Offer Shopping: The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly

“The plague of offer shopping.”

“The dreaded counter offer.”

Any conversation with a recruiter, hiring manager or Business Head today eventually meanders to the epidemic that has been sweeping the recruitment industry for over a year now. 

Offer shopping, unlike job shopping, is precisely what it sounds like—it is the practice of giving multiple interviews to find the best job offer and then leveraging said offer to demand a pay raise in the current job, make a switch, or negotiate with potential new employers. Unlike a real shopping experience though, there’s an ethical grey area involved in offer shopping.

Here’s a deep dive into the good, bad, and ugly world of offer shopping and its impact on the players involved.

The Good

According to new research from global staffing firm Robert Half, almost 87% of the workers surveyed were confident in their skill set and secure in their jobs. However, around 32% of the workers wanted to switch jobs for better pay and career advancement. In India, recent reports suggest that three in four professionals are considering a job change in 2021. 

From a candidate’s perspective, offer shopping is entirely natural. For them, it follows the same logic as trying out a couple of different options when shopping before making a purchase. With something as life-altering as a job, a candidate would want to take their time, weigh out the benefits and disadvantages of each job opportunity, and then make a call according to their specific situation. With most companies having a behemoth 90-day notice period, employees get ample time to find their way through the job market.

At its core, offer shopping allows candidates to be in the driver’s seat of their employment experience. Candidates reflect on what is important to them—a fancy title, money in the bank, growth prospects, the opportunity to work with leaders in the industry—the list is endless.

Candidates use these aspirations to look for the right offers and to evaluate them once the offers are in hand. Many candidates also use offer shopping to sharpen their interview skills and use the experience to land better jobs.

Offer shopping is also a telltale sign of a booming job market with no shortage of great job opportunities, which is excellent news for job seekers and companies. For the former, it means more incredible options to pick from, and for the latter, it generally represents an expanding business.

The Bad

For a recruiter, a candidate who accepts an offer only to pull back at the very end because they found a better opportunity is not just a massive waste of time but a moral setback as well. When it’s all said and done, a recruiter is like any other employee with pre-determined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). When they devote countless hours to shortlist candidates, set up their interviews, and work with HR to roll out an offer, they expect to get closer to their KPIs. But a candidate who only offer shops and has no intention of joining the company doesn’t just waste precious time and resources but might also jeopardize the recruiter’s job. For candidates who want to sharpen their interviewing skills, there are other avenues available that do not waste time, resources, and someone else’s efforts.  

It is better that the candidate decides early in the interviewing process and lets the recruiter know in time. With multiple moving parts, interdependencies, moral obligations and cost implications, the candidate will be in good standing with the recruiter and the hiring company if they do so. Last-minute rejections cause a case of ‘bad blood’, and with the recruiter community being a close-knit family, is likely to taint the candidate’s reputation. 

According to Glassdoor data, 17.3% of candidates reject job offers; that’s one in every six candidates. In particular, in the technology sector, approximately 19.4% of job offers are rejected (one in every five).

While this could be for various reasons, offer shopping is prime amongst them and negatively impacts recruiters and the human resource department.

Some companies and recruiters have identified techniques to mitigate offer declines, additionally, a lot of companies do not volunteer offer decline data because of its negative impact on employer branding. Yet, the number stands close to a massive 20%.

Generally, offer shopping leaves recruiters and hiring managers with a bitter taste and might make them mistrust forthcoming candidates. When recruiters are left hanging at the very last moment, they also tend to question their hiring skills.

As is apparent, there’s a moral grey area when it comes to offer shopping. Candidates might consider it a step to a better job, but for recruiters and hiring managers, offer shopping is a colossal waste of their time and effort. 

The Ugly

A candidate who has amassed 11 job offers and is still interviewing for other jobs is doing a disservice to the recruiters and fellow job seekers. An equally viable candidate might lose out on a job because an offer shopper has kept the recruiters on hold. More than just potentially putting someone else’s job prospects at risk, offer shopping creates a lot of chaos and confusion for recruiters and other candidates.

Ethically, offer shopping falls right in the grey zone since there’s something quite problematic about accepting a job offer, negotiating salary, and then failing to show up for the job. If the position is crucial and needs to be filled out urgently, a job shopping fiasco can lead to huge losses and blowouts for the company.

Everyone loses when candidates shop for offers. Companies lose time, money and opportunities, recruiters lose out on their commission, time and effort, and candidates suffer from tanking reputations since no other recruiter or hiring manager will trust them. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also irrevocably altered how candidates look at jobs and gives them a lot more leeway when it comes to fielding multiple offers. Their expectations from potential employers have also shifted to focus more on flexibility and mindfulness of employee satisfaction.

For recruiters, the challenge now is not just to find the right candidate but someone who will follow through and sign on the dotted line. Devising strategies to deal with a possible offer shopping scenario is key to hiring right. 

Stay tuned for the next article in our job offer shopping series to learn more about these strategies and how they can be best implemented.

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In her free time Vani loves storytelling and helping talent meet their aspirations. She has been a part of enterprise, growth stage startups & VC firms. She is driven to make stories and startups matter.

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