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Never accept a counter-offer (vtorosyan.github.io)
417 points by vtorosyan 414 days ago | hide | past | web | 356 comments | favorite



Recruiter here, almost 20 years. Do a search for articles warning about counteroffers and you'll find almost all are written by agency recruiters. Why is that?

It's because agency recruiters lose probably millions in fees every year when candidates accept a counter. I have personally lost 30K on a single fee due to counteroffer on more than one occasion. It hurts quite a bit - that's a car - which is why if you accept a counter you'll get calls and emails from the recruiter saying it's "career suicide" (it isn't) and that you're making a huge mistake.

Then they quote these stats. I've heard things like "90% of people who accept counters leave the company in 6 months", and they might add "whether fired or through resignation" just to throw some fear into the candidate. These stats are pretty hard to find, and they should be, because companies don't report counteroffers to some agency. They happen in the dark. It's only surveys, and usually conducted by recruiting firms who have a vested interest in the results.

Some counteroffers are a mistake, but the people who scream not to accept coineroffers the loudest are the ones with the most to lose.

I've written about counteroffers as well, but didn't take the typical recruiter path (https://jobtipsforgeeks.com/2014/02/19/counteroffers/).


My recruiter practically broke down in tears when I accepted a counteroffer in 2013. Counteroffers can be great tools to increase your salary, whether you accept or reject them. In my case it was purely about money. I was making $117k and I wanted a raise, but the company only wanted to give options. If it were an early stage Google or Uber, I'd go for it, but not this company. I wanted cash.

They played the old "not in the budget, lets revisit in 6 months game" but my ace in the hole was an unsecured network share drive where I found an offer letter for a coworker showing he made $135k. I was genuinely ready to leave so I contacted my recruiter (who had placed me at 2 consecutive companies) and she got me an interview at CAA (the Hollywood talent agency) as a node.js dev. They beat my salary with an offer of $125k, plus some perks like 2 week company shutdown around the holidays, half day before every gov't holiday, generous bonuses and 401k match. The downsides were a commute to Century City, and having to wear a suit everyday.

I went back to my employer and handed in my resignation and told them about the offer. They came back (unsolicited) with a counteroffer of $140k and an extra week of vacation. I took it and told my recruiter. She told me horror stories about people who take counteroffers who get fired or quit within months and how I would never work in this town again, etc.

I stayed at the company for 2 more years and was promoted to director of engineering, and got raises to $155k and then $175k before resigning to work freelance. On my way out the company was begging me to stay and I could only imagine what they'd offer if I chose to entertain them.


I worked at a savings and loan back during the 1988/1989 crisis that took them out and we were no different. Hired as a 'C' programmer I was quickly turned into a Sybase DBA, sys-admin and anything else I could handle. In fact I ended up writing an in-house payroll system so like you I had inside information.

When the sys-admin left I asked for a raise since I was doing his job and my own. They made some excuses about his better education (he was a few hours away from his PhD in music) and the fact the company was under FDIC control.

I found a new job at a local oil company but contracting: my new salary was more than double what the bank laid. My bosses exact words when I quit were "Oh, shit" because he knew all along he'd been screwing me and he was never going to get a programmer/DBA/UNIX sys-admin for $27k/yr.

He asked if he could make a counter offer it was with great satisfaction I was able to reply "Vick, I now make more than you do. What's your counter offer?"


I had a similar experience. I was brought on as a junior fresh out of university and quickly made a name for myself in the company, I wasn't the top developer by any means, but after a few years and a couple of pay rises, the £32k/year they were paying me (in central London) was definitely much lower than what I should have been getting.

One of my colleagues had the year before, and had recently got funding for his startup. He offered myself and another developer a job, so we went to tell our boss together who obviously wasn't too pleased. He then spoke to us separately about negotiations, and he offered me £55k/year. The look on his face when I said "Sorry, but they are offering me much more than that" was priceless.

A few years later (after all the team I'd worked with had left) I went back to what was left of the company as a contractor for a few months. I was earning more per week, than I was per month, when I first started.


Oh, the joys of sticking it to a particularly evil boss. I got this exact same satisfaction when I left my job working on sounding rockets. The boss was a micromanager who was eventually demoted (and then left the company) after I left, because he had driven away more than half his department.

Two days before I left, he had been threatening, in a roundabout way, to fire me. But when I handed in my resignation letter, he was eager to keep me and asked what it would take to keep me. I named the salary my next job was offering. "You'll make more than I do now!" he said.


This line makes my day: "Vick, I now make more than you do. What's your counter offer?"


I once was searching for a file locally (Windows) and my search ended up searching the shared drive of my company, which contained a zip file. Inside this zip file were excel spreadsheets containing the salaries of all employees (around 50 IIRC).

The instructions from the CEO were to limit raises due to the economic conditions at the time (very true). Apparently the tech manager was not as good fighting for us, since our department (4-6?) averaged the lowest raises. The departments with managers better at negotiating got average raises that were higher than the CEO's policies.


This is one of the many benefits to working for a high performing manager. They will have more clout to argue on your behalf for raises and promotions. Not to mention it's easier to grow around higher caliber people.


Some of the best advice I've ever gotten, and I'm so glad I followed it, is to ignore details like what the product is entirely, and pick the team to join solely based on the manager. It's worked out very well. There was a survey I remember reading earlier this year about how the single biggest factor causing dissatisfaction at work is having a bad boss.


How do you identify a good manager? I ask because I've had both good and bad but no indication of which is which at the beginning. Some seemed super engaged when interviewing but disappeared once I started working.


Its much easier if its within the same org, of course, but even in another company, you can possibly talk to the people who will work with you under the same manager and ask them. Unfortunately, there isn't any surefire way of knowing whether you will work under a good manager, just as there is no surefire way for the company to know you will be a stellar employee.

Personally, what I look for the most is honesty. Even if the product/company is crap, if the people working on it are honest about their current state and where they want to be in the future, I find that much more interesting than a well-known established company whose manager is just OK.


I had a thirty minute chat with each potential manager during the hiring process, and I went with the one that I felt I had the best rapport with. It turns out that the initial impression was correct. Now of course this is far from foolproof, but oftentimes you can learn a lot about someone from just a thirty minute chat (and asking the right questions).


So...what do you think are the right questions?


It depends on what you value most in a working relationship. What I want in a boss isn't necessarily what you want in a boss. General questions that might apply to most people would include things like "What kind of working hours do people on your team keep", "How do you help build the careers of people on your team", "Why did you choose this project and what do you find exciting about it", "If you were to start this project all over again knowing what you know now, what decisions would you make differently", "How are relations between the tech side of the team and the business/product side of the team", "Why should I join your team in particular", "How well do the members of the team get along and what does a typical day look like -- do people sit together and chat frequently? Not interact in person much?". You see where I'm going with this.


Is this a consulting role like Accenture? (Asking because not all companies let managers choose their projects?)


  pick the team to join solely based on the manager
My experience too. Of course there are other factors, but this is (arguably) the most important factor of all; the rest are just constraints, and this is like the objective function.


Another advantage is that they are confident of their position and do not feel the need to put you down / downplay your achievements.


I was hired as a Software Architect at one company and after about a year and a half on the job we were without a CTO and nobody over my direct manager, who essentially managed the team internally (very well) but wasn't the public persona that I was within the company. Being an agency we needed a lot of internal self promotion as a team, as well as making our sales team aware of what we were capable of and doing that they may not know, as well as being part of pitches that were more technical than average.

I drafted a new role that formalized all those things I had been doing and some, suggested a meager salary bump (like 5-7% when year over year bumps were between 3-5). My manager was on board, but getting leadership buy in besides "that's a great idea" languished for months.

I finally got an offer from a different company that offered all that and more, at a large salary bump (over 25%), large bonuses, options, and a number of other perks just not available to my privately held 200 person company. The huge problem with the new role was at least 30% travel (which means more like 60) and I had a baby and a baby on the way. I offered my resignation and they begged for 24 hours to put together a counter.

Their counter was a blanket okay of my plan, with a twist. I went from Architect to Director and became my boss' boss. They couldn't quite match the salary "because that would make me the highest paid employee at the company" but offered some creative ways to make bonuses to cover the gap.

I always preached the 'never accept a counter' theory, but I'd liked working at this company more than anywhere else and the thought of traveling that much (I used to travel a lot before) was awful sounding. I accepted and was gone 16 months later- so I made it! Honestly though, as much as I loved the work and the creativity we didn't have the time to really get deep into interesting tech. If we did, it was skunkworks projects (I started the skunkworks lab with beer and pizza) that meant working before and after hours and weekends to ever get a concept done.

I didn't leave for just any other company though, I went and started my own. I'm glad I accepted that counter, I never would've had the chance to take my current leap if I had left for the other company.

I've semi-changed my stance now. If you trust your team and leadership, and trust that you are going to be given the power to affect the changes you were looking for that had you looking to leave- then accept the counter. If it's the same ol' same ol' but you have a higher salary, you will wind up leaving sooner rather than later.


Out of interest, why didn't you counter the counteroffer at $140k? Realistically, you could've probably gotten $150-155k on the spot, right there. They basically just showed their hand telling they want/need you to stay.


$117k to $140k with perks sounded like a win at the time and I didn't want to push my luck. I really wanted to stay at that point so it was a calculated move to not look too greedy. A year later when I was promoted to director (and raised to $155k + potential $25k bonus) I got to see all salaries (and histories) in the department, and $140k made me the highest paid engineer at that point, so it was a good move. 3 months later after a management shakeup, I negotiated to have the part of that $25k bonus that was in my power ($5k was dependent on hitting sales projections) converted to salary, hence the raise to $175k.


I don't know that it really works that way. At least in my experience, salaries are not generally set by an individual, but require multiple approvals. If they had a prepared counteroffer for $140k, it's not likely that he could've just gotten under the manager's skin and had it amped up to 160k without requiring the manager to go back through the approval process.


If they've prepared a counter at $140, there's a decent chance they're (quietly) allowed to haggle up to some larger number, say between $145 and $160 depending on how much they want you and how much they expect you to negotiate.

They won't tell you what this higher number is under any normal circumstances, and may lie about it, but it probably exists.


Depends on the company of course. Big company, the exact number was probably pre-approved (that's how it happens here).


In a big company, the amount matters even less. 140k? 150k? 180k? Nobody cares, it's a number on a spreadsheet.


It depends on the size of the organization.

If it's small you just have the CEO/founder who decides everyone's salary, if it's a big bigger you have a manager with a margin of negociation but can always get a signoff for a bigger raise by the CEO, and when it gets really big there is a hard grid with categories, ranks within the categories, lower bounds and upper bounds.


Exactly. It's possible to make many tens of thousands more in mere seconds if couched right in those situations.


I am quite good at negotiating raises, and I know when I can push and when to hold back: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12122526


i definitely am not. that is one skill i hope to learn before i move on. Granted, i'm pretty happy where i'm at right now, but it could useful in the future...


One helpful tip - if you're not good at it, try to avoid doing it in real-time. Negotiating via email is much easier for beginners.

In face-to-face communications, those not accustomed to negotiating will often give in just based on misread cues. For example, if someone asks how much you want, and you say a number, stop talking until you get a response. Many beginner negotiators will interpret silence as disagreement (even a short amount of silence) and quickly add "but that number is negotiable".

I have this happen all the time when I'm doing profiles of new candidates, particularly when they are junior. They say "I"m looking for 60K, but I am willing to negotiate". I usually respond by telling them they have already backtracked before receiving any objections.

Practice or get some coaching, and until that time, try to do it via email.


I, too, have had good results accepting a counteroffer. The problem was pay; I got two offers and asked for more pay; they fixed it (40% salary raise and much better bonuses). This was probably 4 years ago; I'm coming up on 6 years with this employer. Not everyone who accepts counters leaves immediately.


When the main pain point is money, counter offers can be great. When the problem is the job itself or the environment, accepting counter is probably a bad play (except maybe a lateral move in the org, if large enough.)

That's my experience anyway.


I can agree with that, i interviewed at a couple of other places when i worked at my last job, mainly to see what i was worth, and found it was clearly higher than i was making. I loved the team i was working with and didn't really want to leave. i ended up getting a pretty decent size raise, and planned on staying a while...

Sadly 6 months or so later started multiple rounds of layoffs, while i didn't get hit, our team size went down 30% in one round of layoffs. Being my team was the reason i stayed, i ended up leaving another 6 months later...


> my ace in the hole was an unsecured network share drive where I found an offer letter for a coworker showing he made $135k.

Eww


I agree on many levels...the coworker was an idiot and a project manager, not an engineer, but had an MBA, which likely appealed to the founders, who were both "business guys". Also, it was silly to have sensitive info on a shared drive where anyone could see it. It was probably less than ethical for me to use that info in negotiations, but it couldn't be unseen.


I don't think it was unethical. In fact, finding out there is a salary disparity between peers is probably one of the most common ways that large salary raises occur. For that reason, and also because that disparity may result in legal liability if the peers have differing demographic profiles, some companies threaten to terminate anyone who reveals his or her salary to another employee.


> ... some companies threaten to terminate anyone who reveals his or her salary to another employee.

after this, i was wondering if there is a way to get the average salary of a group without revealing / knowing actual numbers ?

edit-001: ok, one thing that i can think of:

1. take a big number, and add your salary to it. this becomes the 'token' for the next guy.

2. he adds his salary to the number. etc. etc.

once you have the final number, remove the original number, and divide by number of folks. since this scheme appears to be so trivial, i am now wondering what i did wrong ?


What threat model are you defending against?

Because the people at positions N and N+2 in your scheme can collude to determine the salary of the person at position N+1 without even having to reveal their own salaries in the process...


> What threat model are you defending against?

umm, not really trying to prevent from folks actively sabotage the whole thing, but just seeing if it actually works i.e gives the correct average salary...

but yes, as you have pointed out, people at N and N+2 can collude to get the original salary (for N+1).


Have a third party generate a set of tokens, one per person, recording only their sum, and randomly distribute them to the group. Then you don't need to pass the cumulative sum from person to person.

Edit: I guess it doesn't even have to be a third party as long as everyone trusts the randomization (e.g., pulling identical pieces of folded paper from a hat).


Yes but you still need to trust the central authority then, meaning one person will know everyone's salary (he who generates all the tokens).

If you really want a cryptographic secure process, the key word to begin your journey would be "secure multiparty computation", and a very appropriate example in the book modern cryptography[1]:

[1] https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/courses/soco/project...

Basically your first solution but encrypt the communication between parties to prevent the n+1 - n attack.

edit - Only say infinite8s reply now, which is almost verbatim my reply including the same link.


> Have a third party generate a set of tokens, one per person, recording only their sum, and randomly distribute them to the group

oooh :) this is pretty cool. thank you !


There is a cryptographic subfield called secure multiparty computation that lets you compute something like this (an average where nobody finds out the inputs of others) - https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/courses/soco/project...


> some companies threaten to terminate anyone who reveals his or her salary to another employee.

In many jurisdictions, this is illegal.


It is illegal everywhere in the US. Talking about compensation is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.


When has something being illegal stopped a company from doing something that could save and/or make it more money?


When the penalty of a lawsuit outweighs the money gained from such an action.


You're forgetting the likelihood that such a lawsuit will be brought. Which isn't very high.


[H]ow I would never work in this town again

I can see where the arguments about trust etc are coming from (not that I necessarily agree), but that one I don't get at all.


She said that neither she nor anyone else at her recruiting firm would work with me ever again, which lasted about a year before they started emailing me job listings again. Be prepared if you accept a counteroffer after working with a recruiter, they will definitely hold it against you (that fee is 20% of your first year salary or more), plus it makes them look bad to the company they're working for.


Whoa...so she basically tried to blackmail you into declining the counteroffer? What the hell?


> She said that neither she nor anyone else at her recruiting firm would work with me ever again

If she actually thought that was tantamount to "you'll never work in this town again", she needs a reality check. Oh, this one recruiter firm won't work with me, whatever will I do?

I've worked at four different companies. In order, I got those jobs through Craigslist (2007), Monster (2012), Indeed (2014), and a friend referral (2016). None of them involved recruiters. Also, during the times I've been looking, I talked to a very large number of recruiters. If one of them blackballed me, it wouldn't affect me because I talked to so many other recruiting firms, and even then I ended up getting all my jobs without them.


If one recruiting firm won't represent you as a candidate, it's no loss, as there are thousands more that will - and recruiting firms aren't comparing notes with other firms on who took a counteroffer.

It's a threat that is totally unrealistic.

As a recruiter, I'd actually say that technologists are more likely to be able to damage a recruiter's career than the other way around. If word gets out about a recruiter not behaving properly, that word can travel much faster in the worker space than word travels in the recruiter space.


I believe that's a tongue in cheek reference to the movie industry in Hollywood where this is (was?) a common phrase.


Why did you quit to freelance?


Why did you quit to freelance? I have a daughter (turning 4 this month) and I wanted to work from home and have a more flexible schedule. I applied for a few companies that offered remote work, but the schedules weren't that flexible (they all seemed to have core hours, except WordPress, which was a top contender). I also love to travel...my wife and I average 6 weeks of vacation and a dozen or more countries per year, and that has been a problem at every company for me so far. She is a registered nurse, so she can easily get a month off at a time.

I work for a company (Surge) that guarantees 40 hours a week, though I regularly exceed that, either through clients who don't mind overtime, or when clients overlap. The team is distributed, and the schedules are completely flexible (I spent a month at our condo in the Philippines in February, and was able to put in work despite the time difference).

If I had a time machine, I would go back and do this sooner.

EDIT: If you want me to pass along your resume to Surge, email me (contact info in profile)


>She is a registered nurse, so she can easily get a month off at a time

Tangential, but...a friend of mine is an RN in an ICU who works nights (how he copes with the long hours is beyond me). He's struggled to get a single week off, much less an entire month without quarrel. Turnover is high, they're shortstaffed, etc. What is different about your wife's hospital (maybe there's less pressure and more nurses available in other sections of a hospital)?


She works for Kaiser in the DOU (direct observation unit, ICU stepdown). To get a calendar month off she schedules it almost a year in advance. 2 weeks off she can do with a month notice. A week off usually only requires switching a day or two with another nurse since she only works 3 days a week.


Do her 3 days = 72 hours?

I've known a few medicos/1st responders, including a brother, who do this(take a month/week off, etc). It sounds enviable to most until you see/hear/experience what their 24 hour shift often entails.


If you have the experience, contacts and social skills (very underestimated by many professionals in our field) you can make much more as a freelancer/contractor.

I'm now self employed for 4 years and I earn 6x as much as I earned in my last job. (though I believe I was underpaid in my last job)


I'm sure many people would be interested to learn more details about your current gig. How much are you making now? How did you get clients initially? What sorts of development do you do now?


>How did you get clients initially?

He said it, contacts and social skills.

One other way is referrals but you generally need to have a few clients before that starts happening.


> "contacts and social skills"

I'm curious too, because that's what everyone says, but they stop there. It's always:

1. Have contacts and social skills 2. ??? 3. Make 6X as a freelancer!

Let's say I'm starting with contacts and social skills. And a mortgage and a full-time job that lets me pay it. Any good books or blog posts that describe what's in step 2?


(I'm a contractor, not a freelancer)

Step 2 - make sure you have enough money put away to last for at least six months with no work.

Step 2.5 - put some stuff on github, publish your cv, prepare to talk to and turn down an absolute ton of agents who will try to talk you into totally inappropriate work.

Step 2.75 - find a decent project to join, work your ass off getting up to speed and contributing fast. Build a reputation.

Step 3.1 - goto 1

The agent thing is a constant in contracting. They'll tell you "you're dreaming, you'll never find the money you're asking". They'll tell you "you need to be able to move around the country for work". They'll tell you "there's nothig contract based around anywhere right now, you need to look at my permanent roles". Some will even tell you you're awesome amd perfect, and then you'll never hear from them again.

But then a good one eventually comes along.... and gets you a well paying contract in a broken team doing something pointless. But hey, the money's good and you're only there for a few months so what does it matter?


The reason it always seems to stop at step one is because the experience feels like a natural consequence of those two factors. A step two would be something like "exercise those social skills with your contacts" and that seems redundant. 'social skills' encompasses discussing professional situations and (unfortunately or not) being a person your 'contacts' are attracted to and comfortable with extending opportunity to.


Just keep in contact with your network and make sure they're aware that you're freelancing and what sort of projects you do. I know it sounds simplistic, but the hard part is building a network. Once you have it, they do most of the work for you, especially if you keep them abreast and happy (ex. reciprocal referrals).


How does freelancing income compare to working as a senior engineer at a big corp ($300k total comp if you include bonuses, benefits and subsidized health insurance)?


I have done both. It's all highly dependent on your situation, but for me freelancing is higher income (~400k vs ~250k at bigcorp), much more autonomy (I can work wherever I like, subcontract out the tedious things, etc), but also much more stress. I worked considerably less at bigcorp but in the end I couldn't get over the whole having to come into the office and look busy thing.

I personally value the autonomy over almost anything else -- I can live in a low cost-of-living city with my wife for half the year, go skiing/mountain biking over lunch, and overall spend more time among the people I care about. But that does come with all the stress of building a client base, chasing down payment, explaining to non-technical people why their ideas aren't feasible and I can't build Siri in 3 weeks, etc.


I've been doing contract work for the last 6 years. In the markets I'm in Dallas and Chicago for my skill set (18 years) i'm finding it easy to find jobs at $125/hr but not much more than that. Even at that number I get lots of "thanks but no thanks." My most recent project, Apache Kafka and Spark, is only $115/hr. Which is close to $250k/yr but not any where near $400k/yr. I'm wondering where you're finding clients willing to pay this much and what type of work are you doing?


patio11 has a lot of articles and comments about charging by the week. From your comment, that sounds like how you'd make the leap; you get a lot more autonomy as well.


Your personal time is worth more than any number of $$$. You can't buy back your time after you've traded it for cash. Make sure you enjoy life while you have it.

Edit: My point is that freelance work income may not compare, but the income may not be the reason for moving to freelance. The op did not explain why he moved to freelance, but I can think of some great reasons to do so.


As a senior engineer at a big corp, I feel like I have lot more free time available to me than if I were a freelancer. I don't have to worry about business details, contracts, hell, really even deadlines. In order to contract out for a comparable amount of money I think I'd have to spend a lot more time and deal with a lot more stress. Plus, you don't get paid vacation as a freelancer, whereas I get as much paid vacation as I'm apt to use.


vacations, one of the worst parts of freelancing - it's not the price of it (usually flight tickets + some cash on the spot, all manageable), but the income lost while having fun that hurts bad. combine it with some mortgage, and self-pressure to just work leaves you missing some nice experiences in life (while having some extra cash too)


Yeah, I'll be honest, I'm not the best at taking vacations. I've never used all my vacation time at any of my jobs, and have always gotten paid out handsomely for the excess upon leaving. Of course, once I actually do get out on a vacation, I inevitably enjoy it, but there's so much inertia in planning one that I do it infrequently. It really is a big hassle.

If I didn't have paid vacation days, I doubt that I'd ever take one. They'd simply be way too expensive. It's one thing to use paid vacation days, another thing entirely to give up over a week's worth of income. I don't think I could do it.


This is great advice, but not really practical with conventional American lifestyles. It's possible once you save enough and get the basics completely paid off, so that you can minimize your expenses to < 1k per month, but it's usually not an option for your average worker. I believe making it an option is a crucial social issue for our time.


That's senior engineer at an elite big corp in one of two or three locations in the US. It's a pretty rare (relatively speaking) position to be in.


Locations with high costs of living too.


In my experience they're pretty close, assuming you're excelling in both.

Top independent freelance software developers can make $300k if they work hard and have a good network, as can top big corp engineers. Of course, neither is easy to achieve and the metrics are different. (Freelancers are valued on their results, big corps hire on pedigree and games.)


Out of curiosity, do you work remotely, locally or travel? I have considered consulting, but the local market outside of the Bay Area would be limiting.


I do not want to give away too much personal information but I mostly work remotely. (I meet with my clients once every 2 months or so) The only exceptions are heavily regulated corporations like banks that require everyone to work from within their office for security reasons. (to prevent information leaks)


A question for any consultants who work 100% remotely: how do you compete with workers in countries with extremely low costs of living?


I work remotely. It's very simple - you position yourself and your skillset in such a way that you cannot be commoditized.

There are two essential skills required to manage your own freelancing or consulting practice. The first is the core competency for which you bill (software development, sales conversions, security auditing, etc.). The second is the ability to inspire confidence in your clients that you are capable of using that competency to solve a business problem. Perception matters a great deal in business relationships and framing yourself as an equal who will leverage a unique mix of skills to contribute value is very important.

'patio11 has spoken about this a lot, and his writings helped me get to ~$300k per year as a consultant.


High five!


To be honest I've never been in a situation where there was any such competition. I'm sure it happens on the margins but when you factor in time zone inconvenience, language and cultural barriers it isn't so easy to commoditize consulting. Also good people from anywhere in the world tend to migrate to a few places where this work is done. They don't always stay hanging out somewhere cheap. And good people aren't cheap even if they live in a low cost location. The market price for such people is driven by demanding vs supply rather than the cost of their apartment.


probably more money, and more time.

people get what they ask for. when you make nearly 200k working for someone else you quickly start to realize what you are actually worth in the open economy compared to someone who is trying to imprison you professionally.


I believe it. Especially when it's a young recruiter, not used to people changing their minds, and really needing the money. Once you've been recruiting for a while you realize that you don't celebrate a placement until they show up for work (not to mention there is usually a guarantee period of say 90 days).


The recruiters that are the most pissed, are the ones that have already spent the money. They should relax, no they have a good person and sell them to someone else for even more money in 18 months. Coercion is not a good quality in a person.


I worked somewhere for four years with no raises.

I turned in my resignation, and my boss offered to double my salary on the spot.

No. Thanks. I'll work somewhere that doesn't need me to RESIGN to be willing to pay me what I'm worth.


>I was making $117k

>They beat my salary with an offer of $125k

This barely seems worth switching companies for after tax.


$700 a month isn't worth switching jobs?


> I would never work in this town again, etc.

Of course they contacted you in 6 months and begged you to reconsider their offer, right? ;)


>My recruiter practically broke down in tears when I accepted a counteroffer in 2013.

Sounds like he/she didn't make a wise career choice. So why the duck did they feel qualified to guide others to jobs?


Recruiting is a sales job. Its the only sales job I know of where you can sell a product, the contract can be signed and the product can change it's mind and you don't get paid. It's brutal.


This here is a smart negotiator


I took a counter once. When you're miserable at a place, for whatever reason, a big pay raise will make you forget it for about 4 months, then you'll be miserable again. Life is too short to be miserable 8+ hours a day.


It depends on why you got a counter offer in the first place. Accepting a counter offer because you told your boss "I like my job but I'm paid way less than some other companies would be willing to pay me, can we do something about it?" is a very sane thing to do.


That's not a counter offer, that's asking for a raise. Counter offer is when you get an offer from another company and tell your boss you want to leave, but your boss makes a counter offer to keep you to stay.


At many companies there are HR policies that make it extremely difficult for your manager to just give you a raise. Oftentimes these policies don't apply to counteroffers. I don't have any opinion on whether this is a good idea or not, but I do think that getting an offer somewhere else can at least be a plausible strategy - possibly the only plausible strategy - for getting a decent raise if you find yourself working at such a company.


Yes, that's another unfortunate thing HR does. If I'm so miserable that I've actively sought, interviewed and received an offer, I'm gone. Like someone else alluded to, most shitty jobs aren't shitty because of pay.

I've worked at 2 companies in the last 14 years and they both got really shitty after being acquired by a private equity firm. It usually takes 2 years until it's unbearable. I stayed so long because they were wonderful jobs; work and pay; and growing like wildfire before the M&A.


> If I'm so miserable that I've actively sought, interviewed and received an offer, I'm gone.

Do you not look around unless you are miserable?


A lot of people don't. Hell, my last job change occurred because I was contacted by a recruiter from what was literally my dream job for the past decade (you don't ignore an email like that). I was content in my previous job and not actively looking, and had actually been promoted to lead developer not a year prior.


How DO YOU GET these?

The only recruitment calls I ever get are from body-shop class contracting firms that never manage to even come close to my current compensation for scut work.


Optimize your LinkedIn as you would for SEO purposes and you should get plenty of contacts. You have to also know a bit about LinkedIn's algorithm - for example, a profile without a photo will be considered more incomplete and thus score lower than one with a photo (doesn't matter what the photo is obviously).


If I had to guess, it's because I interviewed with them when I was still in college and didn't get the job, but remained on their radar for later follow-up. This ended up being seven years later though, so who knows.

Another guess is that I had a recently listed promotion to Lead Developer on my LinkedIn account. Anecdotally I've heard similar experience from other people who started getting more high quality contacts once their job title on LinkedIn reflected a more senior role. I know we all hate LinkedIn but it matters because people on the hire side use it extensively, so spend some time entering details in there so that it's as impressive as your resume.


I get them through LinkedIn. I have a well-written, informative profile that's peppered with Big Data buzzwords.


Miserable can cover pay, emotions, mental health, and others. I would say 'yes'.

Then again, curiosity doesn't hurt either.


> If I'm so miserable that I've actively sought

You don't have to be miserable just to look for another job that will pay more.


Sounds like a fairly fuzzy distinction. Is it only a counteroffer if you actually give your n weeks notice? What if you ask for a raise, and while asking you note that you have an offer from another company for a higher salary?


Yes, I suppose a counter offer doesn't require notice, just another offer, real or imaginary.


Sometimes they'll ask to see it, so bluffing can be a very high stakes game. I wouldn't want to put myself in the position of lying like that.


I'd guess plenty of people are in a situation where they're not miserable at the current company but they would like to get paid more.


If you are only able to get more by threatening to quit, that sounds like a pretty miserable place to me.


This is actually part of the recruiter's script when trying to overcome a candidate accepting a counteroffer. I think the line I was taught was "you only got a raise because you held a gun to their head". This isn't a line I would use, just telling you what recruiters are trained to say.


It's true though, isn't it? Another thing to consider: "Will you have to hold a gun to their head every year?" Interviewing is a pain, and I wouldn't want to have be doing it continuously in order to keep myself at market rate. Let's say (conservatively) you need to interview at an average of 20 companies to get an offer, and that it takes an average of 4 days to prep, conduct each interview, and follow-up. That's 80 days of your life each year just to stay on the treadmill. I've been in situations where I use all of my year's vacation days interviewing at other companies. It's not fun.


Counteroffer as a tool to get a raise is only useful once per employer, in most cases. The second time you try to leverage a counter for a raise, you're much more likely to get shown the door unless you were underpaid.


(1) 20 companies to get an offer is very high for software engineering / related work in major hubs (eg NYC, bay, etc)

(2) If you're applying to similar jobs (in terms of skill) then a single amount of prep can be shared among many

I know many who try to "get in the market" every year or so just for "curiosity"


> (1) 20 companies to get an offer is very high for software engineering / related work in major hubs (eg NYC, bay, etc)

Not everybody lives in a major hub, and for those who don't it can be really hard to get a company in one to notice you exist, let alone make you an offer.


Thank you. I've noticed your username come up a lot in these kinds of threads, and you're one of the only people I've seen whose experiences matched mine.

Job-hunting in Dallas is hard. I've been unemployed twice. The first time was long-term (to the point where it was affecting my sanity) and during the Great Recession. The second time, which was earlier this year, wasn't that long but still harrowing. After I got laid off, it was two months before I got an in-person interview. I got the job, but I'm fairly sure that a good part of the reason I was even considered for an interview was because one of my best friends works here and put in a good word for me with HR.

Also, on at least three occasions I've tried job-hunting while employed. Only one time did I actually find a new job before giving up.


> I know many who try to "get in the market" every year or so just for "curiosity"

There is absolutely no reason not to. One might argue this is essential -- how can you know "market" if you don't study the market?


Maybe it's better to spend several weekends to read algorithms books and practice topcoder, and then you'll need to interview at something like 1.5 companies before you get an offer.


Many people are afraid to ask for raises and default to looking for work elsewhere.


For me, it just wasn't worth the hassle for a sub-market raise. Not giving me a raise in N years is sending me a message "You aren't valued." I found it much easier to just go someplace that would value me. I worked for wonderful companies and I liked working there but business is business.


Looking for work elsewhere has a much higher success rate. The vast majority of programming jobs are simply at companies that cannot pay a really high salary for their developers. These companies just aren't big enough or profitable enough per developer to support it. My last job hop was like this, moving from a small company in a market niche to the big leagues. I'm making more now than anyone at my previous company except for maybe the owner. Asking for raises doesn't get you far for most programmers who are working at companies for wages that are roughly appropriate relative to their profitability.

Or to look at it another way, the same programmer with the same skills is going to make more profits if they're working at, say, Amazon, than if they're working on some backend IT system at a regional bank. So the former has correspondingly higher remuneration.


There is great political risk in requesting a raise. Many employers would take offense and consider it an insult, and for some reason, after you've gone to that substantial political risk, a lot of employers seem to think that their employees should be content with raises of 2-5%. If you do get a raise, the counteroffer issue is still valid; your employer is given cause to question your loyalty and may be more suspicious of your contributions moving forward. This sentiment has been expressed by MS CEO Satya Nadella and I'm sure it's popular in other management circles.

Ironically, it's generally less offensive as well as much more effective at getting a real increase in take-home pay to go out and get an offer from an external employer.


>your employer is given cause to question your loyalty and may be more suspicious of your contributions moving forward. This sentiment has been expressed by MS CEO Satya Nadella and I'm sure it's popular in other management circles.

Haven't they laid off around 20,000 people in the past few years? Seems like MS as a company wants to have it both ways, as I'm sure many do.


> Many employers would take offense and consider it an insult,

If they do, flee. Business is business and if people are getting offended about business, something is wrong.


Easy to say, but not how it works in the real world. If you walk in to your boss's office and accuse him of underpaying you, he's going to feel hurt. That's the natural reaction. Telling him "business is business" is not likely to improve his feelings.

Business would be better named "pampering giant babies", because that's what it is. Despite the mythology that we're programmed with, most of the work of being in charge is managing peoples' feelings so that they stay favorable to you. There is a ton of room for mistakes as long as everyone likes you, and very little if nobody does. Thus, the whole of business training can be summarized with "be as popular and well-liked as possible". They try to dress it up fancy and act like they do something better than that, but they don't.

The most important thing in anyone's career is what their boss and their boss's bosses think of them. Only slightly less important is what their peers think of them. Work performance is essentially a non-factor in career advancement, so it actually is really important to manage this kind of thing carefully.

Asking directly for a raise is confrontational and inelegant. Subtly demonstrating that you deserve a raise and making your boss believe it was his idea is how you actually get one without alienating anyone. That's a lot of work, so most people just jump to another employer instead.


I assure you that you're frighteningly wrong about everything here and that your own personal insecurities are reinforcing a flawed opinion about how business works. I'm not sure how to communicate that to you, though. I'm genuinely at a loss about how to explain that your comment is extremely bad advice and is the type of outlook that most people who can't assert themselves develop.

The most important thing in anything, not just business, is not what people think of you. The whole purpose of your employment is to exchange your value for their value; why would feelings get involved if you recalculate your own value? You're asking poorly if people get offended, or the person you're asking does a poor job of separating emotion and business (literally step one of succeeding in business).

Do you really think Tim Cook gets up before sunrise to manage his SVPs' feelings? Your observations about what business actually is speak more to you than they do "the real world"; speaking of, since your opening retort was a slightly condescending explanation of that real world which I assure you I live in as well, I suspect the problem with your outlook reflects on you. But I don't mean that to belittle you. Just that perhaps the outcomes you experience come from how you approach things and not a firm understanding of business.

Might be worth some introspection here. Maybe I'm totally wrong but if I am, a whole lot of people who aren't you are too.


>Do you really think Tim Cook gets up before sunrise to manage his SVPs' feelings?

Partially. His primary job is managing investor's feelings.

>Maybe I'm totally wrong but if I am, a whole lot of people who aren't you are too.

You believe the version of the world that they want you to believe, not the world as it is. That's understandable. The powers-that-be project this narrative specifically because if people know their job is to manipulate feelings, it'll be much more difficult to do that effectively.

Good managers want to make themselves sound like self-sacrificial superheroes and inspire hero worship so that it's easier to manage the subordinate's feelings. That's the narrative they project.

However, it doesn't take an intelligent person much reading or experience to realize that things don't line up with the narrative. Management is all about managing feelings. Yes, it's true that management has to make decisions that won't bankrupt the company, but that's the easy, minor part. The difficult part is pushing those decisions through the organization with as little feeling-damage as possible, and running programs of feeling-grooming to keep your employees cooperative.


I'm very concerned that you're explaining the world "they" want me to believe to me.


OK? No need to be concerned. If you don't find this plausible, you're free to dismiss it. Counterarguments are welcome but of course not mandatory.


That's because they way you ask for a raise is not by "accusing him of underpaying you", and saying "business is business", there are nicer ways to bring it. You don't have to be confrontational and inelegant.

Typically, you wait for your yearly or quaterly review, tell him what great stuff you did for the company, how you will contribute again in the future then tell him you feel like a raise of x percent or n dollars would be appropriate. You don't say "you're underpaying me", but "the value I bring to the company increased, so I deserve more than I did last year"

I've never seen a boss get offended for it, at worst he'll make excuses like "sorry I can't right now, but at soon as things get better I'll think about you".

And nowadays in many companies, if you never ask for a raise you never get any. Your boss assumes you're happy with your pay, so why give more?


Yeah, annual employee reviews are undoubtedly the sanctioned time to bring it up. The boss won't be offended if you wait until then because they're expecting your compensation to be a point of discussion in that meeting anyway. However, you'll find that since they're expecting it, they have their hand-wavey excuses ready and won't take the request seriously. I'm sure a lot of people "ask for raises" in those routine reviews.

So if you do sit on your hands for 11 months so that you only ask your boss at the time when he won't find it offensive, you're still most likely going to walk away with nothing or a pittance, since as I said, bossess appear to believe any raise in excess of 5% is outrageous (again, a large bump is like an admission that they're cheapskates, so they don't like doing it).

On the other hand, most programmers can go out and get a new job offer within 2-4 weeks, and unless they're at the top of the pay scale for their industry and area, probably get a 20-40% pay bump. Which option is more attractive?


I don think it applies to all levels of employment. As a software developer in a team, with a junior manager, you have a lesser ability to do this demonstration. The junior manager doesn't decide your salary anyway, and this feedback loop of 2-3 hops takes too long.


Most employment contracts do not consider loyalty. Typically, either side has the explicit right to terminate the relationship at any time, for any reason.


Many people do not have the self confidence or social skills to be successful at negotiating a raise. Many don't even ask.


Sometimes I wonder if some tech employees would be better off with managers who took a cut negotiating for them, at least until their value is established.


In my experience, all raises are based off your hiring salary. You start at $100K, you gets several 10% raises, you end up at $100Kx1.10. If you start at $75%, same thing. $75Kx1.10. Rinse and repeat. After 5 years, you are significantly behind based on that initial negotiation. Also, I've read never take the first offer. YMMV.


Not necessarily. In my case, I was one level too low in a strong organization. I had just done a geographic transfer and they hadn't quite slotted me into the kind of job that would have delivered all the good stuff (projects, recognition, pay, etc.) that I wanted. Plus I'd been assigned to a timid boss who wasn't going to make things change.

It was amazing how much everything improved once I had a higher-paying offer from a leading competitor. Boom! Better title. Boom, more money. Boom, a lot more face time with VP level folks who became my de facto bosses and boosters. I ended up staying at that place for another 13 years and had a great ride. My timid "boss" was gone from the organization within two years. The guy never caused me a bit of pain after that.

I'm glad other posters are saying that in the end, it's the agency recruiters who really hate counteroffers. The economics for them are so disastrous that they can't help but try to tug talented employees over to their point of view. From my experience, it all comes down to whether you can get your current employer to make your working situation a lot better, as well as bump up the money. If they are capable of delivering a whole new situation, then you're in a good place.


Then you should just say, "hey, I'd like a raise, and I can prove I'm worth more to others". If you have to go as far as, "I am quitting!", you've got a problem.


That's why the smart thing to do is to also ask for a change of position/responsibilities along with the counter-offer. It makes it less likely that you'll be miserable again after a while, and it also makes it easier for your boss to sell the idea upwards to his/her superiors (because it's not "i want us to pay him more to do the same stuff he's doing now.")


There are exceptions -- I've been hired multiple times by companies who were just getting into software and didn't really understand what they were hiring for.

In all cases there were failures on both sides (me for not realizing what I was getting into, and them for bragging about a technical branch they didn't have); however, I very much enjoyed working at those places and would have stayed if they upped my compensation to match my [actual] responsibilities.


I agree. The only way the counter makes any sense is if your only problem is you want more money. That's an easy fix, being unhappy at work is not easy to fix. Life is to short, move on.


Sometimes, though, it really is about the money.


This is how I picture it http://i.imgur.com/TK9zjDF.gif :D


Wow. The source the author cites for his counteroffer statistic (http://thevetrecruiter.com/news/a-perfect-case-study-for-not...) includes this passage:

> Back to my candidate. Two days after he took the counter-offer, I received a call from one of his colleagues. She said word on the street was that one of her co-workers had recently accepted a counter-offer with her employer, and she wanted me to know she would never do that. If I represented her, once she gave a commitment, she would stick to it. Not only that, but she also said only a weak-minded person would do something like that (accept a counter-offer) and she had lost all respect for this person.

Can you imagine an actual human being calling up a recruiter completely unprompted to inform them that counteroffer-accepters are weak-minded jerks and no one likes them? It's like one of those ads where a bunch of guys suddenly interrupt their game of ultimate frisbee or whatever to discuss how great their car insurance company is.


> Can you imagine an actual human being calling up a recruiter completely unprompted to inform them that counteroffer-accepters are weak-minded jerks and no one likes them?

Yes, it is called 'jealousy'.


These articles written by recruiters to scare candidates are clearly self-serving and make the industry look like a bunch of idiots. In the post I linked to in the top comment, you'll see a handful of other examples of similar posts by recruiting firms.


Honestly, after the total events of this year, I'm ready to believe anything.


Career suicide for a software engineer? Unless you murdered someone and you're in prison for life, I don't see how that's possible in today's market.

Back when I worked at a bank, counter offers were the standard way of getting a raise. If you had a competing offer, the Bank would almost always match that. Meanwhile, raises were maybe 1% a year. (I remember that Illinois raised state income tax at about the same time I got a raise. I had less take-home pay after both of those took effect than before. Raises didn't even keep up with the tax burden, much less the cost of living. Not that they necessarily should, but they also didn't keep up with my career growth, which is a better benchmark.)


Of course it's not career suicide for a software engineer, and recruiters that make such claims should lose credibility with a candidate when they say these things. The recruiter counteroffer "script" ("career suicide", "you'll be fired once they can replace you", "you'll never get a promotion", "you'll be an outcast at work", etc.) is all stuff that could happen (other than the suicide part), but is highly unlikely just based on how many times we hear anecdotes about a counteroffer working out and the person staying for years.

Counteroffers are still a fairly common way to get a raise in software, although I think now that there is much less stigma to "job hopping" candidates are just as likely to move to new companies to get the raise.


> The recruiter counteroffer "script" ("career suicide", "you'll be fired once they can replace you", "you'll never get a promotion", "you'll be an outcast at work", etc.)

Sounds like you can just say, "I guess I'll go work for you then."


You can make $30,000 USD for placing a person??? I'm in the wrong line of work.


Eh it's like selling houses in San Francisco. You only do a few a year so the high commissions need to sustain you. Plus the market goes up and down and you need to save enough from commission to cover market downturns.

All that said really good recruiters are well paid.


... most recruiters who are just decent can place 3-5 candidates a month.


This is too generalized. When I recruited for finance/pharmacy easily get 10+/mn, at top tech company averaging 1-2/mn. It really depends on roles, for head hunters doing executive level positions they probably only fill a few a year because the search for one takes a long time.


3-5 a month is pretty optimistic. I wouldn't want people to think this and leave their jobs. If you do two a month you're probably doing quite well, especially if you're independent, but it's not easy as an independent to do volume.


20-25% of salary isn't uncommon, and salaries of 120 K in technology is seniorish developer range where I work (Philly and NYC). My business model is different now, but when I did pure contingency work a 30K fee wasn't uncommon.


Do you have to wait a certain period before you get paid?

Does this also work for in-house recruiters?

Quite fascinating area really.


Most clients require a guarantee, usually around 90 days. Sometimes pay terms are sooner, so theoretically you could have to refund a fee if a candidate leaves quickly and you don't replace them.

In-house recruiters are not usually paid fees like agency recruiters - they might get bonuses, but most in-house are paid mostly in salary with smaller performance bonus. Agency recruiters are usually paid little (sometimes nothing) in salary with most comp coming via commission.

This explains bad recruiter behavior, or at least much of it. Every deal might be 10-20K in the recruiter's pocket. For that amount of money, some people will do things they wouldn't normally do, and morals go out the window.


Thanks for the detailed answer! Appreciate it.


Yes you can. Its a great job when people are hiring, you have lots of income. When the jobs vanish during a recession, you don't make any money and starve.

If you are able to manage the up and down cycle, its great.


I've been through two periods of it being bad (2000 and the later recession) but I managed to do well enough. Lots of recruiters leave the market during the down cycles, and when it's up we get tons of newbies. You only need a phone/email and a LinkedIn account to jump in the field at the lowest level.


I'm working on embedded linux devices as a software tester and part technical writer, however, I have managed to get around 6 of my friends and ex-coworkers positions in the past 12 months, with another three going with counter-, or other offers. This year I have realized that I've become a lot of peoples' go-to person for creating better CVs, LinkedIn profiles and cover letters for applications.

Living in the EU is somewhat limiting in the legal and financial sense, because I am unsure about cross-country pay-outs, recruitment and legislation. Do you happen to have sources where I could learn more about these things? I might just make it a side-business to my existing one to refer people as a recruiter agency, not simply via already in-house acquaintances (which yield mediocre referral bonuses in many cases).


Funny enough, I also have a second business where I do resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn optimizations/reviews, and career consults for people who need help. I don't know the laws of the EU regarding recruitment, but I know historically recruiters at least in the UK were a bit more respected than here in the US - not sure if that attitude has changed or not.

I'd go on LinkedIn and find a recruiter in your area - they may be willing to talk to you about the business. My blog (jobtipsforgeeks.com) has a handful of articles on recruiting topics as well.


Never worked in the field but have heard that three months salary is a typical commission. If the recruiter is working for a firm I guess some of that goes to the firm but not sure how much.


25% is towards the high end mostly. If the recruiter works for a firm the agency likely keeps most of the fee. I worked for two agencies before going independent and IIRC kept 15-50% of fees, usually on a progressive scale. So you may start at 15 and get to 50 retroactive if you hit $n in fees in a year. I remember n was ~500K at my first job in the late 90s. So there, hitting 500K meant 250K in commissions.


What do you think executive recruiting firms charge?


I have a related story about job offers. I had a job offer fresh out of University, for about half of what the standard salary was at the time.

After some thinking (2min... NO), and letting them stew for a few days, I told them "No". They asked if it was because of the salary. "Yes, yes, it is". They immediately doubled their offer.

Sorry, but the answer is still "No." If the first contact you have with me is that you try to screw me and assume I'm stupid, I will not work for you. I'd be better off unemployed.

I found another job 2 weeks later, for more than their second offer. And those people didn't play games.


Thank you for the honest assessment; I had not previously been fully aware of the incentives on recruiters or the source of their statements.

That said, early in my career as an employee, prior to reading any advice by recruiters, I made a decision to not accept counter-offers as a general rule. My main reasons are the ones people usually cite: a) if I am dissatisfied enough with my job that I applied for other jobs, it is almost certainly not (just) about the money, and b) my relationship with both employers becoming strained.

So far it has worked out for me, and I don't plan on changing that, but I'll be sure to keep this in mind in the future.


I try to provide transparency into the recruiting business as I think it actually helps all parties. I mentioned possibly writing a book about the recruiting industry and got lots of support, so I still might do that. Recruiting as an industry usually benefits from the other parties having a lack of information, and I hope that starts to change.

Most recruiters would rather have you believe the scary counteroffer "stats" that aren't well documented.

A counteroffer can "right a wrong" in some cases, and employees who are not sure how to ask for raises/promotions/changes to their employment situation may find that their resignation facilitates a conversation that maybe could have happened if they'd asked.


> Recruiting as an industry usually benefits from the other parties having a lack of information, and I hope that starts to change.

Agreed. I appreciate your work in this regard.

> A counteroffer can "right a wrong" in some cases, and employees who are not sure how to ask for raises/promotions/changes to their employment situation may find that their resignation facilitates a conversation that maybe could have happened if they'd asked.

I was thinking about this very problem after my post, and while I don't have a better solution, I think I have a better understanding to the cause. Sometimes employers take for granted the increasing value provided by the employee (which, along with other factors, may be a sign of bad management) but even when the employee's value contribution is stable, their opportunity cost for keeping their current job goes up.

Either the employer is unaware of that increase in opportunity cost, or they are banking on the employee not being aware / being unwilling to leverage that opportunity cost. It's not enough that the employee be fully aware of their own opportunity costs, their employer has to know that they know (and the employee has to know that their employer knows, and so on. i.e. "common knowledge"). I see your point as being that the only way right now for that opportunity cost to become common knowledge is for an employee to field offers from other companies.

Trusted intermediaries or professional associations could probably help make the costs to all sides more transparent, and maybe they already do, but that's about as far as I know.


Also a recruiter and was about to write an identical comment, so thankyou


Good to hear. Most recruiters stick to the "counteroffers are bad" script pretty closely in all the articles they post. It's just dishonest and makes us all look bad.


Sadly based on my experience with recruiters the majority of them make you all look bad.


This is sadly accurate. I've had unemployed entry-level candidates say 'no thanks', and I have the benefit of a decent reputation based on my writings. It's getting difficult to do the job.


I think it helps to hug a specific community or two, and build a solid reputation.


I also spent a long time as a developer and successfully took counter offers a few times. Sometimes it really is just about the money, and your line manager needed the impetus to justify the cost to their manager


I'll add this to the list of reasons why recruiters' incentives are in direct competition with yours--and why you should not use a recruiter.


I got the same a number of years ago when I went through a difficult recruitment process to get a job, and got the offer and in the end turned it down because after extended consideration that it just wasn't the right job for me even though it was a good job with a significant pay increase. It was using technologies I didn't specially want to work on, for a company that didn't really interest me, and who hadn't persuaded me that they were doing anything I'd be interested in. Nothing wrong with the job, or the offer, it just wasn't the right place for me.

I recruiter was not happy and basically told me that I wouldn't get anything else, and if I got a reputation for turning down jobs I couldn't expect agencies to ever put me forward for anything else. They just screamed at me on the phone.

I did get another job and it was far better (for me) than the one I turned down.


I've had a recruiter lose it with me on the phone. Since I'm normally involved in recruitment wherever I go, they've been blacklisted at each place so far. It's a small world, we can't burn bridges and neither, should they.


When I started working, most of the veterans I worked with offered the same advice about never accepting counters. I now offer that same advice to junior folks. I don't think you have to be a recruiter to recognize there is a problem.


Is there any opportunity to negotiate with the recruiter for a cut of the fees/commission as a signing bonus?


You could always try, but most would probably think this lacks tact. Would you consider asking the car salesman to personally pay for extra car options in order for you to buy the car? Recruiter fees are often very high (too high in my opinion, which is why we have bad recruiter behavior) so if you get a high salary a recruiter might be willing to kick back a small amount. I'm not sure how the hiring company would feel about this though - if the comp package being offered wasn't enough, you might appear like someone who won't be happy with the comp.


What are you bringing to the table that would entice a recruiter to do that? If you are such a hot commodity that it is worth the recruiter to give you part of their commission, then why do you need a recruiter at all? It will be easier to negotiate a signing bonus from your new employer if you don't go through a recruiter.


>What are you bringing to the table that would entice a recruiter to do that?

Because it would cost him more in time to find another candidate than to give you a cut. This is assuming you've passed the interviews.


So you're going to get a job offer and then demand a cut from the recruiter before accepting? Good luck ever getting another recruiter in the future. I absolutely guarantee that this will not work.


It's not something I'd attempt. Normally they'll have negotiated rates with the hiring company, they won't want to reopen that to give you a kickback.


The author is not an agency recruiter. So this hardly seems relevant to his post.


The poster is the author, and in this thread he posted the type of recruiter cited (and recruiter reported) surveys that I refer to in my comment. I wasn't suggesting the author is a recruiter. Only that the usual source of these types of opinions (and the source of the supposed data) is almost always an agency recruiter.


This couldn't have come at a better time, as I just navigated this last week. I kind of disagree with most of what the author is saying. Here's why.

The author posits that you've begun looking for a new job for a reason. There are things that you dislike about your job. That's logical, and it's the number one reason that I went on a search of my own.

The problem is that there's always some level of information asymmetry. You know everything you dislike about your current job; you can't know what you'll dislike about your new job until you begin that role.

However, once I was given another "great offer", it made me realize that part of every job is disliking certain aspects of it. No matter where you are, it's impossible to find a role that you like 100% of the time.

When I received another job offer, it made me realize that there were a lot of things that I was taking for granted about my current job. And when I notified my current employer that I was leaving, they reminded me of how valued I was with the package that they put together. In fairness, they could've done a better job with this throughout my employment.

At the end of the day, the compensation and future commitments (all of which are in writing) made it compelling to me to stay and not risk disliking my next role.

Have you ever heard the saying that you should flip a coin to make important decisions, because as soon as the coin is in the air you'll know what you want anyway? Well, I went through the coin flip process and realized I had taken a lot of things for granted at my current employer. And that's why I stayed.


> And when I notified my current employer that I was leaving, they reminded me of how valued I was with the package that they put together.

Yea, you were so valued that they DIDN'T offer it to you until you threatened to leave. That doesn't sound like an employer that values you, it sounds like an employer who got away with a great bargain while it lasted.


> Yea, you were so valued that they DIDN'T offer it to you until you threatened to leave. That doesn't sound like an employer that values you

This sounds insightful, but I don't think it's fair. It's almost always true for everyone that you don't know what you have until it's gone, or almost gone if you're lucky. Your employer is no different. Give them a break, just a tiny one.


That's a lot of benefit of the doubt to give. More likely is that they know exactly what they have, and have done the math. For every salary level, there is a probability P that the employee will leave. If it costs $C to replace them, then they are coming out ahead by paying you $N below market rate when N > P x C.

EDIT: To be more exact, it's probably more like: N > [P(N) - P(market)] x C


First, the cost of a valuable employee leaving is very, very high in terms of their salary. The inefficiency in training someone to fill their shoes is awful and risky, and good engineers are seldom fungible in any short-term meaningful sense.

Second, this isn't how decisions get made on real-world software teams. In the real world, you find yourself just working with managers who need to make judgment calls with limited resources and time. Pursuing a raise for an employee is expensive to do proactively. A valued employee leaving sends a manager into crisis management mode, which expedites the process and helps them prioritize it up whatever chain they report to. The manager (+chain) make a judgment call about whether to make you a counter against a backdrop of company policy.

Their failure to proactively get you a raise before you went seeking other opportunities is usually due to a failure of communication, timing, or time budgeting on both your and their part. You can't expect people to read your mind and figure out if you think you're being paid what your time is worth. Sometimes it's obvious (oh look, the last of X's stock grant just vested), but usually it's not.

Your suggested envelope math might help inform general company policy, but it doesn't inform day-to-day managerial decisions in any but the vaguest way. Most management I've worked with has not been formally sophisticated; I imagine this is the case in the industry broadly. Managers do not wake up in the morning and consciously wonder "what do I need to do today... hmm... does the marginal utility of working on a raise for X exceed the marginal utility of writing this operational improvement plan?" They think "Is there a crisis? If crisis, expedite. Otherwise check shit off checklist."

I told my most recent manager I was pissed off about my salary a few months ago (after a year at the company). He got it kicked up the chain, I got up-leveled at the next review session. It took him a lot of time and effort, it netted me a large salary increase. I think we're happy with each other still.


Every employer does that given the opportunity. Their side of the deal is paying you the least amount you will agree to in an arms length transaction. i hate it too, as an employee, but viewing your employer as a socialist daddy won't get you far. There may be some of this kind in the market, but very few.


Often great packages need some political leverage to pull through. I'm sure many good managers would like to offer their subordinates top salaries but company policies/budgets do not allow it. Only when a top performer is about to leave the equation changes from "increasing costs" to "limiting costs" - it's very expensive to recruit and retrain replacements for top talent. Yes, it sucks. But I totally understand the dynamics driving this.

The unfortunate conclusion is that to maximize earnings employees should test their market rate in the job market periodically.


I don't see how that makes things any better or more excusable.


What makes it inexcusable?


This is a really great point that I wrestled with.

I think you have to remind yourself that sometimes, everyone gets so busy and caught up doing the work that they forget these other parts. Would it have been better to do this proactively? Sure. But I think you can find some empathy when you imagine yourself on the other side of the table.

And, you might be right. :)


HR exists to obtain resources for as little as possible.

It's just business. Hate the game.

In a private capitalist environment, everything exists to maximize return in investment: morality, goodwill, company culture, values, information asymmetry.

Take the emotions out of it. Everything is quantifiable.


This is the line my previous employer used when I notified them I'd received a counter before joining them.

They then did the exact same thing when it came to me leaving and didn't offer a significant raise until I had an offer elsewhere.


> it made me realize that part of every job is disliking certain aspects of it.

If it didn't suck in some fundamental way it'd be a hobby not job.


I agree that saying counter-offers are universally bad is too simplistic.

Sometimes your compensation simply has fallen behind market without you or your employer realizing it. Especially at a smaller company, your manager might very well not have firm sense of what your market compensation would be. A competing offer is a great way for both you and them to get your compensation up to market.

Just because you interviewed for another job does not imply you're unhappy with your current one. I try to occasionally interview just to keep a tab on the market, even when I'm entirely happy with my current job (including its compensation). In fact, the results of such interviews are often that my current job is better than anything else out there.


Counterpoint, I accepted a counter offer two years ago. Since then, I have been promoted twice. I am now one of the highest-paid, and highest ranked individuals in my organization.

Additionally, I have been given many opportunities specifically designed to help me grow my career in the direction that I preferred. This has included everything from project assignment, to introductions to board members and VCs, to educational opportunities.

One must always be careful when considering a counter offer, however any blanket advice stating to never accept is going to be wrong, and harmful.


Counter counterpoint: I accepted a counter offer. Turns out my boss was literally lying about the counter offer. Raise never showed up in my paycheck despite my repeated bringing up the issue, and the repeated assurance it was just a payroll issue. The original job offer was no longer good, they'd hired someone else, so I spent another few months looking for a job. When I quit the second time around (boss had been fired for this, by the way) the company owner had the nerve the offer me the backpay I was owed if only I'd just reconsider quitting.

The lawsuit is still ongoing. :)


Was the counteroffer on paper?


Honestly, it shouldn't matter. If the boss is making an offer like that, then it should be good as gold. If it's not, then that is not a place one would want to be working.


No. Always get it in writing.


Some people even apply for that other job just to get a counter offer. You have a better negotiation position for salary and benefits if you actually have a job offer somewhere else. While you should think that valuable employees should be in a good negotiation position in the first place, employers often don't see the value before they realize that they may lose the employee.

This tactic is of cause risky if you actually like your current job, since the counter offer may not come after all.


Where I work, the only way you can get a raise is to bring in an offer that is at or better than what you want. Does not make sense, but that is how management and HR work.


  There are always exceptions, even more, there are cases when accepting a counter-offer is a right decision
The author admits as much and is not actually giving out blanket advice.


The author titles his post "Never accept a counter-offer", and says: "By saying you have to be prepared for it, I meant that you should never accept a counter offer."

Just because he later contradicts himself, doesn't make it good writing. You can't have it both ways.


The way I see it with the author stating "(your cat dies and you need bunch of money to save her)." is that only the person that is in the situation can assess the situation. The article talks broadly, but one should still take that particular situation (edge case) into consideration. Tough, it's rarely possible to judge an outcome correctly.


counter counterpoint (or just point?) I accepted a counteroffer and my boss really just said empty words to keep me around. I left 8 months later and should have just left the first time I resigned.


You got really lucky. Normally when a company extends a counter offer what they're doing is buying time to ease you out on their terms.


I always hear this, but where do you people work that this is the case? As some who has been on the other side of the table this was never how it worked. Losing a team member sucks. A counter offer is an attempt to avoid that. The idea that your boss would secretly interview your replacement before firing you just seems silly to me. At the most practical level doing something so cold hearted would send every other member of my team searching for a job.


Giving the counteroffer anyway will get every other member of your team searching for a job. There's this company I stayed at for a whole 6 months. I came in after negotiation a sensible salary: Nothing spectacular, but still pretty good. Early inquiries at the job made me realize I was paid 25K more than any of my teammates! While I was the most senior, I wasn't quite that far ahead: They were getting underpaid. Realizing this too, one of them quit, and got a counteroffer to be paid just like I was. News spread like wildfire, and entire teams were interviewing out there. Some people stayed with the counteroffers, but many were lost.

When you are not paying people what you are really willing to pay them, eventually they'll learn about this, and hell will break loose. You either have to change the way you pay, or be OK with losing people. Counteroffers get you the worst of both worlds, and on top of that, they are wonderful sources of lawsuits in the long run, as the people that won't complain are typically women and minorities.

The one counteroffer that make sense is to go and say 'look, now we realized that we are underpaying, but we want to keep you all, so we are doing an immediate salary review'. You still look like someone that isn't on the ball, but at least you show you are trying to have equitable pay.


> Losing a team member sucks.

But being paid below market rate also sucks. By making a counter-offer and having it accepted, you're now setting a precedent. All of that person's peers will now see that the way to get a raise at this company is to constantly be interviewing and threatening to leave. Is that the environment you're trying to foster?


I think the disconnect is that most people imagine their boss is allied with their company against them. In reality they are a mediator between the two (or maybe I'm in the minority with that line of thinking, but it is the best way I can both do the job and sleep at night). I want everyone on my team to be paid fair market value. I fight for it come budget time. If someone who I think is underpaid comes to me with an offer, I will go to my boss for more money. If someone who I think is fairly paid comes to me with an offer, I might simply shake their hand and wish them luck. A counter offer is not guaranteed. It is only offered to employees that we want to keep long term at whatever their new rate would be.

Trying to get a raise with another offer is a bluff. You have to live with that fact that you might be called on that bluff.


> Trying to get a raise with another offer is a bluff. You have to live with that fact that you might be called on that bluff.

I think you meant to say "without another offer". When you indeed have an offer, it's not a bluff. Whether you get a counter or not, the outcome for you is you win. Now, if you DON'T have another offer, but try to get a raise by claiming to have another offer--well, that's an advanced tactic and very risky.


I meant it as I wrote it because it was in response to your original comment below:

>the way to get a raise at this company is to constantly be interviewing and threatening to leave

If your goal is to get a raise and keep your job, coming in with another offer is a bluff. The way to get a raise at my company isn't to constantly be interviewing because we won't counter offer everyone and we generally won't offer repeated counters.


There is a solution: Pay your employees the true market rate and they won't be leaving for more money. Oh, but you say you want to keep paying everyone [who doesn't call you out by getting outside offers] below market? Too bad.


> But being paid below market rate also sucks.

Where is this mythical "market rate" that I as an employee or employer can constantly get access to?

Every employee has their own market rate and that rate is determined by BATNA negotiations. If I'm hiring someone, I don't have market rate for them in mind which I try to pay under.

As a manager at a small company, you barely have more info on market rates than employees do. Sometimes savvy employees even have more info than I do (they can go out an interview to assess the market, while I can't interview people just to see what offer they'd accept).

Of course, there are also cases of flagrant underpayment (ex. paying <$100k for an engineer in SV) which should drive you away automatically.


83k fml


That depends on the management culture. Some companies will not consider a raise unless you have another offer, some will refuse a raise no matter what you can get elsewhere, some will lie straight to your face to keep you some more and may even backstab you later.

I've seen most of the options in action. The workplace can be an evil place.


There may be some disparity in the way this happens due to the size of the company. Most of my jobs have been with very large corporations, and the way it usually works is they don't put you on new high visibility projects. When the next round of layoffs come you're the most expendable.


This is the "razorblade inside a candybar on Halloween" of employment advice. I've been warned about it a million times, never even heard of someone who has heard of someone to whom it happened.


Nope. Seen it personally at least twice.


> Normally when a company extends a counter offer what they're doing is buying time to ease you out on their terms.

Even if that is true, how would you ever know that? How would anyone in the world have access to those facts?


If you spend even a little time in Silicon Valley you would know how rare qualified people are and giving them a raise is such an insignificant proportion of the value lost if they quit. I'm not even talking about the money and time spent in bringing their replacement up to speed.


I completely agree. I went through this at my first job 13 years ago. I was hugely underpaid. I'd gotten the highest rating and highest raise each year for two years, but still made barely more than new grads coming in as the job market had improved.

I did a job search, found 10 jobs I was overqualified for that were offering 60% more money, and took the list to my manager as part of my argument for a raise. For six months he delayed, said he was looking in to it etc, but in the end said there was nothing he could do, he had no flexibility.

I found a different company that I liked, accepted their offer at about 60% higher salary and told my manager I was leaving in two weeks. Within 24 hours they had matched the other salary, and thrown in some stock too.

They could clearly have done this at any time in the past six months, when I was pressing my manager on it every single week.

Of course I left. If you are worth the money, you should be paid the money, and not have to beg for it. I was at the next company for a very enjoyable four years, and even got promotions and raises without having to lobby for them and explain my impact.


> They could clearly have done this at any time in the past six months, when I was pressing my manager on it every single week.

They had no incentive to.

I was recently in the same situation - doubled my salary after years at another place.

Until you bring proof positive that you could bring in more elsewhere there's no reason for them, there's no reason for them to take your word for it that the market would pay you more.

Companies often rely on the sunk cost of employees laziness/sunk cost.

Depending on the company, if companies gave out raises whenever anyone asked, they'd be broke pretty soon (this applies more to a company like Walmart that relies on a lot of low-paid workers compared to Bell Labs).

> I was at the next company for a very enjoyable four years, and even got promotions and raises without having to lobby for them and explain my impact.

It's likely that you started working a lot harder at the second place. I know I did.


> They had no incentive to.

It's usually cheaper to keep an employee than to hire and train a new one.

Sorry, as someone who runs my own company, such short-sightedness as seen above is stupid.

I keep my employees happy, and make sure they don't want to leave. I get more out of them than I would if they were underpaid, overworked, and treated like shit.


I don't know you, but thank you for being a good boss.

I said this to a manager right before I quit. There are a million ways to demotivate your employees and precious few ways to motivate them again. Finding out that you've been totally screwed and then not having that fixed will kill morale damn near instantly. The best managers I've had gave me a fair shake and they had my loyalty.

At my first software job I worked there while I was going to school. I hated the program for myriad reasons so I dropped out. At the time I was getting paid hourly and there wasn't budget that year so my boss commuted my hourly pay into a salary which ended up shafting me due to overtime, but promised to give me a raise at the first review. He was a man of his word and gave me what I perceived to be an insane raise (something like 60-70%). To my incredulity I got another raise a year later of something like 30% and suddenly I'm a twenty year old kid making more than anyone in my family.

Thing is it wasn't the money that earned my loyalty and hard work, it was the fact that I knew I had people looking out for me and that I could trust. There was many a day where I'd go to the office 6.00 - 16.00 or so, go to the gym, go home and then get bored and go back to the office for an hour or two. I sure as shit wouldn't have done that if my boss fumbled around and made excuses, put things off. All of the great managers I've worked with knew that if you treat folks with respect and treat them right, you get results and that goes beyond salary. Simply having your manager come to you and point out you've been busting your ass and should take a couple days off really kinda clues you in that you're not just a widget factory.


> They had no incentive to.

The incentive was that they didn't want to lose the employee. Clearly it was not enough of an incentive in this situation, but there was an incentive.


> They could clearly have done this at any time in the past six months, when I was pressing my manager on it every single week.

Why did you wait so long to leave?


The "never" bit seems like bad advice. Terrible advice, honestly.

I've worked happily at one of the "big" tech companies. Without going too much into details, I ended up getting a really big offer from another one of the big guys (i.e., in the seven figure range over 4 years, obviously with the bulk of it being equity).

I was really torn. I was happy at my job, but that's a large enough of money to make a material difference in the lives of my loved ones. And like a lot of people here, I value the happiness of my family over my own.

I didn't expect my existing employer to do much. So I gave my boss an early heads up this was happening, partly because I thought there was a small chance there would, but mostly so I would leave on good terms.

Again, long story short, they not only matched the offer but came over the top of it. I went home to think about, talked about it with my wife & decided the next day to accept the counteroffer.

That was a few years ago. I've honestly been happy since then. I don't feel this was ever held over my head or held against me. (To the contrary, I was recently promoted.)

When it comes to counteroffers, a lot of it comes down to two things: 1) why you were looking in the first place, and 2) how you handle things with your existing employer.

Regarding (1) - if you were unhappy, money isn't going to fix that. Staying just because of money is dubious at best.

Regarding (2) - the main thing is don't be an asshole. Nobody is going to hold you advocating for your own best interests. Senior execs know the game. They would do the same thing in your place (if they haven't already). If you're an asshole, well, nobody wants to keep an asshole in the first place. But if you're pragmatic & even–keeled, you don't damage the relationships (even if you stay or go).


That's amazing! Well done on pulling out off man :)


"Let’s take an example and say that some Problem A has triggered a need of change. As you are a good employee you have tried already to solve the problem (e.g. you asked for more money or you tried to change the process), you failed. Now, all of a sudden Problem A gets solved in just some 10 minutes. Why wasn’t it solved before? How long will it take until this kind of a Problem B will appear? When Problem B comes, it’s going to hit harder. Things won’t change."

This paragraph bugs me. It's as if the author assumes the workplace to be swarmed with malicious agents, and you, some ambitious, innocent and pure-hearted employee.

Why wasn't it solved before? Because it was cheaper to leave it unsolved.

Suddenly, you introduce a significant cost to leaving the problem (your leaving the company), and so it gets resolved.

And whaddyaknow, it'll happen at any other company too because its pretty damn effective way to operate a business.


Its only a problem if you assume a supportive employer, one that is looking out for your productivity and success. When you find out your company is only in it for the money, it can be a shock.

I agree its wrong to moralize about it. This is business. You sell your skills for cash. You should be prepared to get the best deal you can. Just asking meekly is a losing gambit. It will take more than that to put wheels in motion (get considered for a raise). Like showing an offer you received.

Now, that said, my son works as an ME at a contract house. The company owner threatens that anyone even looking for a job will be fired summarily. Childish. It just means resentment simmers, and nobody gives notice which has to screw up schedules and hurt their bottom line.


> Its only a problem if you assume a supportive employer, one that is looking out for your productivity and success. When you find out your company is only in it for the money, it can be a shock.

You know what really would be a shocker to me? A company that isn't in it for the money or a company that isn't trying hard to have employees that are highly productive.


Eh, you could make the argument that the company makes more money in the long run by keeping the most productive employees with the most institutional knowledge around long-term, which requires really paying attention to what they want before they start looking elsewhere, keeping up with what market rates are and giving raises and bonuses appropriately, etc. As a rational business owner, would you rather pay out an extra $25k or whatever a year to keep your team intact, or let people leave and suffer months of lost productivity potentially worth many times more, paying recruiter fees of up to $20-30k for the replacement, a few more months of degraded productivity while the new guy ramps up, and still be paying that extra $25k on their salary anyways, because you wouldn't be able to hire anyone otherwise?

It's essentially a cultural thing. Many employers and employees only want to get/keep as much money as possible in the short term, and don't care about anything else. Others care about long-term relationships, stability, and realistic plans, and are willing to sacrifice a little short-term money for it. I'm not here to say either one is better, but do know which one you want, watch out for signs that anyone you do business with doesn't have the same values, and treat them accordingly.


When it comes to business owners, rationality is overrated. I've seen a lot of companies that are perfectly happy hiring a less competent dev that accepts 20% less, and takes more than twice the time to do the work.


There certainly are plenty of companies out there like that. I tend to think that generalizing like that is dicey, though. The good, well-managed companies out there tend to keep the same developers for a long time, and any that leave tend to not have many complaints. The poorly managed companies tend to churn through lots and lots of developers, many of whom will go on to write blog and forum posts on how irrational and cutthroat business is. Thus the noise about poor management is louder than the reality.


Everything you say is correct; I wonder if there's a way to tell how many well managed companies are there and how many poorly managed ones.


To the accounting department it is perfectly rational. In the accounting department everybody is an identical square in the spreadsheet.

In the spreadsheet, if square "A23" takes n hours to accomplish a task, the spreadsheet tells them they saved n x 0.2. This means that the longer it takes square "A23" to accomplish a task, the more the company appears to "save" in the spreadsheet.


There was an article a while back about how tech guys tend toward the tragically naive assumption that, because they're doing a great job for the company, the company will naturally take care of them to the best of its ability, so demanding more would be greedy and ungrateful.

I'm sure you can imagine what the author had to say about that attitude. I am totally one of those saps who assumes that if I'm good to people then they'll be good to me, so I found it useful if depressing.


> employees who accepted a counter-offer are leaving the company after an average of 15 months.

15 months MORE. Damn. I wish I could stay that long in a single company.

Either the project is long finished, or the startup went bankrupt, or the entire department is redone, or there is somewhere else offering a significant raise, or...

Sometimes, I wonder what's the average tenancy for competent employees in a hot tech hub.


As of a few years back, the tenure of software developers when leaving a job averaged at 18 months. I'd guess that silicon valley drags that average down, and the rest of the industry drags it up.


I've heard it's about a year in Silicon Valley.


In my own experience, I see an average of 3 years. Then there are those who do short stints and more on while others will stick around as long as things are interesting. Also the length of projects vary from industry to industry. When I was doing hardware/firmware, an average project was 2-3 years long so people would atleast stick through that.

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