Photo by Hartwig HKD.

Yesterday we began a discussion about why deals are lost at the final stage of the hiring process—after an offer has been presented. The #1 culprit in the Ruby on Rails community: time.

Oftentimes the first offer that is presented is a verbal one. Company X says to Candidate Y, “We like you, you like us, we want to hire you for $Z.” Candidate Y agrees and says, “Terrific, send me over the paperwork!” Then… nothing for days… silence…

Employers have reasons for this delay of course. We’ve seen them all:

  • "We have to check with legal on drafting the agreement."
  • "We’re waiting on a few references."
  • "We have to get approval for your total comp/equity figure from person A or investor B."
  • "You need to take a drug test."
  • or, not said but often implied: “Great, now that we know you’re IN, we’re going to look at a few other people who are better than you real quick just to see if we can get them instead.”

Our advice is simple: if employers mean it when they make a verbal offer, that same offer should be presented in writing the same day. Let’s face it, if a developer is truly desired, a few phone calls and an hour’s work can put the paperwork together in a nice package with a dotted line to sign. If there truly is a need to wait on something like a drug test, put some standard contingency language in the offer—don’t delay the process a week!

Our experience has shown us that the quicker a verbal offer turns written, the better the chance of closing the deal. If it happens the same day, the close rate is north of 80%. I’d say it drops up to 20% a day until there is little to no chance of an offer being accepted when it is presented a week after the verbal. This delay happens more than casual observers might think—enough so that we consciously steer candidates away from employers who drag the process on this long.

On the developer side we’ve witnessed similar delays once an offer is in hand. Here are some examples:

  • "I’m going on vacation for the weekend/week."
  • "I don’t have access to a fax machine."
  • "I need more time to think it over."
  • "—-" (nothing… the developer just goes dark)
  • or, not said but often implied: “Great, now that I have this offer, I’m going to spend a week or more shopping it to various employers, including my current one.”

A job change is a big deal, so developers should of course spend an appropriate amount of time considering their options. However, a great amount of this consideration should have already happened by the time you get to the offer stage. Once an offer is in hand, the developer has likely been in contact with the company for weeks. Evaluating the opportunity should be ongoing from the beginning.

So, our advice for developers is similarly simple: when presented with an offer, accept it (or reject and counter) as quickly as you can, letting no more than 48 hours pass. The 2 days are enough for any final gut check. And, if you know earlier, accept sooner! Nothing starts an employment relationship off quite like a quick offer and acceptance. It shows that both parties are eager to get started on the work at hand.

Final Tip for Developers: Don’t let anything stand in the way of accepting an offer you want to accept. Yes, some employers still use fax machines for HR practices. Get yourself to a Kinko’s. Even better, take the time to hand-deliver the offer to your new boss, shake hands and say, “I can’t wait to start.” I guarantee this will be time well spent.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the #2 reason Rails deals fall through: Small Money Shortsightedness.