☰ Menu eFinancialCareers

Never let a recruiter intimidate you into declining a counteroffer

If you accept a counteroffer, you will be eviscerating your career all over the pavement. Your boss will remember your intention to leave and will quietly despise you. Your colleagues will be made aware of your intended treachery; you will be hated.

If you receive an offer of employment somewhere else, tell your current boss you’re leaving, and then change your mind and decide not to anywhere when your existing employer suddenly produces a generous pay rise/promotion/promise of future glory, you are a fool.

This is what headhunters and recruiters will tell you.


Resigning from one employer and joining another involves psychological warfare. The more senior and more valued you are, the more aggressive the warfare will be.

On one hand, the new employer and the headhunter will want you to resign. They are not impartial. The new employer wants to fill their vacancy; the headhunter wants to collect his/her fee.

On the other hand, your existing employer wants you to stay. They are not impartial either. Replacing you is expensive; they’ve suddenly realised how valuable you are. Expect to be locked in rooms with senior staff flown in especially to flatter you. Expect to be offered more money; expect promotions.

Maybe you should accept.

Fear and opportunism

When it comes to dismissing counteroffers, headhunters know which buttons to push. As Sital Ruparelia points out, they commonly claim that 75% of people who accept a counteroffer are looking for a new job again within 6 months.

This statistic is not verified.

John Nicholson, chairman of business psychologists Nicholson McBride, says people working in investment banks tend to be both more fearful and more opportunistic than in other professions. Accepting a buyback represents the triumph of opportunism. Refusing a buyback represents the triumph of fear.

When a counteroffer is right and proper

Whatever recruiters say, there are situations in which a counteroffer should be accepted. Fear and opportunism should play no part in the decision-making process.

Instead, think rationally and dispassionately about the following points:

1) The value of your network at your existing employer

If you have worked somewhere for a while, you will have built up a significant internal network. This is extremely valuable, says Graham Ward, a coach, programme director at the INSEAD global leadership centre and former co-head of the European equities business at Goldman Sachs. “To move and rebuild your network elsewhere is a significant undertaking,” he points

2) Your history at your current employer

Why were you thinking of leaving? Was it opportunism? “Everyone likes to be asked to dance,” says Ward, “That doesn’t mean you should leap onto the dance floor.”

Ward suggests you contemplate how you’ve been treated at your existing employer (Badly? Well?), whether they’re contributing to your leadership development, whether they’re allowing you to develop according to your planned career path. If the answer is yes to any of those, you are maybe moving for a price tag. Is that a good enough reason to leave?

How to have a grown-up conversation with your boss

Ward points out that it is also perfectly possible to elicit and accept a
counteroffer without ‘threatening’ to leave.

“It is your prerogative to have a good relationship with your boss,” he says. “If you have that good relationship, you needn’t issue a threat. All talented people get job offers from time to time and your boss knows this. You should therefore be able to sit down and say, ‘This is one of those occasions on which I’ve had an offer from an outside company. Can we discuss
my potential career track within this company if I decide to decline?”

Notably, counteroffers are supposed to have been outlawed by the FSA in London. However, the regulator’s new rule doesn’t apply to some people earning less than 500k. And headhunters say counteroffers still seem to be common: “Most banks seem to have reserved a proportion of the bonus pool to protect their top staff,” says one.

Comments (18)

  1. the only time you should accept a counteroffer is if that was your intention in the first place. Forget all the over complicated rubbish above – forget all the crappy statistics us recruiters give you – you either hand in your notice to force a buyback or you do it because you want to leave. If you wanted to leave then do it…. people that accept counteroffers are wimps! get some bo**ocks

  2. a good headhunter should not allow a candidate to even try to resign if there are any doubts about their ability to get out of the door, irrespective of what the counter offer may be.

  3. Furthermore why would someone accept a position which they have no intent to start? You will only burn bridges and the world is a small places and news travels. Plus you’re wasting every bodies time including your own!!

  4. A valuable professional should never talk to a recruiter. Period.

  5. The reality is that in more than 90% of cases the counter is just a way to buy more time. Once candidate is secured to stay, the employer will be looking at alternatives on the market. This is a rule of business. No good manager would just counter a guy and sit on their laurels so there is some truth in what headhunters say. Not sure what this article is trying to portray: are headhunters effectively forcing “intelligent, highly driven well paid bankers” to resign. Anyone who resigns for the right reasons should stick to the plan. Anyone who is unsure should not resign – end of story!

  6. so headhunters “intimidate” masters of the Universe? Give us a break. all part of an elaborate dance. anyone who gets intimidated should not be in this business

  7. RBS used to be in the habit of paying off mortgages to get people to stay … imagine the headlines if they tried that now

  8. @ Sarah – unless you’re doing this to purely gain a pay rise at your current firm, you’ve entertained the opportunity of another role at a different house. If you accept a counteroffer – you’ll be looking by next year – FACT. and the guys who are ‘flown in to flatter you’ – you’ll probably never speak to again.

  9. interesting article. I may be in this situation soon. I think these articles are great. All those recruiters who are complaining- get back on the phones! Keep more articles like this coming. It’s good to have a voice of objectivity about recruitment in a city full of lying “consultants”.


  10. ..If yr current employer counter offers you, it means you ought to be paid higher in the first place, for your skill and experience and since they are only offering you such a salary now, when you want to leave, it shows how patheticly sincere they have been in the past.
    Moreover, a counter offer should be an additional 50% min, of your new offer, since you’re already on your way out and the counter offer is a re-joining offer.
    50% min….. make them show you the money, to prove their sincerity… and it has to be on paper..!! After all, if you drop dead today, they will just hire someone else to come in tomorrow.

  11. It’s a private case, but sometimes one should contemplate on “What’s my current company’s future and what’s the new company’s future”.
    Obviously you need to know the ins and outs of both.

  12. Never ever work for a company that counter-offers you, its a sure sign you are underpaid in your current job. Resign and go without looking back. We spend most of our time working and it does matter a lot what sort of company we work for.

  13. Hey Jackal- what are you doing on this website and commenting if you think you are too good for a recruiter?? (which i am not)

    i really thought the comments on this website would be smart and helpful- im finding them increasingly filled with bitter mailboys who never got higher than mopping the floors.

  14. You should choose the job corresponding to your carrer objectives. You could ideally divide each jobs in 3Y periods, 1Y you learn, 2Y you actually apply, 3Y you look for new opportunities within the firm or outside. Do not forget that what you do represents your future (and future revenues) and your current salary is the present ie moving only for salary reason is crap. If you feel you are not paid enough you should complain and that is when you can use a counter offer as an argument but beware you have to be ready to leave when using it, i has to be very significant and once again look carefully at what the new offer could lead to. In my own experience, i left a firm with a lot of Long term incentives that i only partially recovered with the new firm and “only” the same comp but my new experience and responsibilities have proven great and i now have overtook all the losers that stayed in the previous position and gained a ton of knowledge.

  15. Good article. There is certainly nothing wrong with accepting a counter-offer. I accepted one after my current boss was able to dig up enough dirt on the alternative to make me reconsider. The truth is, every decent professional is always considering which of his several opportunities best takes him where he wants to be. Employers generally will pay the least they can get away with, and distribute interesting roles to those who need them to stay motivated. Sometimes they get that calculus wrong. Accepting a counter offer is just helping the employer to recalibrate their thinking.

  16. this website is full of HR, recruiters, Headhunters….
    im out of here

  17. ‘Notably, counteroffers are supposed to have been outlawed by the FSA in London. However, the regulator’s new rule doesn’t apply to some people earning less than 500k.’

    95% of jobs advertised on efinancial are for less than this amount. A lot less. The FT had an article on Monday stating 1% of the population get over 100k after tax. So we are talking about a very small minority. Do you just bandy around these figures to make us all feel like we are not cutting it despite getting multiples of the national average? I mean, really.

    Top 1% apparently Reply
  18. @ HF dude…. did you really feel it important to write that update? Are you simply trying to convince us all that you are something more?

    because you are not.

The comment is under moderation. It will appear shortly.


Screen Name


Consult our community guidelines here