Job search: be wary of a counter offer from competing employers

For some management consultants with sought-after profiles the current job market can bring multiple job offers (How to decide? See here )

Your path may be clear, or you may go through agonies of indecision, comparing and contrasting the respective merits of the offers, the roles and the employers.

The end result is an acceptance email or call to one and a polite “thanks but no thanks” to the other job offer(s).

In most cases this is a decision made and the end of this stage of the process albeit there are of course other key hurdles including the resignation itself!

However, increasingly management consultancy job seekers are finding themselves surprised and confused by counter offers from the employers they have declined. While this can sometimes be no more than a polite “is there anything we can do to change your mind?” increasingly candidates can find offers of more cash being dangled, whether in the form of an improved salary, sign on bonus or other bonus guarantee.

The Dilemma

Making a job move and accepting a job offer is a big deal and potentially a time of heightened emotion, clouded thinking and impaired decision making.

In the event of a counter offer revisit how you got to this point and why you were planning to accept the first employer’s offer.

  • Why are you looking for a new job?
  • What is your career plan?
  • What is important to you about the new employer and role?

notebook and pen to write down pros and cons

In any event write it down: having it in black and white will be helpful if you do come under pressure to reverse your decision. This is as near as you can get to an objective, measured decision so it’s important to keep this front of mind. If in doubt find people you trust to speak to.

Why does this matter? If you end up in another job with more money, surely you’re better off?

Does it matter that it’s not the job you originally accepted?

It DOES matter and here’s why:

Eight reasons why you shouldn’t let a persuasive employer change your mind

1. What is your true worth?

Do you really want to join an employer that initially made a lower offer and was forced to improve it?

2. Pressure to deliver

Can you back it up? Companies forced into salary hikes or otherwise enhanced offers naturally expect increased performance, sales or productivity that may be beyond your ability to deliver. Or beyond the company’s ability to enable you to deliver.

3. The recruitment process

The potential employer evaluated you at a specific salary and level. If at the drop of a hat they change that what does that say about the recruitment process? If they got that wrong, what other aspects might they have been mistaken about? Your fit for the role and company perhaps?

4. Does it make you vulnerable?

If there are subsequent redundancies, you might well be the first to go: you could now be too expensive and in the first two years you are easy and cheap to get rid of.

5. Future disloyalty

They now know that money is your primary motivation and will assume when evaluating staff that you might not stay long if you get a better offer. Especially if you’ve already had a few short moves on your CV.

6. Objectivity

You made your decision to accept the first job offer with a calculated weighing up of the facts. Trying to re-evaluate this with the flattery and other pressures of a counteroffer will inevitably mean that being entirely rational and making the correct decision is virtually impossible.

7. Storing up trouble

The same circumstances that caused you to turn down their original offer may come to a head in future if you accept a counteroffer now. The reality is that it’s highly likely it’s not the optimum move. You are being swayed by a last-minute financial incentive, not a better job, so you may be dissatisfied and seeking a new role sooner than you wanted.

Potentially this could be with employers and perhaps jobs which are not as good as the offer you originally had. In the intervening period the job market may have changed.

8. Grading

Has the employer been forced into offering you remuneration the top of the grading band? So no future salary rises unless you are promoted? And earning more than other staff at the same level? You could be looking at future dissatisfaction and conflict.

In summary

You may think, to use a housing analogy, that gazumping leaves you the clear winner but unlike with a house sale you can end up paying the price of the wrong job move for the rest of your career.


Increasingly management consultancy job seekers find themselves with counter offers from employers they have declined. These offers may come with increased pressure to deliver, less chance of future promotion and a likelihood that the role would not be a good long-term decision.
Try and evaluate them alongside your longer term career and personal goals. Salary is important but rarely the main factor and never be tempted by counter offers.
While it’s important to keep an open mind, if only the salary has changed then be careful. Do you really want to join an employer that made an offer that was too low in the first place? Is it actually the best job and the best employer for your career goals? These are key considerations to be aware of.

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