Take the Offer and Run

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A recruiter has brought you an offer of a better salary from a competing firm. You go into your manager's office to resign and receive a counteroffer. Should you take it?

No, says Bob Deissig, a partner at search firm The Ayers Group in New York, and the firms shouldn't offer counteroffers either. He cites a survey published in the Wall Street Journal that showed more than 90% of job seekers who had accepted counteroffers were unhappy a year later and most had left, either voluntarily or not.

'In financial services, it's like musical chairs,' Deissig says. 'People from First Boston go to Morgan Stanley and people from Morgan Stanley go to UBS, and it just rotates.'

Mixed Expectations

Rather than bringing in a new hire who can learn to fill a position, banks and financial services firms are looking for an exact fit. For the employee, often the only difference is pay. 'That means the only pull for a person to leave their current company is more money, and if there isn't a lot of push, when they go in to resign it becomes very commonplace to counter,' says Deissig. 'So why should they leave when their current employer just matched the salary offer?'

Often, however, the employee who was ready to leave was also dissatisfied with a manager or the company culture, so his decision to accept a counteroffer is one which will raise second thoughts in the months ahead. And managers who have just learned the employee isn't loyal may spend the next few months looking for a replacement.

'We tell clients to be more flexible and provide learning opportunities,' says Deissig. With that approach, the hiring firm is providing more than just additional money for the same opportunity - it is offering a candidate the chance to learn new areas of the business.

He adds, 'If a person has the right experience - if they are smart and have a degree of learning agility - it is not a leap of faith to move that person into a bigger job.' The result is a win-win for recruiters, candidates, and banks. The recruiters have a wider range of people to present, firms gets to look at a group of highly skilled, eager job candidates, the candidates have a greater incentive than just money, and the outcome is a loyal employee who has grown into a new position.

Running up the Ladder

Another approach is to fill an opening through internal promotion. In a recent Robert Half survey of executives at the largest 1,000 companies in the US, 60% of respondents said they were more likely to promote from within than they were three years ago.

Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career for Dummies, says that job hopping can be an attractive way to advance in times of low unemployment.

'But employers value loyalty, and the best growth opportunities often are internal, particularly among those firms that recognize the morale and productivity benefits of promoting from within.' He advises employees to make sure that their managers understand their skills and career goals.

Know the skills required for the job you are pursuing, Messmer adds, and acquire any needed education. Volunteer for new tasks to demonstrate enthusiasm, and make your boss look good.

When Deissig evaluates candidates for their ability to move into a more challenging position, he looks for indications that candidates are inquisitive. 'You often can see that outside work as well,' he says. 'You want to know if the person is a quick learner, if they go outside the box rather than always taking things in logical succession.'

Finally, says Messmer, candidates should help prepare a successor so your boss will agree to let you go with professional bridges unburned.

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