Under what conditions would you have stayed back with the company?

A reader writes:Can you please provide your take on what is the best way to answer What would your current employer have to do in order to keep you?This is an actual question that

Under what conditions would you have stayed back with the company?

A reader writes:

Can you please provide your take on what is the best way to answer What would your current employer have to do in order to keep you?

This is an actual question that I was recently asked in an interview, and I was really at a loss on how to answer it. My situation is a bit unique because I actually really like my current job. I respect my boss and we have a great working relationship. I have a very nice work-life balance and flexible hours. The work itself is challenging and stimulating. The pay could be better, but I am currently at a point in life where flexibility matters more than money (I recently had a baby and I am able to arrange my work hours aground her needs).

The only reason why I am looking for a new job right now is because the company that I am working for is really not doing well financially (in the past couple of months, theyve struggled to make payroll). I am concerned that if I do not find a new job right now on my own terms, I might be forced to look for one very soon anyway. So, since it is always easier to get a job when you already have one, I started looking, even though I do realize that it would likely be impossible to find an employer that would allow me to have the same work-life balance.

When the interviewer asked me what it would take for my current company to keep me, I was really caught off guard. I dont even remember what I answered, but it probably wasnt too horrible since the company wants me to come in for a second interview. But I really would like to get your thoughts on what is the best way to handle this question, in case I ever have to answer it again.

Well, theyre asking for a few reasons:

First, it could produce legitimately interesting information  like that youd stay if your boss left, or that youre looking because staying isnt an option (because they want you to go), or that you hate everyone you work with. Or it might just give them insight into what youre really looking for in a new job, and whether the role theyre hiring for is going to be satisfying to you.

Second, theyre trying to see if theyd be likely to lose you to a counter-offer. If you say youre looking only due to money, theyre going to wonder if theyll make you an offer, your employer will counter-offer, and thatll be the end of that.

Third, they might be interested in knowing how you handle it when youre unhappy. If you say that youre job searching because you want more opportunity to do client-facing work, a smart interviewer will ask if youve approached your current manager about that prospect. If you say that you havent (in a context that makes it clear you could), youre signaling that youre someone who will just leave rather than talking straightforwardly to your current employer about what would keep you there. As a prospective employer, thats worrisome; I want to know that if youre unhappy to the point of leaving, youll give me a chance to fix it (if its fixable).

And just to be clear, theyre not definitely assuming that your answer will give them insight into all this. As with a lot of interview questions, it just opens the possibility that it will, so they figure its worth asking  but they also know they might get an answer that isnt particularly enlightening. And thats fine, as long as you dont appear to be actually dodging the question. In other words, dont feel like you have to find an answer that will give them this kind of insight; theyre just asking in case it happens to. (The same is true with question like why are you thinking about leaving your current job?)

In any case, here are some possible answers to this question that shouldnt raise any red flags:

* Ive really enjoyed working there and its not about anything theyre doing or not doing; Ive been there six years and Im ready for a new challenge.

* If there was something simple they could do, Id have raised it with them  Id want to give us both a chance to see if we could make that work. But Im really just ready to move on to something new.

* Id like to work more with chocolate teapots, and thats not a possibility in my current company; we focus exclusively on raspberry teapots.

* Or in your case: Ive really enjoyed my work there, but theyre having trouble making payroll, so I think its time for me to be looking at whats next. I suppose if their financial problems were solved overnight, Id consider staying, but it feels like the right time to be moving on to something new regardless, and Im excited about this role with your company because

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