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2019 08 16

Don't Weaponize Exploding Offers

People ask me all the time about them and let me tell you straight away: weaponizing exploding offers as a mechanism to close candidates is a terrible practice. Don’t do this!

It’s a terrible Candidate Experience. No-one wants the hiring process to feel like being sold a used car. You are adding unnecessary pressure to a potentially life-altering choice for a candidate.

You are potentially increasing employee turnover rates. In the worst case, they may leave in less than a year and you’ve just invested a ton of talent team and departmental time & resources onboarding an employee without any of the big payout that happens in months 6-24. That represents a tremendous opportunity cost lost. Like most opportunity costs, this one doesn’t blatantly show up on balance sheets or metrics or reports or dashboards.

Furthermore, it’s irrational. Nothing about a candidate materially changes after day 7. It’s not like you hate them after a week passes. Candidates are not loaves of bread.

Let me be clear, you have to have an expiration date on the offer. It’s important from a legally-protecting-your-company point of view. I am specifically calling out the bad practice around the “you have to cancel all your current interviews and sign by Friday” high pressure nonsense.

The expiration date is largely symbolic in a market where you can’t hire people fast enough. During the offer process, I go out of the way to explain to candidates that the expiration date doesn’t mean anything and that even if it does expire, I’m happy to spin up a new offer with a new date.

There are exceptions. If there is only one open position and two or more candidates have open offers, you have to be very open and transparent about that! In some cases, you may have multiple open roles, but an equity or comp policy that means you can’t guarantee the exact numbers past the specific date. This is often the case with equity, especially if you are in process of doing/closing a fundraising round.

The thing is, the best, most capable people do intelligent things like explore their options. And you really want your employees to be good at exploring options to get to the best result rather than being easily manipulated into rushed or poor outcomes.

No manager ever thinks: “Oh I should have a team full of people that can be scammed into making rushed and possibly lousy decisions!”

If a company tries the high-pressure-cancel-your-interviews tactics it reflects quite poorly on the company and its culture. In your zeal to close the candidate you are presenting your company as the lesser option. This means that your hiring process is unintentionally biasing towards people who are susceptible to manipulation and pressure tactics.

Don’t weaponize exploding offers. It’s a lousy crutch and if you rely on it, I have serious concerns about how you treat your candidates and by proxy your employees.

You can do better!

Work with your candidates, be transparent about real, artificial or procedural deadlines. Understand your candidates needs and the risks they surface. The offer process should result in win/win; it’s not hunting. Invest in your candidate experience and invest in promoting your opportunities at all stages instead. Remember, the goal is not to put butts in seats but to find the best fits who can materially help your company succeed over the next 1-3 years or beyond.


Adapted from one of my recent twitter threads: Don’t Weaponize Exploding Offers

An earlier revision can also be found on LinkedIn:Don’t Weaponize Exploding Offers



you may also be interested in some of the greatest hits of amattn.com:

〜 Empathy as a Core Engineering Requirement

〜 Venture Capital Math 101

〜 You Should Foster a Culture of Readability

〜 The Customer's Semi-Lucid Trance State

〜 What is Engineering Management?




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