No One Wants to Work at Your Company

AI-generated image of people on the other side of a metal gate.

Back in 2014, I was about nine months in to Numetric, which was then a new startup. My cofounders and I thought, as many startup founders do, that this was THE coolest startup ever. We were going to compete with Google.

Our developer team was small—just one person—so we decided to hire a few more. I reached out to some developers and started selling them on the company. A few were interested enough to have a conversation, so I said, "Great! Just complete this small coding challenge first," and I sent out a short take-home project, not meant to take more than two hours.

On a Saturday, I got an email from one of the candidates. Not just any email—it was a flame email. And the gist of the email was something like this:

"I've spent eight hours on this stupid coding project, just getting set up. There's at least another eight hours to go. And you said this would be a two-hour coding project. I'm no longer interested. I can't believe you'd ask me to do something like this. It's absurd. You've barely talked to me, and I don't know anything about your company. I'm out."

I did what I’d always heard you should do: give out a coding test to tell if someone is going to be a good programmer. At the time, it seemed like the right choice—the coding challenge (which ended up taking our on-staff, experienced developer four hours to complete) would save me time and let me focus on building my startup. They’d do the project, and I'd be able to review their code really quickly to determine if they had the technical skills Numetric wanted.

But that was the last time I ever used a take-home coding project to filter out candidates.

The biggest mistake I made? Assuming the candidate really wanted to work at Numetric, and he'd do whatever it took to get a shot at that interview.

You’ve been trusted to build the best dev team. So as a hiring manager, gatekeeping is likely part of your hiring philosophy—it’s how you only hire the best developers. But too many hiring managers assume everyone wants to work at their company, and that it's their job to keep everyone out. The reality is your dev job is one of 1M+ available dev jobs (and that’s just in the U.S.); you can’t afford not to attract candidates to your company. You need to abandon your post as gatekeeper and adopt a sales mindset.

I'm not saying you should let bad people into your company; but selectivity should happen at a later stage of the process. You want to attract as many qualified developers as possible and get them to buy into your company and position.

Sales should be part of every step in your hiring process. By limiting your candidate pool too early, you risk losing great talent to your competitors who are already selling their position, company, and culture to candidates.

Why should I use sales principles in hiring?

As a hiring manager, you are concerned with three things:

  1. Is the candidate qualified?
  2. Is the candidate interested?
  3. Is the candidate available?

You should use a scientific process for evaluating if a candidate is qualified. But that won’t matter if the candidate isn’t even interested. This is where your sales mindset starts to matter. Getting—and keeping—the candidate interested in your position will make the difference when they consider the other offers they have on the table. If you sell them on the position, company, and culture, they’ll make themselves available for you to hire.

How do I effectively sell in hiring?

Look at hiring as a service. It’s easier to sell something to someone when you know doing so will improve the recipient’s life—and maybe even the world. You are helping candidates navigate the wealth of information, explain it to them, and get them to make the best decision that’s right for them at the specific time. To do this effectively, you need to decipher your candidate’s motivations and then appeal to them.

Put yourself in the shoes of the candidate. How would you want a position and company sold to you?

Let’s take a closer look at what candidate experience consists of and why you should prioritize it as a hiring manager. Your goal is to create an experience that turns candidates into employees, and employees into advocates who sell your company and culture to future candidates.

What is candidate experience?

Candidate experience is how a candidate feels about your company once they experience your recruiting and hiring process. Every interaction the candidate has with your company throughout the recruiting and hiring process impacts the candidate experience. It’s one of the most important factors in attracting talent. Companies can expect a 70% increase in hire quality by simply providing a strong candidate experience.  Good or bad, these feelings impact the candidate’s decision to apply, interview, and accept your job offer.

Candidate experience consists of, but is not limited to:

  • Company social media
  • Company website
  • The job posting
  • Recruiter outreach
  • The application process
  • All forms of communication between candidate and current employees
  • The interview process
  • Candidate rejection
  • Offer

What makes a great candidate experience?

To understand what makes a great candidate experience, you must first consider the key junctures of interaction, understand the candidate’s needs at each stage, and focus on improvements with the biggest impact on the overall experience.

AI-generated image of two developers sitting in chairs and talking to each other.

9 Key Components of Candidate Experience

  1. Imagine you are the candidate

    Recall your own experiences as a candidate. What impressed you? What was a disappointment? Use your own experiences to pressure test the candidate experience you’re creating. Understand common complaints and identify solutions to address those challenges. Identify ways to streamline your process.
  2. Write transparent, engaging job descriptions

    A candidate’s experience typically begins with a job posting on the company’s career site, shared through social media, or listed on a third-party site. The clarity and tone of the job description and the position described provides an important first impression about the company and what it might be like to work there. Ensure the job description includes the details developers really care about.

    Additional reading: How to Write a Technical Job Description.  
  3. Streamline your interview process

    The interview process is incredibly important. Depending on how well it’s designed and implemented, it can deepen and strengthen a candidate’s engagement with the opportunity or discourage them, even to the point of dropping out.
  4. Do your research

    Great candidates do their homework, and you should too! Review their resume ahead of time. Understand who else they’ve met with at the company. Be prepared so you can make the best use of your time.
  5. Give candidates your full attention

    Interviews are a big deal to candidates. Their interview might be one of many meetings on your calendar, but you don’t want to give that impression. Give candidates your full attention and listen carefully. Use the time allotted and don’t gloss over their questions.
  6. Follow-up early and often

    The most common complaint from candidates is a lack of communication. Candidates want to know what to expect. Evaluate your company’s protocols for updating candidates about their status, answering questions, and informing them of a final decision. Don’t leave candidates in the dark. Leverage automatic responses. Outline the next steps. State when they can expect updates. These steps will secure trust and guarantee a better experience for the candidate.
  7. Don’t withhold bad news

    Candidates will maintain hope they’re still being considered unless you tell them otherwise. If you’ve made the decision not to move a candidate forward, tell them. Being ghosted is more painful than rejection. Rejections aren’t mean—they’re clear. Closing the door allows candidates to focus their time and energy on other opportunities.
  8. Keep in touch

    Abide by any timeframes shared during the interview process. If a candidate is determined not to be a fit, keep their information on file and reach out should another appropriate role become available. They might be the perfect fit in the future.
  9. Share (and solicit) feedback

    Provide candidates with an explanation of why they weren’t hired. Focus on their skills and experience as it relates to the role, not their performance in the interview itself. Whether you hire them or not, candidates are an excellent resource for feedback. The compliments will highlight where your company shines. Use critiques as inspiration for improvements to make with the next candidate.
AI-generated image of a man in a suit jacket smiling

Why is candidate experience so important?

Every connection and exchange made between the candidate and your organization during the hiring process forms the candidate experience, and ultimately affects your company’s brand either positively or negatively. Think of candidate experience as a company’s report card, where past candidates and prospective hires give grades reflecting how well the company treated and communicated with them. These grades are then plastered all over social media for others to appraise. Poor report cards damage your reputation and make it challenging to sell your company and positions to other candidates.

A positive candidate experience benefits your company in multiple ways:

  1. You will attract more applicants.
  2. You can compete for top talent.
  3. Your quality of hire will improve.
  4. You will increase brand awareness.

Investing in the creation and maintenance of a positive candidate experience is a critical part of hiring and a critical part of your selling strategy. Think about the ripple effect—the results of positive and negative experiences spread and magnify. Don’t create the perception that you’re doing the candidate a favor by interviewing them. On the contrary, candidates should feel special through the hiring process and receive appreciation for engaging with the organization. Whether they are a strong fit or not, it’s important that every candidate exits the interview feeling respected and valued. If they do, they’ll share positive remarks with their network and are more likely to refer other job seekers directly to your company that may be a great fit. They’ll do the selling for you.

When does selling end?

It doesn’t. Hiring is only the beginning of selling. Employee engagement is a whole other ballpark that relies on selling just as much as hiring.


Need help selling your open positions? Facet can help you access and appeal to top tech talent.

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