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.”
“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.