Fast Track Recruitment

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 obsession with easy to digest graphics, I saw this today:

imageBut 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.


By Tim on Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Thank you!  Can you provide a citation to the more recent study? And to the 1970s WSJ study?


By Mitch on Wednesday, 25 November 2015

It was a while ago Tim, sorry.

I’m sure you can find it, it only took me about 10 minutes.

By Mark Pearce on Monday, 12 September 2016

I read your comment to a recent blog about this, over the weekend, Mitch. A very interesting take. Having written a blog earlier this year (yes, I was one of those quoting the X% back on the market in X months etc) I initially researched Forbes and the HBR to collate my figures. Reading your take on this and the Gent who wrote the blog, it has certainly given me food for thought and a good alternative to review my blog moving forwards. I like your take on it!

Best wishes, Mark.

By alex on Wednesday, 02 January 2019

I appreciate your sharing. I must say that your shared information is very useful for me as well as other readers.

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