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Recently at an job interview I was asked a question I had never been asked before.

Are you expecting to get a counter offer when you announce your departure?

I answered truthfully and backed my answer with a rationale. But I'm wondering...

What kind of answers might be perceived as negative for the interviewer? What kind of answers would be perceived positively? What would be a good answer to this question?

  • 2
    It's a more common question than you might think, though I've usually been asked that by a recruitment agent rather than the future employer themselves! – user34587 May 17 '17 at 14:36
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    Honestly if you got a Job when you announce your departure, just dont even consider accepting it. People dont tend to leave for less pay and more often than not dont tend to stay after recieveing more. Also you have to consider your Employer keeping you just to get time for a replacement. – Raoul Mensink May 17 '17 at 15:20
  • During an exit interview? Or an interview for a new job? I interpret what you are saying to be the new potential company asking if your present company will try to counter-offer to keep you there. Is this correct? – PoloHoleSet May 17 '17 at 15:28
  • @PoloHoleSet New job. I tried to make this clearer in the question. – StumpedCandidate May 17 '17 at 15:38
  • Thanks. My answer was based on my interpretation, above. Looks like we're on the same page. – PoloHoleSet May 17 '17 at 15:39
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Answers to this I am happy hearing:

  • probably, but I won't be considering it. Accepting a counter offer just delays the inevitable. Once I find a job I would rather have, I'm going to take it, not use it as leverage with the job I want to leave
  • in talking to others who have left, it's not the norm where I am, not that it's super relevant because I won't be considering it. [Same sentence as above after that.]

Answers I am not happy hearing:

  • I think they'll be relieved I'm going actually, things have not been good for a while
  • [laughing a little cruelly] Oh, they are going to have such a problem when they realize they have lost me! They will probably offer me a lot of money to stay, but I'm not taking it even though I would have them over a barrel. That is just not the right place for me and I am out of there.
  • Yes, but don't worry, if it's more than you've offered me I will give you a chance to raise your offer before I accept the counter and stay where I am

Answers I am neutral on:

  • I've taken that into account when deciding what salary to ask for. You don't need to worry about how I will manage things with the old firm, they're not in control of this process for me
  • what's a counter offer?
  • I don't know, I never thought about it

There are many motivations for asking this question. Chances are, they are asking "are we likely to have several rounds of negotiation with you every time you tell your employer we've won, and they raise the bid?" If this is the question, you can reassure them without actually answering whether you expect a counter offer or not. But they may be asking "how much do they value you at your current employer right now?" or "how 'into' the whole negotiation and strategy thing are you, and how important is salary to you?" The best answers are not just to the literal question (yes/no) but to the underlying wondering that prompted it.

As always, don't lie or just say what you think they want to hear. If you say you would never consider a counter offer, then get one, consider it, and go back to the new employer trying to get them to raise their offer, that's unlikely to be met well. So take some time to establish what the truth is for you on this matter.

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  • 3
    Some people are more aware of the whole process than others. Some have never heard of counter offers. If I asked them "do they appreciate your work?" they could answer that. They just didn't know that some kinds of negotiations happen. – Kate Gregory May 17 '17 at 15:13
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    That depends why I asked. If I asked because I was worried about never-ending negotiations, then "I don't know" is probably all I need to know. This isn't a person who is micromanaging every aspect of the process. They may just react to what happens -- accept my offer if they like it, decline it if they don't -- and pursuing the counter offer issue seems pointless. If I wanted to know "how valued are you at work?" and didn't get it by asking about counter offers, I guess I would have to ask it a different way. – Kate Gregory May 17 '17 at 15:19
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    "don't lie or just say what you think they want to hear." - That's pretty impossible if one wants to keep options open when the prospect employer wants to hear only "I won't consider it." I can imagine a company might trump the offer with some golden opportunity. E.g. a substantial raise + moving to a more suitable position/team. What about "Maybe, but I doubt they can come with anything worthwhile, otherwise I would have tried negotiating it inside." Some companies dismiss key workers until there's a real risk of leaving, and noone sane would try shoot for the moon without backup. – luk32 May 17 '17 at 16:34
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    People who hold honesty against you deserve to be lied to. Simple as that. – Kik May 17 '17 at 19:45
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    @Kik your call, but (a) I don't lie and who I am talking to doesn't change that and (b) when you go back on something you said, telling them "but you would have held the truth against me" isn't going to make it all better. – Kate Gregory May 17 '17 at 19:55
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Depending on whether you think you'd get one -

"No. My company has enough depth and backup training that they can handle normal employee turnover without resorting to extraordinary measures. I'd like to think they'll miss me and don't want me to leave, but I've documented my work well enough that my co-workers or replacement will be able to pick up my projects."

"Yes, probably. They consider me to be a valuable employee. However, I'm interested in joining your company because this position offers better opportunities for my career. It's not just about the money, so even a big counter-offer would not keep me there once I've made the commitment to a new employer. Besides, the counter-offer is usually a short-term fix for the employer, and accepting them usually does not work out well for the employee."

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    I like your answer for yes, I'll try to convey that idea at my next interview for the same role (which is happening, by the way). But I feel like another answer is more complete and so I'm accepting it. Thank you very much. – StumpedCandidate May 17 '17 at 17:23
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I think taking the middle ground is the best approach here as it doesn't indicate a preference to one or the other companies, but puts them on equal bargaining sides similar to if you are applying externally to two companies.

Something like,

I am not sure, but if they do I will consider it along side any offers I receive from other companies I apply to.

This also, keeps your internal biases to yourself and keeps the interview relationship professional.

Also, I personally think if the company wants to know how badly you want to work for their company they should ask that and get an honest answer instead of implying through misdirection about offers and salary. An honest employer at the interview is more likely to be an honest employer in the job and vice versus.

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  • 1
    +1. This is roughly the answer I would have given. The accepted one has many alternative answers, but all boil down to "no". This makes it seem that it would be somehow unethical to let a counter-offer sway you back. The issue is more complex. It could be a genuine case of someone looking for a new job because he got too little money at the old one (while everything else being great). Or it could be that one has talks with a few new companies and finds out that his originally assumed market value just isn't as high as expected. (cont.) – AnoE May 18 '17 at 15:36
  • (cont.) Also, the question is close to "are you speaking with other companies than us". The overall answer to all of this should be roughly as outlined in this answer - it's really not their business, but we don't lie. – AnoE May 18 '17 at 15:37
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There are people looking for a raise in their current job and the only way they feel they can get it is to get an offer from another company, on hopes that they get a counteroffer from the current job. Accordingly, as for that question, anyone answering, "Yes! I'm expecting a counteroffer!" might be perceived as a red flag to an interviewer. It'd be a waste of a company's time to sideline all other applicants, make someone an offer, and have that person decline in lieu of a counteroffer -- so this helps the interviewer. Answering "yes" would be pretty dumb, in my opinion.

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  • I did just that, but not with the excitment conveyed by "Yes! I'm expecting a counteroffer!". I answered yes, because that's what I expect, not what I hope. – StumpedCandidate May 17 '17 at 17:22
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    Why sideline the other applicants? Make the offer contingent upon full acceptance in X days. If the time passes and negotiations haven't completed, terminate discussion and move on. Only after they have fully accepted the offer should you sideline the other applicants. – Jonathan Fite May 17 '17 at 19:11
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Oh, I can think of millions of negative answers:

  • Oh, they're just as happy to see me go as I am to leave, so a counter offer won't happen.

  • I'm expecting that they'll match your offer, which was my plan all along.

  • They couldn't offer me enough to stay, I'm sick of that place!

  • Your offer is so low that I'm sure they would match it, but I'm leaving anyway.

  • They might counter - but they you'll counter their counter, right? I'm worth it.

  • So you're saying that you think that your offer isn't high enough?

  • What other companies offer me, including the one I currently work for, is none of your business.

  • I'm sure they won't be making a counter after the many complaints they've received about me.

I could go on and on...

As for positives, I think that pretty much anything that'll put them at ease and let them know that you're excited to make the move to their company would do.

A good answer to this question would depend on the situation. Do you really want to leave your present job? Is this THE place you want to work? Do you want this company to know everything about what other companies are offering or might offer you? If you are really excited about moving to this company, give a good answer; if you're not too sure, give a vague answer; if you really would rather not, give any answer. Just don't show all of your cards, that's never a good idea. You don't owe anyone that.

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-1

After thinking for some time, I probably would answer: yes, but that would only be money and not fix the long-term career prospects, for which I want to leave.

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