The counter-offer

Gemma Rush, Senior Consultant02 October 2017

Unless you are a recruiter or have previously received one, the counter-offer might be something completely new to you.  But rest assured, counter-offers happen a lot and as recruitment activity is at its busiest, it’s a good time to talk more about them, sharing tips and advice on dealing with them.

What is a counter-offer?

Quite simply it’s an offer made in response to another.  The scenario is, you are about to leave your current firm and when you hand in your notice, your employer offers you something be it a promotion or a pay rise, to make you consider staying.

Why do they do it?
The more experienced you are and the greater asset to the business, (not that you feel you are one, perhaps) will leave that firm with a great big hole that needs filling.  To do that requires a lot of effort and of course cost, when you consider they need to recruit someone just as good as you to take over your role.  For the firm facing losing you, it’s far easier to offer you more money to stay than be left struggling to replace your role.

Personal experience
I will admit, I even once accepted a counter-offer, and yes, it was definitely a mistake - I know that now.   At the time, I was offered more money, a promotion and was sold the dream of progressing within the business.  While all these things did happen, I still was no happier in my job or further forward in my career one year later.  Deep down I knew that I should have left however as I had been at the company for a long time, I felt loyal to them, and wanted to give them the opportunity to put things right – it sounded reasonable to me at the time, but in hindsight it was a bad decision.

Know why you want to leave in the first place
The first think to think about is why you want to move job in the first place.  For some people, it’s money, opportunity to progress and for many it’s the fact they just don’t get along with their boss or co-workers.  It’s important to evaluate the situation fully and maybe even take advice from someone you can trust.  After that, if you have decided to take the step in finding a new opportunity for whatever reason, always be prepared for a counter-offer.  What may they offer you and if they did, will you stay? Interviews are stressful so why bother going through the motions if you will end up staying anyway.

For some, the counter offer comes as a shock.  Let’s say you are wanting to move jobs because you feel undervalued yet here’s your boss suddenly offering you a pay rise and telling you their business wouldn’t be the same without you.  As great as this may make you feel in that moment, always remember it shouldn’t take for you to hand in your notice and try to leave, to get this kind of feedback. 

The facts
My colleague Dalia touched on the counter-offer in her recent blog ‘Moving on & handing in your notice’ where she quoted a very interesting statistic from Helen Pedder of ClearSky Business a specialist in supporting small and medium enterprises, “More than 60% of UK-based employees who accept a counter-offer end up leaving the organisation in question within six months anyway." 

The consequences
The next part to think about is, when you do accept the counter offer, how do you go back to being the loyal employee you once were before you handed in your notice?  Will your boss always be thinking you may leave the firm, after all it is likely?  Will they ever trust you again fully?  Probably not. From the minute you hand in your notice, things change.  There is also the other firm you are turning down to think about – you run the risk of ruining a future relationship/offer from them in the future – and we all know how small the legal market is.

Take control
If you are in a position where you aren’t happy in your job and you think things may change if your boss knew you were looking for a new role, this really isn’t the right way to look at it.  Instead, take control and earn that promotion or pay rise or whatever it is you are wanting. There are other ways to get what you want out of your career.  Be prepared to assess yourself during this process and find out why you aren’t getting what you want out of your job.

Honesty prevails
Believe it or not, although I am a recruiter, I have advised candidates over the years when they have come to me to NOT move jobs because their reasons for wanting to move are easily resolvable.  My other recruiter peers may think this ridiculous, however I can honestly say it has served me much better relationship-wise over the years with those people.
For us recruiters, the time a candidate hands in their notice is a scary one because we know all too well there will no doubt be a counter-offer made and how will our candidates react?  Love us or hate us, we invest a lot of time and effort in finding legal professionals their dream job and having worked through all the issues candidates may have with their current firm, to then be told they will stay based on the counter-offer is frustrating.  It’s not that we didn’t get the deal but more the fact we are too aware of how little change the counter-offer will make in terms of that candidate’s job satisfaction and ultimately career opportunity.
Everyone’s experiences and reasons for accepting a counter-offer are different, but in general it is usually best to say no.


Gemma has over six years’ experience in the recruitment of legal office business support staff, and along with our other consultants, brings honest, impartial advice to the table.  For more information about moving roles and counter-offers, you can contact our team in Manchester on 0161 839 4388  or in London on 0203 655 2180.  Alternatively, to find out more about the legal support roles we have available from secretarial to admin, cashier to HR and marketing, you can contact Gemma directly on 0161 214 6113 or by email,

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