How to damage your brand when accepting a counter offer

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judith-beck-portraitHave you been approached lately and thought, I’ll have a look at this? Not particularly unhappy where I am, but why not have a look.

Most opportunities often come out of the blue, so it’s okay to test the waters because you never know what could eventuate.

The key is being open about the fact that you are happy where you are and you are only just testing the waters or reviewing an opportunity.

What I would advise anyone to do who gets approached is the following:

  • If you are being approached by a head hunter, check out their background. Are they specialising in your industry? Preferably they have worked in your industry prior to recruiting and understand the roles and the environment you work in. This also means their networks will be more established and they will have a relationship with the employer they are speaking to you about.
  • Before you send your CV and agree to meet with them, make sure they send you a position description and the role is exclusive to them. Why is this important? If several companies are all working on the same assignment, who is protecting your information/confidentiality? In my experience, exclusive assignments mean the recruiter has been properly briefed and the process will be confidential and streamlined.
  • If you agree to meet with the employer or head-hunter, make no mistake that the initial coffee meeting is an interview. Just because they have approached you, don’t go into it casually – put your best foot forward so they consider you as a serious candidate and want you even more.
  • After that meeting, if you agree to proceed then you are agreeing to a formal process.  After each step, if you are not interested gracefully withdraw.


They love you, and you love them, and you accept their offer either verbally or in writing. But when you resign you find out that your company suddenly loves you as well. They have wonderful plans for you that they have been wanting to speak to you about for months. Surprisingly the week you resign they reveal all the wonderful things they can offer such as a higher salary, promotion, car park, flexible hours etc……..  What should you do!

Let me just say this, anyone that I have seen accept a counter offer over the last 20 years has regretted it later. Why??

Both the company who made you the offer and your company are now annoyed. The company that just made you the offer is annoyed as they have let their number two candidate go, gave you plenty of opportunity to withdraw, spent months in discussions, and went out of their way to meet your request.

With your employer, and from my experience, after 6 months when the dust has settled, you are branded as the person who was looking for another job.

I know you were approached (I hear you say) but your company will not see it that way and loyalty will always be in the back of their mind unless there was a unique circumstance behind it – like uncertainty during a restructure. They start to think back on the times you wore your good suit and was out of the office for half a day, and the dentist appointment, taking a sickie, car trouble and all the other excuses needed to go to the interviews.

What could you have done to prevent this?

Here are my top 5 tips on preventing brand damage on both sides:

  • Always let the Head Hunter and potential employer know you are happy where you are and not looking to move but happy to explore on that basis e.g. you are exploring an opportunity.
  • Once an offer is made let both parties know that you will consider the opportunity carefully and will make the decision based on what is right for your career.
  • Before you resign from your company, have the conversation with your current boss about your future to see what lies ahead – Counter offers are generally a knee jerk reaction to put a fire out – you want to know what your future opportunities are without the sense of urgency a counter offer creates.
  • Never delay the signing of an offer, if you need a week then be open with the Head Hunter or Company that you need to have a conversation with a mentor or your family. Most companies want an answer in 48 hours as there is likely a second candidate who is equally qualified. Dragging it on will also damage you brand in the eyes of the Stakeholder. A fast no is a good no.
  • If you sign the document you should never back out because of a counter offer. You will be seen as someone who was leveraging a situation, indecisive and a time waster. Never accept an offer verbally or in writing until you are 100% committed. The industry is big but small and it never ends well for anyone.

My advice is being open and honest with all parties. The truth is easier to remember and people will respect you because of.

About Judith Beck
Judith Beck has placed hundreds of executives over 25 years as Managing Director of Financial Recruitment Group, Founder of Financial Executive Women and Chairman of Eon Mentis. Judith is a key note speaker on various subjects, such as How To Be A T10p, Stakeholder Management, Building your Internal and External Brand to name a few.

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