A counter offer by one’s employer or another offer occurring near simultaneously (the executive was interviewing with more than one company) has occasionally caused employment arrangements to fall through. The candidate, in most cases, has genuinely accepted the new job, but gets turned around. Consultants then resurrect the number two or number three candidates, start over, or cry. A counter-counter offer has occurred too. This happens when the executive accepts a new job, is then convinced by his old management to remain, and is finally resold on the idea of moving on by the new employer. It’s rare and more likely in new industries where there is less talent.
Just before his employer sent him on a business trip to Europe, a finalist was made an offer and accepted. He accepted a counter offer from his manager while overseas. A month later, he returned and told the headhunter about his decision. The prospective employer lost a month’s time as a result. The executive said he’d personally call the company and explain and apologize. The recruiter set the stage. The man never called, further embarrassing the headhunter and hurting his relationship. The number two choice was brought back into the loop and eventually given an offer. He accepted, but was counter offered three days prior to starting the new job (merely his employer’s delay or revenge?) . And this was after signing a letter of commitment, which the company did not plan to hold him to. The number three man received the position while in the interim the consultant got gray hair!
Thankfully, circumstances like this do not happen often. And it also points out that the number one or two candidates, the most seemingly qualified, don’t always get the job. But when it does occur, most people are gentlemen. As one executive put it, “Thanks for getting me a promotion and a salary raise.” One headhunter, however, was informed by letter that the executive was changing his mind, on the Friday prior to his Monday start date.
A vice president was made an attractive offer. His reaction was generally positive, but he asked to have the weekend to think about it. By late Monday afternoon, the company called the headhunter because they had not heard from the man. The headhunter called him, but he was told he’d been in meetings all day. The recruiter called him at home that evening and his wife said he’d been forced to work late because of some problem. Tuesday morning the consultant called the candidate, but received no reply. The headhunter was obviously suspecting the worst. That afternoon, the man telephoned and apologized. “I’ve been so busy; it prevented me from focusing on the offer. Could I please have a few more days to mull it over?” Although the headhunter doubted the veracity of the excuse, there was a note of possible truth. He asked, “Is there anything missing in the offer that you might want to discuss?” But the executive answered, “No, I just need more time.” The headhunter said, “If it’s another situation that you’re looking at, let’s be open so we can negotiate.” The vice president hedged and said, “It isn’t another job.” All of this was discussed between consultant and client. The company asked the recruiter to call the man back and tell him they really wanted him to join them and that he had until Friday to decide, lest they rescind the offer. He did so. That Friday the finalist called. “I don’t quite know how to explain all that has been happening. While I was interviewing with you another search firm called with an interesting opportunity. I really liked both and only recently made up my mind. It wasn’t easy. But I’m accepting the other offer. Thank you so much for your assistance. I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble. I hope we can stay in touch, just in case this situation doesn’t work out.” The headhunter politely told him that, “We would have appreciated your being more candid. We suspected that you had another lead. We were up front with you and were upset that you didn’t level with us.” The man said, “I was afraid the company would strike the offer if they knew.” The headhunter replied, “But we knew by your evasiveness. Furthermore, how could I keep you in mind for other assignments since you might embarrass me again with other clients? It wasn’t that you took another job that disturbs me, it was how you conducted yourself.”
Headhunters realize that executives may be looking at other opportunities. This doesn’t anger them though it is upsetting. However, companies rarely retract offers from people they want just because these individuals are weighing in other assignments. They recognize that the talented are in demand.
An executive in the integrated-circuits field accepted a new position. He was then counter offered by his management and decided to stay. The headhunter relayed this to the client who acted swiftly. They flew the executive to their headquarters, introduced him to top management who proverbially opened a check book and said: “Name your price, my son.” He joined them.