How to approach a counter offer

May 16, 2022

The tax recruitment market is busier than it has been in years. As we move out of the pandemic and business confidence grows, so too does the demand for tax advisors both in industry and the profession.  This has resulted not only in fierce competition amongst employers to attract the best talent, but also an urgent need to retain the best staff.  We are seeing ever more creative retention strategies but also a significant increase in the number of buy backs – or counter offers.

What is a counter offer?

A counter offer is the process of a candidate being made an offer by their current employer to stay at a company when they resign.  Often, these take the form of increased pay, promises of more flexible work, or a promotion. We are seeing buy backs at all levels from newly qualified to Partner and Head of Tax. They can be flattering but also incredibly stressful.  Finding and securing a new role can be quite disruptive and requires a lot of time and effort, so to resign and then be counter offered can make you feel as if you are back to square one. 

Why do organisations counter offer? 

In the current market, counter offers are very common.  A counter offer can be persuasive; you will be flattered and be made to feel very special, but the harsh reality is replacing you is a hassle your employer could do without.  Many firms and organisations are looking for tax advisors and are well aware of how difficult it is to find good people, so will do everything they can to hold on to the people they have got.  If they lose you, they have another position to fill and another person to train which only adds to the pressure on the current team and long term can be more costly than offering you an increase in your current package.

What should you do if you are counter offered?

Remind yourself what prompted your job search in the first place.  It is a good idea to write down your motivations for moving at the start of your search and revisit them throughout the process.  Some shortcomings might be bettered by sitting tight and a counter offer can resolve issues, but you must be open with your current employer. Don’t stay in a role because it is comfortable and familiar as it is easier to hit a new career trajectory in a different environment; your new employer has invested a lot of time and effort into getting you on board and they will want you to be a successful addition to their team.

Finally, you must question why such a tempting offer is only being given to you when you are about to leave.  Why, if you are a valued employee, was a higher salary, better client portfolio or working arrangement not offered to you previously? It is professional courtesy to be transparent with your current employer and hear what they have to say but bear in mind you are forcing their hand; if you stay as a result of a buy back you will be on the back foot when it comes to any future pay and promotion negotiations.

Moreover, if an employer feels you have gone to market to try to engineer a buy back because you know the market is buoyant, it can lead to an uncomfortable situation. The majority of people who are bought back start looking for a role again within a year as a lot of the knee jerk promises do not come to fruition and the reasons for leaving have not gone away.

In all, counter offers are flattering and might turn out to be the right thing for you and your employer, but it is essential to remember why you started looking in the first place.  If the counter offer does not deliver what you are looking for, don’t be swayed!

For advice on how to manage a counter offer, your career, or the tax market in general, please get in touch with Sally McIntyre-Brown.