Industry Insights

The Counteroffer: Your Relationship Strategy, Protecting Your Personal Brand, & “Smaltimore”!

Jul 20, 2020 | Industry Insights

The Counteroffer: Your Relationship Strategy, Protecting Your Personal Brand, & “Smaltimore”!

Published by Jason Nemoy

This one really stung. And it may have (unfortunately) burned a few bridges.

A candidate of our firm indicated to our team recently that he accepted a counteroffer from his current employer after having already accepted an offer from a new employer.

To be brutally honest…  we did not see it coming, nor did our client.  We received the call at the proverbial 11th hour. Most of the pre-employment and on-boarding tasks had been completed and a start date was set for the following week. Suddenly the excitement of the upcoming new hire came to a screeching halt for our client. As a team, we immediately began to reflect on where we may have dropped the ball. Did we miss an opportunity to prevent this for our client? Did we overlook any subtle “red flags” during the hiring process?

For candidates, searching for a new opportunity (actively or passively) requires building relationships. And there are many that will materialize throughout the process, from Search Consultant (like me), to the interview team of your future employer, and anyone else that has given you their time and energy along the way. Bottom line, do you have your “relationship strategy” in place in the event you receive a counteroffer? Do you have a plan for what and how you are going to communicate with everyone who has been part of the process? And, are you in a position to protect your personal brand?

I’m not originally from Baltimore, and several years ago I heard the term “Smaltimore.” As a 10+ year resident… I now get it. Basically, you never know who you might run into again, personally and professionally. Baltimore is a small town, so as you dive into the process, keep in mind the professionals you engage with and impact along the way. You’re investing a lot of your own personal time and the time of others. And if you sense a counteroffer is on the way, it’s imperative to keep everyone in the loop.

 I offer a few suggestions to help you take the highest road possible so that if a counteroffer comes along, you’ve handled yourself with the utmost integrity and avoid (potentially) burning bridges.


Sometimes, they are just not expected.

On occasion, counteroffers come out of left field. You may think your company will just say “good luck to you,” maybe host a small gathering on your last day and lots of well wishes. So, when a counteroffer comes along, it’s natural to feel conflicted. It is flattering that your current company doesn’t want to lose you, but it’s important to take a step back and reflect. What are your reasons for exploring a new job? Does this counteroffer change any of those things? What about your new role? You accepted the new job offer for a reason. It’s important to weigh the various factors that attracted you before deciding how to proceed.

Tough to say, tough to hear conversations.

First and foremost, keep the lines of communication open. If you sense a counteroffer might be made or have already received one, notify the recruiter, the hiring manager, or any other important parties. Your recruiter can talk through various scenarios as well as provide feedback, support, and advice on how to approach this. Additionally, your future employer deserves a heads-up and the opportunity to try to strengthen their offer to you. By skipping that conversation, you eliminate any potential negotiating power for yourself and the company. These conversations are not easy, and you may dread making them, but you’ll give yourself a fair shot to explore all the options currently on the table.

Protect your personal brand.

Mishandling a counteroffer could hurt your brand for quite some time. You have built countless relationships throughout the process, and they can be quickly tarnished. How you handle a stressful situation like a counteroffer will be remembered, both positively and negatively. There is a level of trust, partnership, and professionalism that can be tricky to rebuild once broken. Protect your reputation and your personal brand.

You may be circling back.

What happens if things don’t work out and you want to move on again in 3- or 6-months’ time? Are the previous relationships you built still intact? Will those contacts be supportive? Will they want to talk? If you had a good relationship strategy in place, you have a much better chance of circling back.

It’s okay to accept a counteroffer. It can be a great thing long-term. But whether you decide to accept the counteroffer or move on from your current employer, be mindful of your “relationship strategy” throughout the process. You will have built a foundation of meaningful relationships along the way (recruiter, the future employer/hiring managers, anyone who has supported you during the process) that all must be accounted for. And you never know; you just might run into one of those relationships down the road. Remember, it’s “Smaltimore.