number of attractive, sophisticated recruiters discussing this issue over a bottle of wine, right? Hee! Sorry. It usually come about in hallway conversation like “my candidate just called me and told me he got a counter-offer and he’s actually considering it!”. So anyway, as a recruiter, it’s a reality you have to coach people through and for the highly skilled candidate, it’s probably something you are going to run into at some point in your career. So let me give a little advice on the whole counter-offer scenario. Net: don’t take it.
So here’s the scenario: say you have interviewed for a position at a new company. Something motivated you to put that resume together, get all dressed up and take some time off from work. So you do great in the interviews (because you read my blog, of course…I’m just saying!) and are offered the job. When you go in to give notice at your current job, you are presented with a counter offer. You start to consider accepting the counter offer…you won’t have to move, you won’t have to learn a new company, you don’t have to take the risk that you might not be as successful at the new company as you are at your current company.
Companies present counter offers to keep their intellectual property from walking out the door. This is about them, not you.
By interviewing, you have shown your employer that you are not 100% loyal to them. It’s ridiculous that any company would demand unconditional loyalty from their employees, but many do. Just the act of letting them know that you have interviewed proves that you are a flight risk, even if you agree to stay now.
That big pay increase and promotion that they just offered you? Wouldn’t you feel better about receiving it without having to threaten to leave? Wouldn’t you want your employer to offer it to you because they appreciate your work rather than because they are fearful that you are leaving?
During your interviews with the new company, you probably told them why you were looking; some reasons why you would consider a new opportunity at this time. What about a counter-offer changes those things for you? If you were concerned about career progressions…is that changed by a counter-offer? If you were bored in your job….is that changed by a counter-offer?
I’ve had to coach some candidates through some pretty sticky resignations…no details or names but sometimes leaving a company and job that you have invested in is really tough. Here’s what I recommend to make it easier (funny that I am coaching people on how to leave a job, but really you have to leave the old one to come to the new one…right?). So here are some tips I want to share with you:
1) Put it in writing. Simple language documenting your resignation and thanking your company for whatever (10 great years, believing in me…whatever). This puts a friendlier feel to the actual resignation and seeing it on paper makes it “real” for the recipient. Don’t get too elaborate.
2) Don’t share details of your new offer, even if you feel guilty about giving notice. Your new offer is your personal business.
3) Chances are that you are going to be asked why, why, why would you ever leave us? I don’t really recommend going into a lot of detail here. Any reason you have should be communicated in terms of what you are moving toward versus what you are leaving behind (for example, “Microsoft called and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work there” not “this job is boring and I’m not really sure that this company is going to generate any revenue”).
4) Don’t belabor the point. I would try to gracefully end the conversation. There’s a good chance that the conversation could get emotional because the manager is going to take it personally or will try to appeal to your sense of loyalty to get you to stay. Be firm…you made your decision. Feel free to get the heck out of there if you are uncomfortable with the conversation. Go back to your desk and continue your work.
5) Be nice on the way out. I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at how grateful a company will be when you have outlined a plan to transition your work or train your replacement. Don’t burn bridges…even yucky bridges that you would never plan crossing again (yikes…metaphor overload…sorry). Also, you are not required to do an exit interview. It’s your choice either way, obviously, but if the idea of doing one gives you hives or you feel there could be any hostility, don’t do it. The data collected during exit interviews is often used for positive change in an organization. If you do one, try to keep it positive (bridges burning…fire fire fire)…if you want to vent, vent at home…at work it only fans the flames (OK, I am a little proud of that metaphore montage).
6) Don’t be surprised if you are walked to the door. This happens all the time. Sometimes it’s corporate policy, sometimes it’s because you are in a customer facing role and the company doesn’t want departing employees interfacing with their customers, sometimes it’s because the manager isn’t handling your resignation very well and doesn’t want to have to face you for two more weeks. If you had any personal items that you would feel uncomfortable packing in front of someone else, they should already be gone.
7) Meet with HR to understand any agreements you have signed (non-disclosure agreements, for example), how to transition your 401K, whether you will get a pay-out for your unused vacation time, etc.
There are a lot of articles out there on counter-offers (seriously, just search “counter offers”) and I don’t know anyone who recommends accepting one. In fact, you ‘ll find statistics that show that people that do accept a counter offer rarely remain at their workplace for any significant period of time afterward. They either quit because the things that made them want to leave the first time still make them want to leave, or they are let go because their employer just kept them around long enough for a replacement. Either way, the employee doesn’t benefit.
So I’m just offering this advice in the spirit of making thoughtful and beneficial career decisions. And of course, if you are thinking about making a change, we hope you are thinking about Microsoft…Sorry, had to add that plug…but I waited until the end ; )