What’s the real truth behind counter offers?
Posted by Mitch on 30th April 2014
For as long as I can remember, 3rd party recruiters have held the view that candidates accepting counter-offers is a bad idea – not just for them and their fee, but also for the candidate’s immediate career prospects.
The most popular rationale used to justify this is that once a candidate accepts a counter-offer, their employer will no longer trust them and that their time there will be limited.
It used to be a point of view that I also subscribed to – especially back in the day when I was a contingency recruiter. It’s an easy opinion to buy into when you’ve had a piece of business fall out of bed because the candidate decided to stay where they were.
There are hundreds of blogs and articles urging candidates to never accept a counter-offer. And, true to social media’s new new obsession with easy to digest graphics, I saw this today:
But how true is this?
The figure of 93% seemed unreasonably high and not consistent with my experiences (albeit remembered anecdotally) of dealing with these issues – especially when working inhouse.
The graphic cites the source of this statistic as a study carried out by The Wall Street Journal.
I did a little digging around on the Internet. I started with the Wall Street Journal and found no links (or mentions) of this study but instead, found two articles that referenced it – as did many of the other blogs/articles I looked at.
Eventually, I found what I think is the answer.
The study cited by the WSJ was done in the 1970s. A time when work practices, skill-shortages and attitudes towards employers were very different to how they are today. Incredibly different in fact.
According to a discussion I found in a business forum, a more up-to-date study (around 9 years ago) had surveyed 200 people who had previously received counter-offers and it had found that just over 50% of them had left their job within 6 months and that just under half were still successfully employed there at least 1 year on.
So, while this new information doesn’t exactly expose the above graphic as a total myth, it does suggest that it’s based on a weak premise and prone to massive exaggeration.
I guess a graphic that illustrates that accepting a counter-offer has about a 50/50 chance of a positive outcome isn’t going to be quite as sensationalist as one that predicts impending doom.
Interestingly, most of the blogs and articles on counter-offers that I saw that quoted the WSJ study, simply linked to another blog claiming the same thing and in turn, linking to a similar blog.
Which is basically like writing an article based on what some bloke down the pub said.
I think it’s entirely possible that much of what’s written about counter-offers is bullshit.