Losing Tech Candidates at the Offer Stage

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You spend days combing through Websites and résumés to find the perfect candidate. Then you painstakingly guide them through the interviewing process. But just when the finish line is in sight, they suddenly bolt or reject your offer. What went wrong?

While you can’t control everything that happens during the hiring process, committing any of these mistakes at the eleventh hour can cause a talented, in-demand tech pro to get cold feet:

Making a Lowball Offer

While a line manager may view a lowball offer as a starting point and a call for negotiations, that’s not the way tech pros see it. They view a deliberately low offer as an insult and a sign that your company doesn’t value their abilities. In fact, failing to hit the candidate’s compensation target is the top reason why job offers are declined, according to a survey from the McQuaig Institute.

Case in point: when an unemployed tech pro received an offer that was $10,000 less than the salary discussed in the interview, she concluded that the employer was trying to take advantage of her status and decided to pursue other opportunities, according to Bob McIntosh, a career strategist who counsels professionals.

“You should be managing expectations early on in the hiring process because you can’t afford to miss the mark on compensation,” advised Catherine Byers Breet, who has witnessed numerous botched closings as founder of ARBEZ, which markets career coaching. “Offering lower salaries with larger bonuses or stock options can come as a shock to the candidate and fall short of their expectations.”

Jeff McKenzie, managing solution architect at Information Control Company (ICC), put it this way: “Going through the hiring process is an investment of time and, naturally, cost. As a potential candidate, you want that investment to be respected and returned.”

Bait and Switch

Springing last-minute changes in job duties, titles, office location, projects, training, travel requirements, on-call time or compensation not only violates the candidate’s trust, but puts everything back on the table. If you’ve been testing your offer and trial closing all along (as you should), changing the terms of employment at the offer stage sabotages your efforts.

As recruiting guru Lou Adler said: “Candidates accept offers based on what they’ll learn, do, and become in comparison to other opportunities.”

To close tech pros with in-demand skills, don’t include anything in the offer that differs from previous discussions.

Vague, Unwritten Offers

Tech pros who’ve been around the proverbial block a few times know that a handshake promise to provide flex time, extra vacation or the opportunity to work on high-profile projects can become null and void if their manager ups and leaves; that’s why they like perks offered in writing. In similar fashion, a passive candidate is not going to quit a secure job unless they receive a professionally drafted offer letter and have time to review copies of the employee handbook, benefit manual, employment contracts or non-compete agreements. Yet many companies either won’t provide written offers, or else they take days or weeks to get a package out the door.

Bottom line: An unwritten agreement is not an agreement. You’ve invested considerable time in the hiring process—close the deal.

Dead Air

Dragging your feet, especially at the end of the hiring process, is guaranteed to drive a talented prospect to a nimble competitor. When tech pros don’t receive an offer within 24 hours following the final interview, they assume they were the second choice or that an internal candidate landed the position instead. Left in limbo, they instead leverage a promised offer to seek another job or get a raise.

In fact, 44 percent of rejections are due to candidates accepting other offers, and 14 percent result from candidates accepting counteroffers, according to data from Management Recruiters International.

Playing Mind Games

What happens when a hiring manager refuses to turn on his webcam during an interview? A great candidate walks away. Veteran tech pros have absolutely no desire to participate in mind games or stress interviews, and they really hate it when technical evaluators act superior or ask tricky or “gotcha” questions.

Getting Defensive

Becoming defensive towards a candidate who might be considering a counter offer, or issuing “take it or leave it” ultimatums, can torpedo a deal that might have been salvageable. Tech pros view such attitudes as a bad omen and a sign of an autocratic work environment. Millennial engineers and developers want autonomy, inclusiveness and bottom-up management styles—all of which starts with the hiring process.

Overlooking the Little Things

You expect candidates to submit error-free résumés and meet deadlines, but shouldn’t that go both ways?

Small mistakes add up, McKenzie noted. That typo (or two) in the offer letter. That fifteen-minute wait in the lobby, followed by the half-hour wait in a windowless office. The spirit and competence of a company is almost always reflected in the hiring process itself.

“I once accepted an offer from a smaller, less-established firm primarily because that process was so efficient, personal, and professional,” he said. “Much more so than [at] the larger companies I ultimately turned down.”

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