October 17, 2018

Why Were You Fired? Plus Other Awkward Interview Questions

by Scott Thompson

Counteroffers: An All Too Common Story

A recent candidate who I had helped secure a new job was really excited about their new company and was going to be starting in a week. Five days before their first day their former boss reached out and offered:

  • A significant raise
  • A change in responsibilities
  • A bigger title

The company pleaded with the candidate to stay, promising that there would be even more on the horizon and that they couldn’t bear to lose them. After careful consideration, the candidate accepted the counteroffer and informed the new employer.

Counteroffers: The Unexpected Repercussions

Despite my feelings of disappointment, I sent the candidate an email congratulating them on their decision and wishing them the best. I figured I’d hear from them at some point, but I did not expect it to be just three weeks later. The same boss that talked them out of leaving said, “I’m really sorry, but the company doesn’t have the funds it needs to follow through on my promises. Nothing is going to change however you’re still super valuable to our organization!”

Let that sink in. That company not only broke a promise but prevented the candidate from bettering their situation. The worst part? Oh yes, there is more. The candidate’s potential new company backfilled the opening a week later. They were now back at square one in a job they hate even more than before and with fewer options.

Counteroffers: The Moral of The Story

Counteroffers never amount to sunshine and roses. From Eclipse Software’s 2018 Recruitment Industry Trends Survey & eBook, you’ll see just how bleak a positive long-term outlook is:

  • 80% of candidates who accept a counteroffer from their current employer end up leaving within six months.
  • 9 out of 10 candidates who accept a counteroffer leave their current employer within the twelve-month mark.
  • 50% of candidates that accept counteroffers are active again within 60 days.


1. The Company is Just Buying Time

Of all reasons this is quite possibly the most wicked. Sometimes companies make a counteroffer and have no intention of following through. Essentially they make the offer out of spite because they are angry that someone is leaving or so they can get their ducks in a row and not have their business interrupted by you leaving. Either way it is cold-hearted and inconsiderate. This probably has something to do with why you are trying to leave in the first place.

2. Money Doesn’t Solve All Problems

Blah, blah, blah. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Mo Money Mo Problems. I get it. This is a pretty tired argument when you put it that way coming from some moral high ground. Let me be the first to tell you – Money is important. Very important! However, there is a diminishing return to the value of money when you have a boss that screams, a horrible culture, you are working 80 hours a week, etc. When companies make counters usually the first step is to throw a ton of money at the employee and beg them to stay. While an extra $5K-$20K annually will make you happy in the short term – eventually you will get tired of the crap again. On top of that, many companies will hold up the money they gave you as a reason to treat you terrible saying things like – “We gave you all of that money and you’re complaining again?”

3. The Feeling of Trust is Irreparably Broken

This is one of the biggest reasons that things eventually fall apart. Even though they won’t say it a company will never forget that you tried to quit. Never. When you make a mistake they will maybe be less forgiving. When you decide to dress a little nicer for work – just because – they will wonder if you have an interview scheduled over your lunch. Eventually this will damage the relationship enough that one of you decides to move on.

4. People (Specifically Managers) and Culture Can’t Change

All of you people out there that are married (or were married) should appreciate this. My wife is fond of telling me when we fight, “You know who you married!” What she means by this is that there are certain core personality traits that can’t be changed about a person and by marrying that person you need to accept them and lose your right to get mad about them. The same goes for companies and managers. I don’t care how valuable of an employee you are. Your resignation is not the epiphany that is going to stop your boss from being an a@#$#$! These types of personality changes typically only occur in Dickens novels after a visit by three spirits on Christmas or after a severe brain injury. A company might be sincere in wanting you to stay but you need to be realistic, try as they may companies and managers can’t make radical changes about who they are. If that is why you are leaving then you should just go.

5. Job Searches Open Up Wounds That Don’t Heal

Do you remember how it feels to have a mosquito bite? It starts as a small itch – but the more that you itch it the worse it gets. Eventually it gets big and red and it really hurts. This is what a job search does to all of the little gripes you have about your current employer. However, unlike a mosquito bite – it doesn’t completely go away when you take a counter offer. All of those gripes sit in the back of your head and weigh you down. The problem is that you rarely are able to put the genie back in the bottle and it just stays with you. Eventually you will get fed up and decide to look again.


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