The Counter-Offer: Why do they wait until you quit?

The Counter-Offer: Why do they wait until you quit?


After I gave my two weeks’ notice and told my manager I’m leaving for a new job, my current company worked hard to try to get me to stay. My manager’s boss wants to make a counter-offer, but I said no, thanks, I won’t accept it. They both said the door is always open for me to come back. I knew my manager appreciated me, but I did not know his manager did, too.

counter-offerThink about it — my current employer made it clear that I’m a high performer. That said, my boss’s boss should have had this conversation much sooner and I told him so. He agrees!

Why don’t companies let employees know what their value is? Why do they wait until you quit? Think about what it would save if companies were engaged with their employees at that level. Sit down and have a chat — even if you are at a higher level of management. What’s so difficult about that?

Nick’s Reply

My friend, I have no idea what’s so difficult about that. Corporate CEOs are running around like proverbial chickens, squawking that they cannot find the talent they need to hire.

Meanwhile, valued employees like you are walking out the door for reasons those CEOs never bother to discern until you resign. (See Don’t shortchange yourself!) HR tells the CEO “We’ll do exit interviews. We’ll find out for you why our top talent is leaving. Then we can fix the problem.”

But that’s not “human resources management.” That’s a day late and a dollar short. That’s simply poor management.

Your story says it all: It’s too late for praise, a counter-offer and pleading. (It’s certainly too late for exit interviews!) Who’s going to fix this problem? Who owns this problem?

I’ve got nothing to add, except that you are wise to walk away. (See Inside a counter-offer disaster.) You shared an instructive story and you provided the solution to your boss and his boss: Pay attention and talk to your employees long before they quit. Thanks, and congrats on your career move!

I’ll throw it to our community: Why do they wait til you quit? Why don’t employers address issues about compensation and job satisfaction while it makes a difference? Why don’t they tell their employees, We love you! Have you been begged to stay after it was already too late?

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How to Say It: I want interview feedback!

How to Say It: I want interview feedback!


I enjoyed reading your book and I enjoy getting your newsletter even though I feel a little out of place because I am in Human Resources. I find your observations about the hiring process to be very accurate. You have a knack for explaining how to phrase certain questions and statements in interviews so that they will come off sounding right. I need your help asking for interview feedback.

When I’ve just been interviewed for a job, I want feedback. Please tell me how to say it to the hiring manager: “How did I do during the interview? What are my prospects for moving forward?”

Nick’s Reply

interview feedbackThanks for your kind words. Don’t feel out of place. Many HR folks subscribe to this newsletter, and you’d be surprised how often I’m hired by HR organizations to speak at their meetings. There are many progressive HR practitioners out there!

I’m going to try to answer your question with a suggestion that not only gets you the feedback you need, but which can also make you a much stronger candidate.

Candid interview feedback

Getting interview feedback is indeed a bit of an art. But if you stand back from the experience, like a headhunter does, you kinda wonder, Why don’t all managers provide feedback immediately and to all job candidates? Why does anyone have to ask?

I think it’s mainly because interviewers don’t know how to phrase their comments and because they don’t want to appear like they’re making a commitment. They need help with “how to say it” themselves!

Candor is important in business transactions. I think a manager should have a pretty good idea whether a candidate is a likely fit — and should know why — by the end of just one interview. While it may help to interview other candidates before making a decision, it’s healthy for a manager to test their judgment immediately: If this candidate were the only candidate available, would I hire them? Why or why not?

That is the substance of candid, end-of-interview feedback to any candidate.

A manager should share their reaction to your interview right there, on the spot. Here’s how I think you can nudge the information out of them. It involves putting them off balance a bit with a what-if question.

How to Say It

“Thanks for taking time to meet with me. I’ve learned a lot about your operation and I hope you’ve gotten a clear idea of who I am and what I can do for you. Before we part company I’d like to ask you something. What if, instead of a job interview, this had been a project meeting and I was your employee? Would you promote me? Would you give me a raise? Or would you fire me? Based on our meeting, please tell me which you would do. No holds barred — be completely honest with me. Because if I haven’t shown you how I could help your bottom line, then you shouldn’t hire me.”

You should, of course, bend and shape that to suit your own style and needs. Let it sound like you, not me.

Interview feedback: Hire me or fire me?

Please consider this statement carefully: If I haven’t shown you how I’d contribute to your bottom line, then you shouldn’t hire me.

How can you pull off the kind of job interview that makes you confident about using the How to Say It suggestion in this column? Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.
That’s a strong position to take. It’s almost a challenge to the hiring manager! And it should be. After all, the entire interview was the manager’s challenge to you! Candidates who are unable or unwilling to make such a statement simply have no business in that job interview. Did you prepare enough? Were you convincing enough? If not, you don’t deserve to be hired. In my experience, engaging a manager on this make-or-break level can elicit the candid, important interview feedback you need.

I believe this is also an excellent way to prepare for your interview. If you want to increase your chances of positive feedback, be the candidate that truly deserves it.

Whether or not the manager actually answers you, I think their demeanor will reveal a lot and you’ll know whether to go home and wait for an offer, or move on to another job opportunity where you can be a more compelling candidate.

How do you say it? Prying useful interview feedback from employers is difficult and awkward. Do you have magic words that work? How confident are you about the feedback you’ll get? What other tough questions would you like “How to Say It” advice about?

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