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Would a call from your CEO convince you to take a counter offer?

Some counter offers are successful because they come straight from the top.

“We were trying to recruit someone out of Citi when Vikram Pandit [CEO of Citigroup] calls him up to persuade him to stay. This kind of thing isn’t unheard of for top performers, even at VP level. Our competitors are doing all they can to retain and so are we,” bemoaned a delegate at this week’s eFinancialCareers recruitment roundtable in Hong Kong.

A talent-short job market in Hong Kong has lead to a spike in counter offers this year as banks reason that spending money on retaining current employees is cheaper than trying to recruit replacements.

The roundtable attendees, who are all senior in-house HR professionals at leading international banks, agreed that counter offers are thwarting their hiring efforts. “They are keeping me up at night as I know I’ll have to deal with them the next morning,” said one delegate.

And it’s not just extra money and/or better job titles which make counter offers difficult to deal with for recruiting banks. The tactics deployed are equally aggressive. “One firm flew someone to the Singapore Grand Prix and put him in the corporate box for four hours with senior management until he agreed to stay,” said one panelist, all of whom asked not to be named in this report.

Another attendee added: “If it’s a like-for-like role and the person is just moving to your firm for more money, then the chances of a counter are huge. If the position is a step up for the candidate, the risk is not quite so big.”

The most difficult candidates to poach have a strong bond with their team and/or manager. “The current employer will always try to emphasis the emotional side and make it personal. If they are close to their managers, they might crack and take the counter.”

Controlling those cunning counters

So how do HR professionals at recruiting banks deal with counter offers?

At one leading international firm, people who have just agreed to join are taken out to lunch before they resign from their existing employer. Their new bank guides them on how to deal with their upcoming resignation process, and sometimes even arranges mock counter-offer meetings.

A roundtable panelist said she asks new recruits who are potential targets of counter offers to think about the push factors behind their original decision to move jobs. “We ask them ‘would you still resign if they doubled your salary?’ That’s not an unrealistic scenario. I’ve seen a firm offer a year’s deferred salary as a counter.”

But even after a candidate has resigned, firms remain on counter-offer red alert. “When people take gardening leave, don’t drop your guard. Line managers should call them at least twice a week, plus meet them for coffee or lunch at least once a fortnight. You’re only safe until they walk through the front door.”

Comments (1)

  1. Possiblity of a counter offers needs to be discussed way before any offer is made. By discussing this with the candidate, as early on in the recruitment cycle as the first interview stage or earlier, you will be able to manage the candidate’s expectations.

    Explain the reasons behind why counter offers happen and test the candidate during your pre-screening. “it is almost 100% likely you will get a counter offer once you hand in your notice, how would you feel about this?”. “If they offered you double your salary would you still leave? (as we can’t match that)”. “Your current employer will likely counter offer you with a promotion, but if you really are valued, why does it take for you to hand in your notice to achieve this promotion?” etc etc.

    Once you get the candidate thinking about the scenario you will 1) be able to judge if the candidate is really serious about changing jobs or just going through the process to strong arm his current employer into a pay rise or promotion, and 2) once the candidate does receive a counter offer it will be no unwelcome surprise and you will be able to deal with the problem and advise against the counter offer far more easily.

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