Competing for In-Demand Talent: Timing, Engagement and Counteroffers

By: John Rossheim

More and more employers are throwing down counteroffers when their employees are recruited. That often requires staffing firms and recruiters to engage successful candidates until their first day on the job. Merely reacting to counteroffers or to candidates’ receipt of multiple offers is often a failing strategy.

“A number of my clients are getting offers, and they’re getting multiple offers,” says Tom Chaplin, a career coach and former recruiter. Many more are getting counteroffers from employers who are loathe to lose them.

For recruiters, the key is to anticipate other job offers and actively defend against them. Speed to offer, employer brand-building, and recruiter responsiveness are of the essence.

Here are a number of measures that recruiters are finding effective in the increasingly competitive environment of 2016 when presenting a job offer.

Build the offer around the individual’s motivators. The hiring employer needs to demonstrate deep commitment to the candidate’s individual vision of his or her future. “You’ve got to really understand why the candidate wants to leave his or her company in the first place, and organize the offer around that,” says Theresa Torres, senior director of campus recruiting at payroll provider ADP. “Is it work schedule, career mobility or what?”

Don’t minimize the chances of a counteroffer. You won’t be working from a position of strength if an elephant of a counteroffer makes a late entry into the negotiating room — while all along you’ve been acting as if you don’t believe in pachyderms.

“It’s also important to talk with the candidate up front about the large likelihood that their employer will counteroffer,” adds Torres.

Know and streamline your process to boost your speed to offer. “The key is to get organized in advance, to know what the process is and what the touchpoints are,” says Brett Good, a senior district president with Robert Half. “Have all stakeholders compare calendars, and pick a day or two to concentrate on getting all the interviews for a position done,” rather than letting the process drag on for two weeks.

Analyze your recruitment process to identify weaknesses. With the right analytics, an employer can ask, “Are we spending two weeks on back-and-forth with a candidate – when we used to spend just three days?” says Daniel Chait, CEO of recruiting technology firm Greenhouse.

Robust tools enable managers to slice into recruitment data by department, location, or time period to evaluate the process and discover inefficiencies.

Coach candidates on how to give notice. If recruiters adequately prepare candidates to fend off the money and guilt trips often packaged as a counteroffer, they can reduce the chances of losing a candidate.

“I coach people on how to resign, which is hard to do,” says Cathleen Faerber, CEO of recruiter Wellesley Group. “I remind them of how the new job will be a better job.”

Negotiate with candidates to finalize their acceptance. Good says that the new employer should respect candidates’ intention to give two weeks’ notice — and ask them, in return, to notify other employers they’ve been talking to that they’re no longer a candidate.

Whatever else you do, keep in touch. Keep treating each valued candidate as a candidate, not as talent that you’ve taken off the market – right up to that first day on the new job.

“If you don’t stay in touch, they begin to lose interest, and you stand a fairly good chance of their accepting their company’s counter,” says Faerber.

“We have to be constantly messaging in there, and we have to teach our recruiters,” says Jay Rogers, Vice President of recruiting at Randstad. “We train our recruiters on the different ways to use social platforms.”

After the offer is accepted, actions speak even louder than words. Talk isn’t free, but it’s relatively cheap, and talent knows it. So recruiters need to do more than just check in periodically. “We ask our clients to become more engaged with candidates who have received job offers, to meet for lunch or after work, to take them on facility tours,” says Good.

If a counteroffer comes. If the employer does make a departing employee an offer of more money to stay and do the same job, the savvy recruiter will do more than remind the candidate that he accepted the offer.

“Help the candidate look at the pros and cons of their current and future jobs side by side, to get them to go back to why they decided to seek the new position in the first place,” say Torres.

Millennial candidates can require a long-term commitment. Which candidates demand the longest effort to keep their promise to take a new job? The candidates with the shortest attention span: college students.

“With a student who’s interning, you may have 10 months before they start regular employment,” says Torres. “So it’s important to keep up a cadence of connection and communication.”