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Avoiding Counter-Offer Pains

In extending offers to new hires, you will occasionally be faced with the issue of one of your top candidates being presented with a counter-offer to stay with their current employer (or for that matter, an offer from a competing opportunity). After a lengthy process of finding and screening for your next Splunk hire, the counteroffer presents a risk of losing what should be a key addition to your team. This is especially painful around a niche skillset such as Splunk, where back-up candidates are not as readily available.

There are ways to avoid, although not completely eliminate, losing key hires to counter-offers.

  • Make sure to probe, during the interview process, for the Splunk candidate’s career pains.

Sure, everyone asks the question “why are you looking to make a change?” when interviewing a candidate. Drill down. Ask why else. This becomes critically important, should the candidate be presented a counteroffer that might threaten your hiring that person. When we are told by a candidate that they received a counteroffer, it’s our habit to “playback to them” all of the reasons that they were looking for a new opportunity in the first place. You should never have to “sell” the candidate on your opportunity. You can, however, take an extremely consultative approach in both (a) reminding them of their career pains and (b) explaining how making the transition to your team, resolves those pains. This consultative, logical approach works well with technology professionals, who more often than not possess ‘analytic’ personalities.

  • Ask the candidate if they have had conversations with their current manager about their career pains. If so, what was the outcome of those conversations?

First, you’ll get a good feel for the candidate’s emotional maturity and look at how they handle difficult situations. Second, it’s amazing how little people communicate at times. It’s not uncommon for someone with an issue, including an employee, to not table a discussion with their leadership about things that are causing career dissatisfaction. When this is the case, I always consultatively suggest that the candidate have this conversation with their current employer. More often than not, the issues are not easily resolved; what I call “terminal”, as opposed to “reparable”, issues. Later, when you extend an offer, the candidate will know that they made the best effort to resolve their issue. If that effort was met with resistance when first discussed with their employer, it will make the candidate more insulated from taking any potential counteroffer seriously.

  • Prep them for a counter offer, even ahead of knowing if one will be received.

When we present an offer to a candidate, it’s because they’re a top performer. Pre-emptively, when our offer is made, we start coaching them around a counteroffer (we don’t wait to find out if one is received). We inform them that should they receive one, they are likely to hear certain things; on the top of the list, are promises of how things will change. We inform them that while counter offers are flattering, and they’re accompanied by promises of how things will change for the better, the reality is these promises are typically hollow. Most often than not, when people accept counteroffers, within three months they realize that things haven’t significantly changed and may regret not having moved on.

  • If a candidate is facing relocation to accept your position, ask this: Why do you want to live in the_____________ [new location] and “What emotional\family\stakeholder anchors are you leaving behind if your move to _________ [new location].

A counter-offer made in light of more compelling reasons to not “leaving behind” certain anchors in a location will trump the advantages\attraction of moving to a new location without significant anchors. Typically, the impact of this dynamic is external to the candidate. Often the candidate fails to understand or appreciate the “anchors” until after they are in the offer stage with a hiring manager and a family member or stakeholder makes a claim that changes the candidate’s interest in relocation, thus making the counter-offer more appealing.

There are times, unfortunately, that counteroffers will put a crimp in your hiring. This can be offset to some degree during the recruitment process by taking a consultative approach with your candidates. By building a good rapport, demonstrating a sincere understanding of their career pains, and legitimately speaking to how a transition to your organization will alleviate those pains, you build elevated immunity to the sting of losing top candidates to counteroffers or, for that matter, offers from other employers.

About SP6:

SP6 is a Splunk consulting firm focused on Splunk professional services including Splunk deployment, ongoing Splunk administration, and Splunk development. SP6 has a separate division that also offers Splunk recruitment and the placement of Splunk professionals into direct-hire (FTE) roles for those companies that may require assistance with acquiring their own full-time staff, given the challenge that currently exists in the market today.