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Unpredictable IT Candidates? Don’t Shoot the Messenger

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With less than two percent unemployment rate for IT professionals, retaining qualified tech employees is harder than ever. In fact, I’ve noticed that the hiring process has entered a new phase of “craziness” in recent months.

Ghosting is a growing problem. A candidate may not show up for a scheduled interview, or they may accept a position only to back out before the start date. Hiring managers are also reporting attempts to renegotiate employment packages at the 11th hour, and employees who quit after just a few days on the job. Needless to say, recruiters, managers and human resource departments are frustrated by these unpredictable behaviors.

What’s going on? Frequent job offers and rising salaries may have gone to the heads of candidates who may think there’s no end to the tight labor market in sight. Some IT workers are ignoring professional etiquette norms, such as letting someone know if they’re not going to show up as planned.

What can we do about it? We can’t change the unemployment rate, but we can step up our game. Here are a few tips for hiring managers, recruiters and candidates.

Hiring Managers

First, please don’t shoot the messenger. Even the most experienced recruiters and human resource professionals are being caught off guard by crazy candidate behavior. While you can’t stop other companies from making job offers, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Do your best to make an attractive candidate feel welcome. Help them envision an enjoyable work environment that is friendly and accommodating, starting with your first meeting. Provide lunch or a snack break after the interview, which will allow for some unstructured time in which the candidate can get to know you and your staff. Introduce them to people around the office, as if they are already part of the company. During negotiations, be as flexible as possible, especially with low-cost perks like flexible hours or a work from home day. Sometimes little things make a big difference.
  2. Can you remember a job interview where the hiring manager aloofly closed with, “We’ll let you know?” Don’t be that person. Ask questions that will show a qualified candidate you’re interested, and elicit details about their intentions. How soon can they start? Are they happy with the salary and benefits package and the company culture, or do they have concerns? Is there anything that would prevent them from accepting a competitive offer? Consider yourself a sales rep for the opening you’re trying to fill. Your job is to overcome any objections and close the deal.
  3. Act quickly and with urgency. Accelerate interview, hiring and onboarding processes to minimize the chances of losing a candidate to another company. Keep the candidate continuously engaged from the first interview on…and even during the first few weeks of employment.


More is required from you in the current environment, and communication is key. You can differentiate yourself, minimize surprises and develop better relationships with candidates by being more organized, more informative and more helpful than other recruiters.

  1. Make sure your communications are personal and focused on selling the position and the company in the context of that applicant’s situation. Emphasize things that you know are of value to the candidate – a short commute, for example. Don’t send email after email without a personal follow-up. Pick up the phone or send a text.
  2. Keep candidates informed about the hiring process and timeline — and notify them of any changes. Confirm, and reconfirm: if you normally send out a single email to confirm an interview, consider sending out an additional follow-up email, in addition to a phone call and a text. Always ask candidates to let you know they’ve received your message and if there are any changes in their situation. Call candidates the day before an interview or start date to touch base and offer assistance, such as interview tips or what to wear.
  3. Keep hiring managers in the loop as well. Frequent communications lets them know you’re doing everything you can do to minimize surprises and ensure a successful outcome for all involved.

IT Candidates

Enjoy your success, but remember the way you treat people today will pay off in the future, when job offers aren’t pouring in. The world is a much smaller place than it might appear, and the relationships you establish now will matter to you in a few years.

If you have any ideas to share on this topic, let me know!

Andrew C. Jackson