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Should I Accept My Employer’s Counter-Offer?

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With the unemployment rate at near record lows and job openings near record highs, now is a great time to explore job options, especially if your current position leaves a few things to be desired. Opportunities are plentiful.

However, since losing a valuable employee can be more costly than hiring a new one, employers faced with your departure are also more likely to extend a counter-offer to keep you around.

Should you accept your employer’s counter-offer, or move on?

To find out how to handle this increasingly common conundrum, we asked Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Lead Matt Wiehe for advice. Wiehe has seen all manner and variety of counter-offers during his seven years as a professional recruiter.

When is it a good idea to accept a counter-offer?

Generally, counter-offers don’t result in employee longevity. The average employee stays with a company less than one year after accepting a counter-offer, and half of them re-initiate a job search within 90 days.

What about specifically to Wiehe’s experience? “In seven years of follow-ups,” says Wiehe, “I have never talked to anybody who stayed after accepting a counter-offer that was happy or got what they wanted.”

“Never?” That’s pretty convincing.

It’s also worth considering the ways counter-offers tend to fall short of expectations. “The worst case scenario,” says Wiehe, “is when I check back with people after they accepted a counter-offer and it turns out they actually never got the raise or promotion they were promised.”

The surest way to know if a counter-offer is in your best interest is to think back on your motivation for exploring other job opportunities in the first place. “If the underlying issues haven't changed,” says Wiehe, “then more money or a new title will do little to heal old wounds.”

For more tips evaluating whether a company is the right place for you, check out a previous article “Not Sure About a Company’s Culture? Trust Your Gut.

What about situations where getting a counter-offer is the goal?

If you like your current position and just want to explore your options simply for the purpose of gauging your market value, an external job offer could prove helpful in salary negotiations with your current employer. You might also want to check out SHRM’s Salary Survey Directory for some insight into what your HR folks are looking at when they’re benchmarking salaries.

In cases where a counter-offer from your current employer is the primary goal of your job search, accepting a counter-offer may be more likely to work out for you in the immediate-term. However, one should use this tactic only very sparingly over the course of a career.

“If you get a reputation for trying to get counter-offers and just being about money, it's going to eventually hurt in the long run,” warns Wiehe. “I've had companies tell me, before we even start talking about candidates, that they don't want to interview a particular candidate because of their reputation within the local industry networks.”

How can a counter-offer help with continued career development?

Accepting a counter-offer that includes a raise, promotion or increase in responsibilities might position you better for your next job search, but it’s an open question whether this will help as much as a job switch.

“If your current company values you higher now, that increase could push you into a more senior bracket of qualifications the next time you look for something,” says Wiehe, “but if you still have the same underlying issues with regard to the way you’re treated, you’ll probably eventually want to compromise some of that compensation or responsibility increase in favor of a better fit.”

In other words, if you’re accepting a counter-offer but intend to leave sometime in the future anyway, it might be better to cut out the middle step, especially if you’re likely to remain unhappy in the meantime.

How should I bring up a counter-offer with my recruiter?

If you’re considering a counter-offer, let your recruiter know!

“I always want people to be honest with me,” says Wiehe. “It never bothers me when people end up taking a counter-offer instead of a job I helped them find, as long as I know that’s what is right for them.”

You should think of your recruiter as a resource, and they can remain that way whether you’re interested in a position they helped you find or not.  That’s their job. That’s what they want to do. And they’ll be happy when you include them.

If you’re interested in exploring your options, Aerotek recruiters like Matt Wiehe are available to give expert advice one-on-one.

Reach out to an Aerotek recruiter to gauge the job market for your skills profile. Creating a career account is free, and experts are ready to help you.