Counter offer! A candidate who has accepted a new job is “sold back” by his employer. The nightmare of the recruiter!

What has happened until we got here?

We have done a full search and talked to 150 candidates, sometimes more to identify those who are a) interesting (meet the criteria) and b) interested (want to move for that job). We have interviewed the best and presented our shortlist with 3 or 4 candidates we have approved and taken a reference on. One remains and s/ he gets an offer. Which s/ he rejects for a counter offer from his/ her current company.

What are the reasons why candidates accept counter offers?

I counted them. To me, there are three reasons why you could accept a counter offer: 1) You are weak, 2) You play games with your current employer and the potentially new one or 3) You do not know what you want.

None of these is a good reason. Only bad ones.

And indeed, research shows that 90% of candidates who have accepted a counter offer are not around any more 1 year later. And this is for good reasons: after all, they have told their employers that they are unfaithful, that they have betrayed them. Once you have said “I want to leave”, this cannot be taken back.

Let’s have a look at the three reasons:

  1. You are weak: So you go to your boss and say you want to leave and then take that back? Are you kidding us? Black is black and white is white. Which were the reasons that made you say this? Resigning or negotiating a departure should only be the last resort. When you have tried everything else. What will change now if you accept the counter offer? Will you suddenly begin to appreciate your boss if you did not before? Will you buy into your company’s strategy if you rejected it until yesterday? Will you be more motivated for some extra bucks? Unlikely
  2. You play games with your current employer and your potential new one: Is it maybe all a trick? Did you never really want to leave and use this to get a promotion/ pay rise/ recognition that pushed you to say what you said? Think twice: the worst thing you can say to someone in a (professional) relationship is “I want to leave you”. It is not a negotiation technique or rhetoric strategy. It is something very severe: it is the sign that you are not loyal (anymore). Whatever the reaction, you have lost credibility. Trust is broken. It is over
  3. You don’t know what you want: OK, this is maybe the only reason why you may be excused. With much, much, much goodwill. You may have little experience resigning. You may test your ground. Or you really love your job itself, your colleagues and clients, just not that new boss or colleague. Maybe you said it but you do not really want it. Is it then the best solution to take a resignation back? Not sure. It can be a shock therapy for your employer though. Still: trust is broken and stats (see above) are against you


Earl Nightingale said: “The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!”

If you are in control of your career, accepting a counter offer should not happen to you. At one point of time, when you have tried everything else, it is time to move on. This is a hard decision but a necessary one. The only person who really cares for your career are you. In addition, changing companies makes you stay alert and keeps your profile competitive, it brings dynamics into the job market – and it pays our rent at the end of the month.

Here at Apollo we have few candidates who accept a counter offer. This is a question of experience and controlling the process: we usually make the offer, not our clients. We test our candidates’ willingness to resign thoroughly and if we are not convinced, we do not move forward. If you are a hiring manager and want to know my three killer questions to be sure I will go to the end with that candidate, follow us on LinkedIn and then (not before; after) reach out to me to get them.