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Why You Should Never Accept a Counteroffer:

What employers think, what they'll say to keep you and why any promise they make shouldn't be believed. By Paul Hawkinson

Mathew Henry, the 17th-century writer said, "Many a dangerous temptation comes to us in fine gay colours that are but skin deep." The same can be said for counteroffers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you've decided it's time to fly away.

The litany of horror stories I have come across in my years as an executive recruiter, consultant and publisher, provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted...EVER!

I define a counteroffer simply as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you've announced your intention to take another job. We're not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don't tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a "they-want-me-but-I'm -staying-with-you" ploy.

These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.

Interviews with employers who make counteroffers, and employees who accept them, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide. During the past 25 years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its proper perspective.  

What really goes through a boss's mind when someone quits? 

"This couldn't be happening at a worse time."
"This is one of my best people. If I let him quit now, it'll wreak havoc on the morale of the department."
"I've already got one opening in my department. I don't need another right now."
"This will probably screw up the entire vacation schedule."
"I'm working as hard as I can, and don't need to do his work, too."
"If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to 'lose' me too."
"My review is coming up and this will make me look bad."
"Maybe I can keep him on until I find a suitable replacement."

What will the boss say to keep you in the nest? Some of these comments are common.

"I'm really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let's discuss it before you make your final decision."
"Aw gee, I've been meaning to tell you about the great plan we have for you, but it's been confidential until now."
"The V.P. has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities."
"Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we'll make it effective immediately."
"You're going to work for whom?"

Let's face it. When someone quits, it's a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you're really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his side, the boss might look bad by "allowing" you to go. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he's ready. That's human nature.

Unfortunately, it's also human nature to want to stay unless your work life is abject misery. Career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough. That's why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons.

Before you succumb to a tempting counteroffer, consider these universal truths:

Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions is suspect.
No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you will always be considered a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a "team player" and your place in the inner circle.

Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you.

Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.

Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?

Decent and well-managed companies don't make counteroffers...EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to "counteroffer coercion" or what they perceive as blackmail.

If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings.

Reprint from: National Business Employment Weekly, April 3, 1988

Resume Writing Tips

1. Important Information - Be sure to put the most important information or aspect of your resume on the first page. Example: If you have an MBA in finance don't bury that on the third page behind a lot of previous positions that may not be applicable to the position you are seeking. 

2. Unrelated Positions - Leave off positions that you held during college or before you started your current career if they are not pertinent to your career goals. Example: Don't put down the waitressing job in college or the Assistant Manager at Hi-Fi Buys if you are seeking a position in banking or accounting. It is not necessary to account for every bit of time that you have been working. The goal is to use the resume as a tool to sell the employer on your experience in his field. He probably won't be very interested in experience you have in unrelated areas.

3. Use Bullet Form - Use bullets to highlight duties or accomplishments whenever possible. Example: Long paragraphs about each employer or position held become very boring and hard to read. Remember that employers read resumes very hurriedly between meetings, etc. This most important information needs to be presented up front, concisely and literally jump off the page at them. If they have to look to find it, they probably won't.

4. Objectives - They are not required on your resume and many times do more to rule you out of a position than rule you in. Unless you have time to change the objective for each position you submit your resume for, or you have only one type of position you will consider, it may be better to leave off the objective completely. If you do put an objective on your resume make it as broad as possible to include all possible avenues you might consider.

5. Hobbies, Personal Information - This information is very good for establishing common interest and conversation with the interviewer. Employers like to know as much about your personal side as possible and many times have the same interests as you. List your hobbies, interests, activities, etc. Remember that personality fit and being comfortable with the people with whom you will be working is as important as the job itself. This information can open up the conversation to this part of the employers personality and those of the people in the department.

6. Computer Skills - Always very important in today's climate. Don't forget to include these.

7. Use Space Wisely - Don't leave too much white space, but also don't crowd the page with too many words. The page should be pleasant to look at and easy to read. Use space proportionately. Example: Don't use the same amount of space telling about a position you held for three months as you do telling about a position you held for thirteen years.

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