Three Counter Offers Later, I Lost the Candidate. And This Rant is for Her Employer.

Jessica Lee Engagement and Satisfaction, Jessica Lee, Making Offers, Working With Recruiters

Beloved friends. Can we all pause for a moment of silence to recognize a loss? It was the most tragic event, and I'm in mourning: I lost a candidate last week. She slipped away from me, and yes folks, this is a tragedy. Or maybe this is my bruised ego talking, but hear me out.

Fast forward through the sourcing (Twitter!), fast forward past the courting ritual (rolled out a red carpet, scattered with rose petals), and let’s stop at when I made the offer. We talked about salary and title/level twice at length before the actual offer. I came at her with a reasonable, solid offer and she verbally accepted on the spot. There wasn't a need for negotiation. We talked about potential start dates. Things were looking really good, and she proceeded to give her notice.

1Vince_frost2 We both knew her current employer would put up a fight. And as expected, they countered. She refused though and declined their counter-offer. She was ready to move on, towards me. But then they countered again. She refused a second time. But then they countered again – a THIRD time! And at that point, my gal had to pause and rethink the situation. More money was offered. An enhanced role was offered. I think the stars and the moon were thrown in as well, just for good measure. And so, she needed some time to think about it all. Fair enough. The resignation process and three counter offers put her into a bit of a tailspin, and things were blurry, so we tried to give her space and room to breathe.

A few days, I lost her. She decided to stay put with her current employer. Three counter-offers later.

But this isn't a rant about the candidate. This is a rant towards people managers out there and my fellow recruiting and HR pros. Three counter offers?! Really? At what point are you just being excessive, if not desperate? At a certain point, isn't it too little too late? So you offer more money. You hand out a promotion. You restructure a job. You offer the stars and the moon. You make all sorts of overtures to keep someone from leaving you. But you're only doing this after the fact – as a last ditch effort to try to make it work. Why did you wait until the situation was dire – when there was an actual threat for loss – to "do the right thing"? Where were you before? And would you have ever ponied up in the same way if there weren't the threat for loss, aka a resignation?

For stepping up and doing an employee right, congrats. I'm glad organizations are willing to go the extra mile in the name of retention for high performers. But the goal? It should be to get ahead of having to do counter offers (x3) and making grand gestures then and there. Pay your people fairly and be competitive within your industry. Give people growth and stretch opportunities so they never get bored. Show your people you value them and that the grass isn't greener on the other side before they wander to other pastures. Do the right thing before someone actually resigns to show you are capable of and, more importantly, willing to do the right thing because you value your people. Because when you don't, it's like admitting to doing wrong only if caught in the act. And that, I think, is kinda shady.

Maybe, wait, probably, my ego is feeling a little frail and battered on this one. And you know how mourning works – I am in that stage of the grief cycle where you are angry about the loss. I'm certain that's a big piece of this rant. I’m a little upset with myself and this situation. But to you who are out there, you three counter offer types… fine. You win. Temporarily. You got the girl, for now at least. But to keep the girl and make this a real, sustained win? Do her good. Follow up with your promises of growth opportunities. Make sure you actually give her the stars and the moon and that all you promised actually happens for her. Don't let her down. Because it would be a grand pity to offer all that you did to keep her and then do nothing to sustain…

Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.

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