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Why Software Engineers are Declining Your Offers


I’ve been doing technical recruitment (primarily open source) for over 2 ½ years now, and the market is continuously becoming more and more competitive for software engineering talent. The reason why most companies even decide to use a staffing agency in the first place is because they’re urgent to fill a position, there is a lack of qualified candidates in their pipeline, or for some reason or another they just can’t seem to fill the job on their own. I’ve worked with both startups and Fortune 500 companies, and they all face challenges when it comes to hiring engineering talent.

In the tech industry, it’s definitely candidate driven market – even if you do come across a good candidate you want to hire, that doesn’t mean they’re going to accept your offer. There are a number of factors that can result in your offer getting declined, but if you’re getting to a point where you’ve extended multiple offers with very low acceptance rate – chances are something needs to change. If you’re wondering why your offers are getting declined or why candidates become disinterested in a position during the interview process, here are 10 things that could be holding you back:

1. Your offer isn’t competitive.

Don’t get me wrong – you don’t want to throw money at someone just to get them interested in your role, but candidates do want to feel like they are going to be compensated appropriately for the work that they’ll be doing. As I mentioned above, it’s a candidate driven market – if an engineer is interviewing with you (especially if they’re really good), chances are you’re not the only company interested in them.

The demand for top talent is only increasing, and companies need to make sure they are being competitive in order to attract and retain technical candidates. Because of the increase in demand, salaries to attract these types of candidates are also increasing. Money shouldn’t be the main reason why someone wants to work for your company, but you need to know what a candidate is looking for in their overall compensation package to understand what it’s going to take to get your offer accepted (benefits, PTO, 401K, flexible hours, stock options, etc.). You should also ask around your area to see what other companies are offering for the same type of candidates, don’t rely on information you find online (average salaries, cost of living differences, etc.). Being the middle man between the candidate and client myself, I’ve noticed the client’s definition of “average” tends to be toward the lower end of the scale, while the candidate’s definition of “average” is on the higher end of the scale – which is why it’s my job to set realistic yet competitive expectations on both sides.

Another thing you don’t want to do is negotiate an offer after the official offer has already been extended. When you present an offer, that should be the one and only offer that the candidate will receive. For example, say you present an offer of $115K to an engineer, but he’s not sold on the role quite yet. He gets another offer at $120K from a different company, so then you offer him $125K. If you could have extended an offer 10K higher all along, what does this tell the candidate? You don’t want to give off the impression of initially low-balling to “see what happens” – it’s not worth it in the long run and you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of a bidding war. Always make the best offer possible the first time.

2. Your interview process.

This is a huge one a lot of companies don’t care to address. You don’t know how many times companies who can’t find qualified candidates say, “we do interviews this way because that’s how we’ve always done them, and it has worked for us in the past”.

One major problem companies fail to fix, is that their interview process takes way too long. If you’re a hiring manager, you know good engineers are off the market extremely quickly. Just because a candidate is interested in your company doesn’t mean another company won’t swoop in and get an offer out to them sooner. It’s important to be able to move process along quickly to keep the candidate engaged – urgency to schedule additional rounds of interviews also relays your continued interest in pursuing them as a potential hire. Companies also have way too many steps in their interview process. You want to make sure that you’re not scheduling interviews just to schedule interviews. 5-6 is just way too many, and that leaves a lot of time in between for the candidate to change their mind about your company and pursue other opportunities.

I’ve also seen some issues with companies requesting candidates to complete code tests prior to an initial phone screen. If the candidate doesn’t have a good understanding of the role or hasn’t been completely sold on the position yet, they’re not going to do it. If they’re actively interviewing with other companies, you’ll just be put on the back burner. It’s also going to be hard to convince a passive candidate with no interview activity to complete a test beforehand, because it might just seem like a waste of time. Developers are more likely to complete the test after they’ve talked to someone on the team to generate their interest, as they’ll be motivated to do well if they’re still intrigued by role based on initial interviews. I could go a lot more in depth on this topic, – but I’ll save that for another article.

3. You’re hearing what you want to hear.

When you’re having trouble finding a qualified candidate for a position, you’re bound to get excited when someone qualified does come through the pipeline. However, this can blindside you when all you care about is getting that offer out as soon as possible. Before extending an offer, you want to make sure you know everything about that candidate and what’s important to them in order to make sure they’re going to be the right fit. Missing out on crucial information such as their reasons for pursuing new opportunities, what they’re looking for from a career standpoint, and what other companies they’re interviewing with can be a crucial indicator of whether or not they’re going to accept your offer. You want to make sure you do everything in your power to be confident the interest is mutual on both sides.

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