‘Exploding’ Job Offers Fail to Draw Candidates

At a time when more IT professionals are confident about their place in the job market, some employers are trying to nail down candidates with aggressive offers – aggressive as in “make your decision right now.

Time Bomb“This is kind of anecdotal – you hear stories about companies like Google and Amazon making just ridiculously high offers and having them expire really rapidly,” says Ben Hicks, a partner in the Software Technology Search division of Boston recruiting firm WinterWyman. “I’ve heard of candidates getting an offer and having it expire at the end of that day.”

Hicks says these “exploding” offers were more common during the dot-com era, but they’ve resurfaced in his area. Still, they’re not the norm. In Austin, for example, recruiter Jeff Hennigan says, “Employers here don’t have the cards to play that hand.”

Imbalance of Power

Hicks said the tactic often backfires. Applicants see it as a sales-y approach that forces them to make a decision that might not be in their best interests. Indeed, Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, cites research that found these offers don’t help companies hire the right people. Also, they lessen a new hire’s commitment to the employer.

Grant cites four reasons a company might use the tactic:

  • It’s having a hard time recruiting candidates.
  • It’s desperate to fill the position immediately.
  • It knows you’ll never choose it if you have the chance to consider other offers.
  • It sees candidates as virtually identical, and is perfectly happy moving quickly to someone else.

Essentially, Grant writes, the tactic involves a power imbalance where the employer has many candidates and the candidate has only one offer. But in IT the power often belongs to the candidate. Hennigan, a senior recruiter for Kforce Technology Staffing, says job seekers in Austin often have 20 or 30 other opportunities. If a potential employer gives them any hassle at all, “they just move on to their other 29.”

Timelines Grow Shorter

“The companies that tend to do it are the bridesmaids a lot, meaning they make offers that aren’t accepted because candidates deem other things to be more interesting,” Hicks says. “I think a company that is confident that what they have to offer is really compelling doesn’t generally feel they have to do that.”

Typically, companies making an offer to tech candidates want an answer in two or three days – five at the outside, Hicks says. “While there might be other industries where an offer is good for a week, that’s very rare in technology,” he explains. “If a company makes an offer on a Tuesday or Wednesday, often they demand an answer by Friday – Monday at the very latest.”

“I would deem an exploding offer to be even more aggressive than that,” he says. “One that expires in 24 hours or one that expires at the end of today.”

One way companies may try the same thing, but in a softer fashion, is to say that if you accept within 24 hours, its offer will be X. If you take three or four days, the amount of money or equity offered will drop.

“I think timelines in general have gotten really aggressive in the technology marketplace as it gets harder and harder to find people,” says Hicks. “And some of it’s warranted because, from the company’s perspective, if they make an offer they know that the other candidates probably are not going to be around very long. There are times when they need to know quickly whether they need to move to candidate No. 2 or No. 3 before they lose them.”

Demand for Software Skills

But such timelines vary by region. In Austin, they’re longer, running up to a week or two, says Hennigan. Most employers still require a background check and drug test, and candidates won’t give notice to their current employer until they pass those. Then one-third to a half receive counter offers from their current employer, so the whole process can take three weeks or a month.

The process can move much more quickly for contract positions, especially for projects in which the employer has an aggressive timetable. In that case, the client may be especially worried about losing the No. 2 candidate.

Calling Austin “a software town,” Hennigan says demand there is white hot for skills such as Python, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript and PHP. His company offers a $1,000 bonus for referrals to people with those skills that it can place. Those folks, he says, “can just write their own ticket.”

19 Responses to “‘Exploding’ Job Offers Fail to Draw Candidates”

  1. Fred Bosick

    A kind of frontier justice. Trying to snag a rockstar, ninja or cowboy, might well get you a drifter or desperado. A seeming commoditization of exceptional people.

    There is no perfect employee, or job.

  2. Cannot be serious… I know that in IT you have to fix problems by the end of the day sometimes, or that’s the rule at some support positions.
    However, making a job offer acceptance decision by the end of the day…
    That cannot be serious.

    • Yep. I’ve experienced it. In one case I had three hours to decide. And in another case I had to decide before leaving the interview with the hiring manager.

      I turned down both jobs, which were for (non-IT) systems engineering positions.

  3. Obviously the candidate should say that it is not enough money and walk away. Let them come back with much more money. If they are desperate then they will up the ante; if not then it is just a body shop and no big loss.

  4. jelabarre

    > Then one-third to a half receive counter offers from their current employer,…

    It’s my understanding that accepting a counter-offer from your current employer is a bad idea in the long-run. Certainly, at certain companies, you would have no intention of accepting a counter-offer because you have no faith in your current employer.

    • A lot of articles on how bad it is to accept a counter-offer are written by recruiters, who lose commissions when you accept a counter-offer, so consider the source.

      OTOH I accepted a substantial counter-offer several years ago and went from code-monkey to a leadership position; the only repercussions after that were positive. In my case my employer realized what I had to offer and acted accordingly. Your mileage may vary, of course…

  5. Yeah,right I have been IT for 20 yrs. You have to be in the right place and the right time for these situation to happen. Either majority opportunities are in other states or the money is not right. Majority of time the money is not right!!! Slave Economics that’s the world that we are living.

  6. extremelyWellQualifiedYetUnemployed

    As a senior level, very widely experienced engineer and developer (amongst many things hold a relevant patent and have a complex Android app in the app store), I am aghast that I am unable to find work, and frankly treated like shit by employers. You could drop me by parachute into at least 50% of the IT jobs on Dice and after just a few days no one would know that I hadn’t been doing that purple-squirrel niche role for years.

    The reality is that the hiring process is completely bezerk – managed into lunacy by people with Ivy League business school credentials but that know next to nothing about the subject matter they supposedly manage. That includes subcontracting out 90% of recruiting to equally un-knowledgeable tech recruiters most of whome would have trouble making a light bulb shine given two pieces of wire a bulb and a battery.

    A very damaging part of the management apporach is to spend corporate PR money on lies in the media to create the impression to the public at large that there is a shortage of talent in the USA.

    In short, the tech hiring process is out of control whacked out disfunctional right now in the USA.

    • I couldn’t agree more with you! I have been in the IT industry for more than 25 years and the recruiting and hiring process has gone downhill for the past 10 years. I am like you, can walk in and in a day or so be able to do the job. No college required. Just a natural. It is the HR involvement that is causing a lot of the issues with IT hiring. They have not a shred of clue on what real IT talent really is.

    • Outsourced Sam

      Well if the hiring manager thinks that there are tons of people out there that can just ‘walk in’ and ‘do the job within hours’ why would he/she hire you all? Maybe that’s why, maybe it’s become that easy to master the next skill so they just outsource it to the lowest bidder.

  7. I agree with the others. I always turn these down. Of course, if I were unemployed and ready to jump, I probably would. If I’m going to work for a body shop, I might as well get the most out of it.

  8. Outsourced Sam

    Let’s set the record straight, there isn’t ‘exploding jobs’ in IT. Outside mobile development most of it is shrinking. IT is going away and moving to the cloud and tons of jobs are moved overseas. I wouldn’t put my future in being an IT professional in this country. It’s best to get your MBA so you can know nothing about development and boss around a bunch of labor while cutting the bonuses to yourself.

  9. I agree that HR is the foundation of the problem and has ruined the technology job search. Those that look at resumes/profiles and make the decision, of a match to a job requirement do not have the necessary experience. They have become job blocks. The real skilled applicants never get passed along to the hiring manager. Unless the resume/profile copies the job requirements description exactly word for word, it will be discarded. The skills and technology could in fact be present in the resume/profile described with slightly different wording going unrecognized.
    This intern causes layer II problem. Now any agents or job searchers have to lower themselves to the weakness game. This then forces experienced highly skilled technology applicants to lower themselves into rewording every resume/profile to this low level.
    When this eventually gets passed to the hiring manager, the resume/profile is looked at by a person with the necessary skills and recognizes the low level of wording, as though it was copied word for word from the requirement and, discards it.

  10. I remember one gig for which I interviewed – software development at department in a major university, believe it or not – where I was offered the job, but not only did I have to accept within the day, but I was told by the person in charge of the department that I would have to START the next day, no chance to give adequate notice at my old position.

    Of course I didn’t take it.

  11. Some localities have terrible salaries. I live in one of the worst areas for fair remuneration, but companies say, “Well, that’s the way it is. We have a pre-approved budget for the role and this is as high as it’s gonna go. Take it or leave it.” The recent Dice salary survey had my area, St. Louis, listed below market rates. St. Louis has a long history for low balled salaries as well as hourly consulting rates!!

    Problem is, there will ALWAYS be someone that takes on a role for that low number. The employers wants you to have a bunch of amazing skills, but they don’t want to pay for them!!

    St. Louis is one area where the salaries are kept down! How about in your area??