Counteroffers, the Trojan Horse of the Hiring Process


Making a decision to go out and look for a new job is never something you undertake lightly. It’s a lot of work to look for a new job. It takes hours of poring through job boards, speaking to recruiters and hiring managers, completing applications, and interviewing. Finally, you will have an offer in hand for a position you a truly excited about. But when you give your notice to your current employer, you need to be prepared…for a counteroffer.

Counteroffers, on the surface, can be very flattering and can seem like a wonderful opportunity. It often provides the validation you’ve been seeking from an employer who rarely showed that kind of appreciation in the past. Otherwise, why would you be looking?  But such offers are like a Trojan Horse, impressive on the outside but hidden with danger on the inside.

What to Remember when you Receive a Counteroffer

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when you receive a counteroffer:

  • Think about why you decided to look for a new position in the first place: disorganization, declining culture, lack of growth opportunities, poor compensation, lack of recognition or a failing company. None of that has really changed.
  • Companies usually view employees who have received and decided to accept job offers from other companies as disloyal. It will be difficult to be viewed as trustworthy moving forward. Like it or not, there’s now a target on your back.
  • A counter offer is generally a quick fix to bide time while the employer begins looking for a replacement – someone who can come in for less money, is not yet jaded, and who didn’t betray them.
  • Why did it take a threat to leave for your current employer to compensate you properly and show you the true value of your hard work?

It is tempting to consider accepting a counteroffer. Change is difficult and uncomfortable. If you stay where you are you won’t have to adjust to a new company. The risk that you might not be as successful at the new company as you are at your current company can creep in easily. Don’t sell yourself short.

Really consider the long-term consequences of your decision. Companies present counteroffers to keep their intellectual property from walking out the door. This is about them, not you.

  • You will be under constant scrutiny if you stay. Time off will be questioned, as people wonder if you are out interviewing again.
  • Your less expensive replacement will be sought out as your employer knows you were unhappy enough to consider leaving.

There are a lot of articles out there on counteroffers and none of them recommend accepting one.  In fact, you will find statistics that show that people that who do accept a counteroffer rarely remain at their workplace for any significant period of time afterward.  They either quit because the things that made them want to leave the first time still make them want to leave, or they are let go because their employer just kept them around long enough to find a replacement.  Either way, you still lose and are too quickly back out on the job market.

So be prepared when you make your decision to give your notice. As tempting as it may seem, the counter offer is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Hold your head high and be strong. Give proper notice and finish out your time with professionalism. You’ll be avoiding a major landmine and a circular path back to the arduous job search by sticking to your decision.

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