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Counter Offers… Accept Them or Reject Them? February 16, 2010

Posted by stanleyreidrecruiting in Interviews and Offers.
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You’ve decided to look around for a new position.  You’ve interviewed with multiple companies and gotten an offer you want to accept.  Hoping to avoid too much conflict, you tell your boss you need to talk.  You stumble through your resignation, and then suddenly your boss asks, “What can we do to get you to stay?”

Congratulations! You are about to receive a counteroffer, and your next few days are going to be confusing and stressful!

Your old company suddenly treats you like you are the most important person in the world. Your manager and your manager’s manager meet with you. You have the discussions you’ve been wanting to have for a long time – about your career, the things that have been bothering you, the future of the company, and the key role you can play.  You’re offered a raise, perhaps a retention bonus as well, and maybe even a promotion.  You walk away from these discussions feeling wonderful – finally, the management team understands you and is going to make the changes you need and fix the problems.   They value you, they are listening to you, and you’re seriously considering calling your new company and telling them you’ve changed you mind.

Don’t. Accepting a counter offer is always a bad idea.  Always.  Here’s why…

You just threatened to leave your employer, and they are offering you a bribe to stay.  Trust has been broken, and nothing else has changed.

It really is that simple.  If your old company lets you leave, they lose the revenue and profit you’re generating, and they have to scramble to find a replacement.  In the short-term, it makes sense to bribe you to get you to stay.  In the long-term, you no longer have any good career options at the company.  They know that you decided to leave them – you interviewed, you accepted another offer, and you blindsided them when you resigned.  They see you as not having the company’s best interests in mind – they see you as only being concerned about yourself.  Trust has been broken.

That sounds harsh, but it is true.  Google “accept counter offers” and see the scary statistics…

You might read all this and still think that your situation is the exception, and that the company will trust you and take care of you in the future.  Even if that is true, it’s still a terrible idea to accept the counter offer.  Consider the following question:

Why didn’t the company fix the problems BEFORE you decided to look for a new job?

Companies are like people.  They are very slow to change.  You interviewed for a reason – you weren’t getting what you needed at your old company.  Maybe they’re offering you more money and painting a rosy picture of the future, but do you really think you suddenly created a massive change in the culture of the company by threatening to leave? It’s still the same company, with the same decision-makers, and the same problems that motivated you to consider a new job in the first place.

The employer-employee relationship is analogous to dating.  Let’s assume John and Susan have been dating for a while, and Susan has become unhappy enough with John that she’s found a new boyfriend.  Here’s Susan’s “resignation” and John’s “counteroffer”.

Susan: “John, it’s over.  This isn’t working, and I’ve found someone else.”

John: “Wait a minute, Susan.  If you’ll dump the other guy, I’ll buy you a big diamond, and I promise I’ll pay more attention to you in the future.”

Susan: “Gee John, that’s swell!  I’ll dump the other guy!”

Do you think Susan and John are going to live happily ever after?  Don’t accept a counteroffer.  It’s a bad idea.

Ron Stanley

Ron is the co-owner of Stanley Reid & Company, an Intelligence Community search firm.  Ron unfortunately accepted a counter offer early in his career…

Engaging a Search Consultant – A Case Study for Highly Cleared Professionals February 2, 2010

Posted by stanleyreidrecruiting in HIghly Cleared Candidates.
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Here is a true story about a candidate we worked with last fall.

“Jim” is a polygraph cleared software engineer.  He loves to code and wanted a new project at a new place to help him move on after some changes in his life.  Jim did what many people do when they want a new job – he posted his resume on several online job boards.

Our research team came across Jim, and while we don’t normally work with “active” candidates, I do like to talk with people, learn what kinds of things they are looking for in their career, and potentially work with them down the road.  By the time we talked with Jim (about 8 hours after he posted), he had already been contacted by at least a dozen recruiters. As the day wore on, that number increased rapidly. By days end Jim had received over 50 messages – each recruiter promising him that they had the perfect job in the perfect location at the perfect salary, all without ever having talked to him about what he wanted in a new position.

As the week wore on, we couldn’t reach Jim. We had given up when out of the blue we received an email from him. He had been screening all his calls due to the number of recruiters contacting him and had changed his email address as well. He let us know that he did want to talk to us since we weren’t pushing a specific job, and he gave us some times he would be near his phone and the “secret code” to get him to answer.  While we didn’t end up placing Jim at one of our clients, we did help him figure out what he was really looking for in a new job and which players in the market could help him get where he wanted to be at this point in his life. We also told him the next time he wanted to make a job switch to contact us or another search consultant he liked to conduct a private and confidential search on his behalf.  Jim learned a hard lesson about posting on job boards, especially if you have a clearance.

So what are your options if you are highly cleared and want to explore new job opportunities? Well, hopefully you won’t post your resume on a job board, unless you want to change your telephone number, your email address, and move!   You could spend all your free time surfing job boards, designing a search string and then reading through hundreds of postings, applying to the ones that interest you, following up, fielding phone calls from recruiters, coordinating interviews, following up after interviews, reviewing offers and negotiating better offers all while working your current job, spending time with your family, and attending to all the other things in your life. Oh, and most of this has to be done during lunch, in the evening, and on the weekends because you are in a secure facility all day.

The other option is to engage a search consultant to conduct a confidential search on your behalf.  A good search consultant will spend several hours getting to know you in depth – beyond the standard “how much money do you want” or “what is a tolerable commute” interview that a lot of high volume recruiters conduct. Search consultants really dig into what motivates you and your wish list for professional growth. They then take this information and evaluate it against a large portfolio of clients and identify any that they believe can provide you with an appropriate opportunity.  Once you decide which companies you want to be presented to, the search consultant then coordinates all aspects of the process, from initial interview through offer negotiation. You have one point of contact during the process and an advocate for your career growth.  There is no charge for this service – the company that hires you pays the search consultant a fee.

I encourage all highly cleared professionals to find a good search consultant before you want to make a move. Establish the relationship early and be prepared for when you want to make a move. And who knows, you might find that your next great position is already waiting for you.

Mary Reid Stanley

Mary is the co-owner of Stanley Reid & Company, a search firm specializing in placing highly cleared technology professionals in the DC and Baltimore area.