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I recently got a new job at a firm that is paying me only slightly higher, but the work is going to be much better. As such, I have resigned from my current job and the exit process has started.

I am now being asked all sorts of questions by Senior Management and HR about my new job, such as:

  1. Which company are you joining? What do they do?
  2. How much are they paying you (details)?
  3. Why do you think the work there will be better than here?
  4. What other benefits are you receiving? Are they providing you facility X?

None of this is compulsory for me to answer, but I don't like pretending to be vague or reluctant all the time.

How truthfully should I answer the above questions? Not that there is any harm in being entirely truthful but I just don't feel too good about telling them every single detail.

Any suggestions? Why do companies ask for all these details about an employee's new job?

  • 8
    Are these being asked by curious co-workers or by management? – DKnight Mar 14 '13 at 16:51
  • By senior management and HR. My co-workers don't yet know about my resignation. My manager wants to keep it a secret for sometime (apparently, me leaving is not too good for the team morale) – sunny Mar 14 '13 at 16:54
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    Share as much as you feel comfortable divulging. It is your personal information after all – Rhys Mar 14 '13 at 17:01
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    @sunny Don't give a company name unless you completely trust everyone in management. I have heard bad stories about managers that don't want you to leave telling your future employer that you are a bad employee, potentially ruining your new opportunity. Even if that sounds paranoid, better safe than sorry. – CincinnatiProgrammer Mar 14 '13 at 17:41
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    They might also be preparing a counter-offer. Don't mention "they only pay slightly better" if you want that offer to be tempting. – Konerak Mar 20 '13 at 12:24
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While these questions are primarily designed to help your own employer, answering them constructively can help your own reputation and also may preserve a good relationship that may come in handy a few years down the road. There is no benefit to "burning bridges"

Which company are you joining? What do they do?

That depends a bit on the industry, but typically you can't keep this is a secret anyway (will show up in your linkedIn profile, etc.). Example: "I'll be working for so-and-so inc. as a [rough role]. You'll understand that for confidentiality reasons I can't give you more details than that."

This may be awkward if it's a direct competitor, especially if you have a non-disclosure or non-compete agreement in place. In this case you can add "I can assure you that I will not disclose any confidential information about you to my new employer."

How much are they paying you (details)?

"Sorry, I can't disclose that, since it's confidential. I have certainly respected your confidentiality as well and have not disclosed any of your compensation details to my new employer."

Why do you think the work there will be better than here?

"I find the new role more interesting because of [xxx]." It typically is useful to answer that correctly as it may help your existing company to get better and it's also good for future opportunities.

What other benefits are you receiving? Are they providing you facility X?

"Sorry, I don't know whether this is confidential or not, so I'd rather not disclose this. I'm sure that whatever isn't confidential is publicly available for you to research."

  • Thanks for the replies, I have mostly maintained this line till now and I think I am going to continue along the same. – sunny Mar 15 '13 at 5:02
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    Such a great answer. The new company will expect you to keep your compensation confidential, and breaking that trust would be a poor way to start. – Willie Wheeler Mar 25 '14 at 6:03
  • Which is one disadvantage of having a linkedin profile. – sid smith Jul 26 '14 at 5:41
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    Why do you think the work there will be better than here. - "Well, for one thing, they're not asking me to reveal sensitive details about my employment with you." – A. I. Breveleri Jul 22 '17 at 15:38
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It's not about you, it's about them. As an organisation, they want to learn as well. Getting new employees up to speed is quite costly, and leaving employees will take a lot of knowledge with them which is not available to the organisation anymore.

So it often is in their interest to retain employees instead of losing them. So if they can understand the reasoning for leaving better, they may want to change certain things to retain their employees longer.

Some questions may not seem to be directly useful, but many questions will tell them why an employee is leaving. So if many employees say they are leaving because of receiving more wages, they may wish to try and give raises to try and retain their employees.

  • ok, so does it mean I should tell them all the details. I wouldn't mind helping them learn what they can do to retain employees. But some of that could be not-so-good-sounding stuff. I am afraid it might strain my relationships with my seniors. On the other hand, if I only tell them half the story, I am not really helping them in anyway. – sunny Mar 14 '13 at 17:00
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    Getting all that information is in their best interest. Keeping good relations is in your best interest. In professional relationships you should definitely hold up your own best interests. So if you want to help them as much as possible, tell them what you feel comfortable with, but don't be afraid not to tell them everything. You will not be the only one not telling them everything. – René Wolferink Mar 14 '13 at 17:04
  • Agreed. Exit interviews are pretty standard, and you are in control of what you do and do not want to say. – jcmeloni Mar 14 '13 at 17:15
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    @sunny: I'd suggesting being honest, but try to be gentle and not to be brutally so. You don't want to burn any bridges (because I know where I work, there are probably 2 or 3 people that I know of who have gone on to other places, only to return a few years later). If you have criticism, offer it in a constructive tone, rather than being negative and cynical. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 14 '13 at 17:23
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    I downvoted this answer. They are asking a bunch of questions that are none of their business. Answering them probably violates the policies of the new gig. You can't really hide the new employer, but beyond that I'd say as little as possible. If you have general feedback about the good and bad things about your old company then share them in your exit interview. Keep your new company out of it. – Jim In Texas Mar 15 '13 at 1:02
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Okay, you are elated you have found a new job and are moving on. The sun is shining and your old boss is gently prodding you to find out the items you mentioned. It's a trifle, and you will lose nothing by answering, right? WRONG!

Please pause to think about the following:

  • Do you have a firm offer?
  • Have you signed a contract with your new employer?
  • Is your new employer under any legal obligation to abide by the terms of agreement with you?
  • How quickly can your new employer change his/her mind about hiring you?
  • How many ways are there that your present employer can hurt your career before you say "Goodbye"?

First off, if you provide your old boss with enough actionable information, he/she may be tempted to play a dirty joke on you. He/she is a jolly good fellow, so don't lead him/her to temptation. You have to part on good terms (with perhaps a round of beers for your ex-colleagues and direct boss for all the good ole' days you've spent with them).

Second, you may be tempted by a counter-offer. We'll give you a hefty raise, a better health insurance plan, a new office, whatever. The obvious conclusion for us is you can be easily swayed and bought - not good for your long-term career prospects. You've made up your mind, there is precious little that can make you re-think your decision.

Third, if your new employer is in the same industry (I assume there is no binding "no-compete clause") you have to be loyal to the new company and keep things that may hurt its business well under your stetson...

under your stetson

  • He's already started the exit process, so the answer to the first two questions better be "Yes". People leave all the time (typically about 10% a year), if the old employer is going to get vindictive, telling them about the new employer is unlikely to make them more so. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Nov 24 '17 at 13:03
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I like the accepted answer, but had a slightly different spin.

Why do companies ask?

Business means competition. While the competition for opportunities to make money are obvious - there's also a competition for resources. Just like two companies from different fields may bid over the price of a given limited physical resource (like gold, oil, or computer chips) - they bid, very subtly, over the availabilty of key talent.

Particularly in knowledge work - there's a fairly finite number of people with the skills, dedication and intelligence to do the work ably and efficiently - particularly in any given location. The more people you can have on staff to do the work, the better your product, service or other output will be, and the more of it you can generate in a given time period.

So - recruitment and retention of staff isn't just a "nice to have", it's a cornerstone of a successful business.

In other words - no matter how great your product is, if you can't retain enough staff to keep it going, you won't be successful as a business in the long term.

The more a company can learn about its competition for talent, the more it can tailor its employment opportunities to beat out the competition. Often the "win" isn't just the simple numbers - salary, vacation days, value of benefit package - it's subtler things like brand reputation, work opportunities and cultural perks. This stuff isn't easy to figure out from a company's website - the only way you can find this information is to ask, and the best people to ask are the ones who you know are a good fit for this company. And that means exiting employees.

What should you say?

It's really your call. And it's somewhat a question of:

  • what's your agreement with the new job? Did they ask for confidentiality?
  • how private do you want to be about your new salary and benefits?
  • how much do you trust your current management and how much do you want to help them?
  • do you have any desire for a counteroffer?

Confidentiality

This trumps all. Don't give away business secrets - either from your old company or your new one. That will both burn bridges and get you in legal trouble. And being the guy who's not trustworthy with a secret really isn't ever a reputation win.

Privacy

Different people will feel differently about this, and the situation will certainly be an influence. Personally, I've been open to sharing this - my general thought is that the current company knows my current salary and benefits, so at least being clear about the general nature of the difference isn't such a crazy thing to share. Particularly when a big reason for leaving is a serious case of underpayment, or a reduction in benefits - it's worth being clear that this was a factor.

How clear you want to be is entirely up to you. I know many people feel uncomfortable about sharing salary specifics - but saying "a substantial increase" or "more than my typical raises in this company" or some other frame of reference can be useful. Particularly if you are talking about an enormous difference, it can be a kindness (if you like your current employers) to be clear that the market rate of their salaries is WAY under the opportunities that are currently available.

Helpfulness

There's two aspects - if you work with people you don't trust, then I'd advise against sharing personal information. Why do favors for people you don't trust?

But if you have a good rapport with your management and your company in general, sharing information does two things:

  • It informs your management about the risks of others leaving. They know the picture of salaries across the company (or some subset of it). If you are underpaid or get too few benefits for the current state of the market for your skill set - it's likely that others are at risk of leaving for the same reason. If management can make a change to pay or benefits, this may give them forewarning to stop the flood of people leaving.

  • It may just help your coworkers. Many benefits are provided largely for the competition for talent. If enough people leave to get a certain benefit, the company may be inspired to offer it to the remaining workers. This is less likely with big stuff like salaries, but much more doable in smaller companies with things like flexible hours, work at home or other work/life balance bonuses.

Counter offers

There's no magic recipe for a counter offer. The reasons a company may not make an offer are numerous, and it's impossible to predict with any certainty.

One point, though, is that the vaguer you are about why you're leaving, the less certain that your management will be that any counteroffer would do any good. If they ask, clearly and directly - "what would it take to make you stay?" and you say something like "I really can't discuss that" or "It's nothing all that specific, it's just a vague desire to be doing different work" - then they likely won't bother, since there's no way to figure out WHAT would get you to stay.

That said, a super clear and specific answer doesn't guarantee anything... it just ups the chances that if the company WANTS to make a counter offer, they at least have the information necessary to go about putting one together.

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I've known HR people that couldn't keep a secret to save their lives. HR is solely there for the protection of the company they work for. So...if you don't want your manager to know than don't tell HR.

Simply say. "This is confidential information that I do wish to disclose ". You might soften it by telling them how much you appreciate the opportunities given to you at your current company.

  • Hello unsan, and welcome to the Workplace! The best answers on the site are ones which explain why or how and very clearly answer the question. Is there any chance you could offer a bit more explanation to back up your answer? – jmac Sep 8 '13 at 23:29
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Never tell your current company which company you're moving to, unless you know for sure that they have no business ties.

My current company has a reputation for calling the new employer and pressuring them into not hiring you anymore. My company is one of the biggies in its field, it's easy for them to pressure any of their contractors.

So there is definitely potential harm there.

Never tell them exactly your new salary either. If you don't want to completely avoid the question, say something like "it's about 30% more" without giving an exact figure.

They might need you in the future, and if they know exactly how much the new company pays you, you've effectively compromised your negotiation position for no valid reason.

Questions 3 and 4 I would answer, as they're geared more towards the "what could we as a company offer that we currently do not?", rather than towards "how much more do we need to spend to keep you here?".

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    "Never tell them exactly your new salary either. If you don't want to completely avoid the question, say something like "it's about 30% more" without giving an exact figure." That sounds ridiculous. "I wont' tell you how much I paid for my new house, but I'll let you know it's between $150,000 and $165,000". What does that achieve? – user42272 May 24 '16 at 21:23
  • I would add, and this is only a comment, not an answer, in case you work in a technical field, which means that you spend most of your time in front of a screen, tape your mouth shut. Why? - we don't have a real network, and jobs are mostly gotten through networks. Don't risk that precious opportunity you got yourself. - consequence of the previous is that we don't know how companies are connected, and, worse, we don't know the very dirty tricks that people play in non-technical positions (our bosses' positions, that is). Just tell them, despite your being great, I am leaving-period. – Anthony Duvall Nov 24 '17 at 14:08
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I would more than likely answer these questions in an exit interview with an HR person. They're usually discreet because they understand confidentiality. Although they may not make you a counter-offer, they'll use the information to improve the position and combat turn-over.

Some managers are blabbermouths, so I wouldn't tell them much. Salary questions are tacky. They should know better but don't. The more informal the setting the fewer details. With some people, you build a stronger relationship, so you may divulge more to them.

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    @AmyBlankenship : you gotta adore all the analog ones, too... – Deer Hunter Mar 14 '13 at 20:41
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    The continuous ones are the ones you have to watch out for. They are everywhere! – enderland Mar 14 '13 at 21:14

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