Counter offers: necessary evil or desirable endgame?

2019-03-21 | BY Proven Recruiting's Editorial Team | IN Job Search Starter Kit, Job Seekers

Counter offers: necessary evil or desirable endgame?

Most counter offer articles hinge on one magical statistic – 60% (or 75% or 90%, depending on the source) of people who accept counter offers leave their company within 6-12 months.

These articles, unsurprisingly, are written by recruiting firms. They are also devoid of sources or concrete studies to support their claims. In our extensive research, we haven’t been able to uncover a single study to back this commonly quoted statistic.

What’s different about this post? We’re also a recruiting firm, and we also don’t want you to take a counter offer; accepting a counter offer means the hours spent finding you a job, coaching you for the interview, debriefing, and negotiating with the hiring manager, were for nothing. And yet, it is in our best interest to encourage trust. So in the spirit of full-disclosure, here’s what you should really know about counter offers – the good and the bad.

Counter offers aren’t all bad.

Few things are ‘all bad.’ Your situation will be different depending on your manager, your work environment, the amount of sunlight you get at your desk, your level of flexibility – a million variables play a role in your level of satisfaction at work and how to best increase it.

Context is everything.

If you’re unhappy because your manager never assigns you challenging projects, and your career has felt stagnant for years, then a higher salary probably won’t ease your anxiety. Only a new job, with new peers and new goals, will help you feel complete.

If, on the other hand, you love your job, have a strong relationship with your peers and superiors, and just want a little more support (and a little higher salary) – then a counter offer may be in your best interest. In a workplace where things move slowly and bureaucratically – say, a big company where you play a relatively small role – a counter offer may be the perfect thing to snap your manager out of their comfort zone. It has worked for some, and it might work for you.

A good trick is to create a list of ‘must haves’ – that is, the things that will make your work life measurably better. If the counter offer isn’t addressing those issues, it’s a no-go.

There are serious risks.  

A lot comes down to the tone of your workplace. Some managers encourage employees to test the market, to see if they can do better elsewhere. These managers are realistic about our current economy and won’t be personally offended if you come back to them with an offer from elsewhere; they may even use this information to better calibrate their salary brackets going forward.

Other managers won’t take the news so well. While they may offer you a higher salary, you’ll forever be marked as disloyal. One website even encourages companies to give counter offers and then fire you once your mission-critical work has been completed.

Only you can predict how your manager will react – but proceed with caution.

If you’re smart, you won’t let it get to the counter offer stage.  

If your boss responds, ‘I never knew you were unhappy/wanted more,’ you’ve done something wrong. This conversation should not be the first time you broach the topic of your professional goals, responsibilities, and work satisfaction. If you’ve never presented your concerns before, how can you expect your superior to feel anything but betrayed? They thought you were happy, and now you’re suddenly – and aggressively – telling them that they were mistaken.

Before you look elsewhere, make the case for a better position and salary at your own company. If they ignore you, or defer indefinitely, know that they do not appreciate you and your work. At that point, even if they do give you a counter offer, we’d advise against accepting. To determine your real market value, speak with a recruiter – we see thousands of candidates with the same skills and background as yours, and can share with you what kind of opportunities have historically been open to them.

Our advice, based on working with thousands of job-seekers.

Generally speaking, accepting a counter offer is not advisable. Unless you are confident that your workplace satisfaction – and not simply your salary – will be increased, you need to look elsewhere.

Often a fresh environment is the best thing to spark renewed dedication to your work. Perspective comes from putting ourselves in new situations and facing unknown challenges. At Proven Recruiting, we work with hundreds of innovative companies across the nation, and one of them is your perfect fit. Send us your resume at to find out which company is right for you.

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