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15 Reasons Strong Tech Candidates are Declining Your Offer

September 2017- By Erica Woods, Manager of Contractor and Community Relations, Principal, Darin Stevenson, Director of National Practice Teams & Cate Murray, Practice Director – PM/BA

Most managers in the Information Technology space can agree that finding strong contractors and employees with the technical acumen you need who are also cultural fits is incredibly challenging. Factoring in that at least five other companies are likely pursuing those candidates makes it even more difficult to ensure those coveted technical specialists are choosing to join YOUR team!

So, what can you do to help win your target audience over? Identify where you’re losing candidates in the process and change those bad habits! Here is a list of the top 15 reasons we’ve seen our clients lose the IT candidates they’re interested in hiring. Recognize which reasons you might have identified in the past, and strategize on how to minimize these reasons going forward in your hiring/interviewing processes!

  1. Outdated tech stack/approaches. What is one of the top criteria the best technology folks want in their next role? To work with new technologies, versions, and approaches! They want to work for a company that does it “the right way.” A common fear is that their skills will become obsolete or unmarketable, and therefore, this is extra motivation for working with the technologies that are trending upwards in demand! Even if you’re currently working with more legacy apps and technologies, communicate the timeline you’re following to upgrade if that’s on your roadmap!

  2. No visibility into culture or poor/negative culture. At some point during the interview process, do you give promising candidates insight into your culture? Do you, a team member, or a member of HR give them a tour? Do you explain the characteristics of your team? Consider adding a shadowing or tour component during the process if you don’t have one. Also, think through the current “social perks” your team, group, or company offers, and determine if it’s an area where you could invest further. We’ve seen our clients make social investments via monthly socials, weekly breakfasts, setting up running clubs, annual themed parties, family-friendly events like summer BBQs, and more. One of our AppDev groups even has a quarterly laser tag outing! Get creative and plan, or task others with planning fun, social outings that cater to the interests of your group!

  3. Projects or company doesn’t align with their values. A sense of purpose is one of the most prominent motivators, especially with the millennial audience! They want to work for a company, on a project, building applications, with teams, supporting clients, etc. that have a rewarding purpose. Often, there is a strong purpose of the role, but the “why” and macro level details that can effectively communicate the purpose to the interviewee are missing. During interviews, take a top down approach and share company vision and goals, then group goals and initiatives, then team goals and initiatives, and THEN how that role will contribute! If you don’t think the project you need this role to work on is very purposeful, think about what else you can do to add some purpose to the role. Perhaps you could implement a 90:10 Professional: Personal Pet Project rule where employees could spend 10% of their work time working on personal pet projects that mean something to them or allow 10% of their work time to be related to Tech4Good initiatives like Humanitarian Toolbox or Operation Code!

  4. Work is not challenging enough. It’s no surprise that top talent wants work that will be interesting and challenging. Yet, too often technical managers are so focused on the “here’s what we need” that they don’t try to add in more of the “here’s what this audience wants to do!” Building on point #3 above, there’s usually some things you can do to make a responsibilities matrix more appealing, so brainstorm with Team Leads on how to make the work more interesting, challenging, and rewarding.

  5. Non-competitive or low pay or better offers elsewhere. While compensation is rarely the most important piece of the offer for your best technology folks, it is a major turnoff when a company pays considerably less than the “going rate,” as it’s an indicator you don’t value your workforce. As a manager, you need to be in tune with market rates of the skill sets you employ and are hiring.

  6. Don’t see growth potential. What training exists? Is there a formal mentor program? Do you pay for education, certifications, conferences, etc.? Is there a progressive career path that’s communicated to them during the process? What’s the likelihood they’ll get to work with newer technologies, approaches, etc.? Will they have a chance to join any steering committees? Be clear with communicating the training and development perks, career path, and show them the future potential of working on exciting projects/technology if there’s a slim likelihood they’d be doing that to start!

  7. “Too many cooks” involved in interview process. It’s not surprising that the process timeline gets extended when too many people are involved. The most effective teams are comprised of four to six people, and any group that exceeds that amount can start to hurt the effectiveness. Keep your interview team to four to six team members and keep the process moving smoothly.

  8. Lengthy selection process. Time is of the essence when interviewing technology candidates, especially when you consider that strong candidates have multiple offers within days of starting the process. A concise interview process is imperative to getting those candidates on board with you! Your best candidates are usually off the market within 10 days, so aim to complete the process within five to eight days of receiving a candidate you’re interested in!

  9. Minimal “perks” and benefits. There are so many factors to evaluate and enhance in this area! How competitive is your healthcare coverage and costs? What is your 401K contribution? If you’re a public company, what does your stock offering look like? What perks do you offer, such as reimbursement around taking outside training, certification boot camps, attending conferences, sandbox environment, training licenses (i.e. MSDN, Pluralsight, Safari, etc.), gym and other discounts? Do you have a strong PTO program? Offer a flexible schedule or any telework options? Offer any facility perks such as free coffee/tea, food, games, parking, etc.? Engage your team to determine what perks they’d like and determine where you could add a couple of those!

  10. Over-interviewed or overall poor “interview experience.” We’ve had job seekers receive different information from HR/recruiters vs. the hiring manager, not have people show up to the interview who were supposed to be there, interviewed about a different role vs. the one they applied for, managers who were 30+ minutes late for interview, and ones spent the entire time drilling the candidate with questions without providing details about the role. Those are all great examples of things you want to avoid during the interview process, as they are huge negatives for qualified candidates. Do your due diligence to ensure that your interview and hiring process are streamlined - a positive first impression of your company - and that anyone involved in the interview process knows their role.

  11. Unrealistic combination of skills and requirements. We’ve seen far too many managers with an endless technical skill “requirements wish list,” which can deter great candidates for multiple reasons. First, some of your top talent will rule themselves out, not even applying, if they’re missing even one technology or version from the requirements list. Second, having a long list can communicate that you don’t know what you really want from the candidate. Third, it can amplify expectations if there are a lot of skills and technologies listed that normally don’t go together. Make sure your requirements list is an actual reflection of the skills/technologies you really need that individual to have coming in the door to be successful!

  12. Poor press/company image online. Reading excessive negative feedback about a company, group, culture, etc. online can quickly sour a candidate’s opinion. As a manager, it’s important to keep a pulse on your digital brand and be aware of what’s being said. If there’s a trend of constructive feedback where you could influence positive change, act on it! At a minimum, be ready to refute concerns that a candidate might bring up, or address directly, related to what they may have read.

  13. Work environment isn’t a good fit. More and more talented job seekers are looking for a “relaxed” work environment. We had a candidate turn down a position because the customer required all IT personnel to wear a suit and tie, and he was accustomed to a casual dress code. This is unusual, especially the part about the client requiring suit and tie, but factors like dress code and environment can play a part in a candidate’s decision to accept an offer. We spend ¼ to ⅓ of our adult lives at work, so it’s understandable when candidates want a more comfortable work environment and atmosphere.

  14. Inaccurate job details or description. A major candidate frustration that can stem from getting into an interview, or starting a job, is realizing that it doesn’t align at all with the initial job description. Invest 5-10+ minutes each time you open a new position to make edits to the description and requirements so it’s accurate, and then invest time clearly stating the priorities, projects, purpose, technologies, people the candidate would be working with, success criteria/prerequisites, and other key details of the role during the interview! – Read this blog for more insights and an example on effective job descriptions.

  15. Lack of connection or personal touch. We always recommend establishing a personal connection immediately to candidates that are going through the interview process. This helps them feel at ease and more connected with the interviewer. If you’re interviewing someone that you’re really excited about, or who looks great on paper, spend a few moments getting to know them on a personal level before deep diving into technical questions. As mentioned earlier, we spend a lot of our time at work, and most individuals genuinely want to know, like, and respect their boss and coworkers. We’re not saying all IT professionals want to become best friends with their manager, but they do want to know it’s someone relatable who they can have open dialogue with and respect.

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