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Exploding offers are bullshit (erikbern.com)
100 points by aleyan on April 9, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 77 comments

It's not always a bluff. Depending on the company, it can happen that there are a fixed number of positions, that they need filled as soon as possible. They need an answer from you, or they need to know to move on. It's not unheard of for a company to have multiple candidates who are good enough to hire, and not enough openings, and they don't want to lose one just because their first choice doesn't want to wait. That's not immoral, unethical, a bluff, or unfair, that's just the reality for them; they can't guarantee the offer will be open if you don't get back to them in time.

That said, as a candidate, there is no real cost to pushing back against the exploding offer, i.e., "Well, I am interviewing with X as well, and don't feel it would be fair to make a decision without speaking with them". If the company sticks to their guns, you will have to make a decision, but if it's a bluff, they may back off (and you can make of that what you will).

I used to work for a company that took that line. We were given a quota, say to hire 5 people. I proposed sending out 7 offers with the expectation that not all would accept. And if they all did accept we would certainly find a use for them. HR rejected this idea.

So a lot of it is made up by HR folks who want hiring to appear in their reports to be more predictable than it is.

It's not really HR's fault, though. They don't share the viewpoint that most technical people do, that finding good technical people is sufficiently hard to warrant hiring extra if you find yourself so lucky as to find more than you need, rather than risking missing out on filling the positions you need.

That's unfair to the candidates: what if all seven accept? In this case HR is doing the right thing.

Two extra employees in a big firm is nothing. As I said before, we could easily have found a use for two more. Not that there was more than 1% chance of it happening.

ah, I was thinking of a startup, or a company with more strict headcount rules/constraints.

Interviewing for internship at Red Hat Toronto, I was given just under a week to respond to an offer. With limited spots and a tight schedule, they sort of needed to be able to give the offer to new candidates quickly, without leading anyone on.

You can always sign an offer letter, and reneg later if a better offer comes along. I've done that before. The recruiter even had the balls to say, "You know, you signed a contract, it's a legal document." And I replied, "Massachusetts is an at-will state, just imagine me starting at 9:00am on the start date, and quitting at 9:01am." No one can force you to do anything, this isn't North Korea.

You can't build a career on that behavior. Especially if you stick around a place for a decade or so, you'd be surprised whom you run into and whose help you might need down the road. Unless you're leaving town and the industry for good, don't burn bridges.

Hell yeah you can. I'm the first to recognize that tech (and especially tech in Seattle) is a small town. But, really, who is going to remember the one person who quit on their first day because of a bullshit exploding offer? The hiring manager, recruiter, and probably no one else. As an everyday grunt, this stuff wouldn't even be brought up to me.

Having a 2 people added to a blacklist is fine. I've done far worse things to my career.

You shouldn't do it because it's wrong, and as a result you should feel bad about yourself. You cheated at the game we're all playing and added to the general mistrust that makes negotiating employment so shitty in the first place.

Wow. Should one got an exploding offer, the correct behavior IMO is to tell the recruiter to eat sh!t, or possibly, tell the recruiter that his attitude sucks, and because of it, you'll be waiting until the day after the deadline to make your decision. Alternatively, there is nothing about the GP or GGGP's comments that make the described behavior wrong. That's incredibly naive. You use the word _cheating_? "Cheating at the game we're all playing" is what you said. What the hell are you talking about? The game is negotiation, and if you can't do that, maybe you need to leave. If negotiating employment is shitty to you, you're doing it wrong. Learn how to do it right, and maybe that will adjust your attitude in the right direction.

edit: ok, you don't need to be as rude as I am, but I'm a known asshole, so ymmv.

Cheating = going back on something to which you've agreed. Once you sign, you're done negotiating. You can tell someone to fuck off before you sign a contract, but once it's signed, telling them to fuck off is cheating.

If someone wants to trounce all over your labor rights, and if telling them not to trounce on your labor rights counts as burning bridges, then burn, bridge, burn.

Last time I was looking for a job I ended up with offers from both places I was interviewing at. I renegotiated and signed one of the offer letters.

When I called the other company, they asked me to sign with them even though I'd already signed a different offer. Because this is tech and people do it all the time.

It just felt dirty. I had already made my choice, and would not have changed my mind. But I've got an older mentality where it feels like I am burning bridges if I reneg after signing an offer.

As someone who has been on the other side of the table hearing the news that a great candidate has just taken another offer, I share your mentality. I'm not going to try to get a candidate who has made up their mind to break their newly-signed contract. And a candidate who would accept an offer only then to instantly break it because someone threw a few more dollars at them isn't the type of person I want to work with.

It's one thing if someone says they are debating between a couple offers (as you did); at that point I'll fight hard for the candidate that I want. But the instant someone commits to an offer somewhere else they're entirely off limits and I wouldn't ever counter-offer at that point even if they would take it.

I'd try to hire him again. If possible above the former offered position. I like people able to stand up for their interests.

You totally can. It happens all the time. Sorry but them's the breaks.

People absolutely remember stuff like this, and the justification of "well, it was a shitty exploding offer" doesn't hold up. 99% of the time, the hiring manager is using a boilerplate offer that their whole company uses, and would probably kill the due date in a heartbeat if you just asked.

If you ask, they say no, and then you reneg on the offer, it's kinda shitty but somewhat understandable. If you don't ask about the exploding offer in the first place, that's 100% you being a passive-agressive dick.

>hiring manager is using a boilerplate exploding offer >that's 100% you being a passive-aggressive dick.

The exploding offer is a psychological manipulation designed to give the company leverage in negotiations, how is that not passive-aggressive?

Sure, my point is, it's not something that's on your hiring manager, or even necessarily the HR department. In 100% of cases when I've run into this, from both the company and candidate side, the offer expiry was something that was more-or-less in there by default and no one had a problem removing when asked.

Hm, good point. Thanks for the inside info. It just seems that usually when something is described as corporate policy it implies that it's not the managers decision, so if in reality it's 100% optional then that's misleading.

You're adding details. I don't think that anyone is advocating tricking companies who don't care either way into making exploding offers through your own feigned indifference to whether the offer expires or not, then quitting on the first day.

Keep in mind though - if you do this pull this off there's a chance you may be permanently blacklisted by the company. What's the guarantee you won't pull the same move next time around?

I don't fault with the recruiter's pressure move at all. I mean the company probably has taken the job listing off and preparing for your orientation.

I understand the sentiment about at-will employment and companies can fire you at any time... but whenever there is a question of "Can I do this in a non-bridge-burning way?" you should take that path.

And this is how you create a world where you can't trust anyone to follow through with their commitments.

That world doesn't need to be created, it's the world we have now.

Very dependent on who you work with.

Of course the people exist (and that's why there's contracts to begin with... though it's also to clarify what's being agreed upon), but a lot of society is predicated on 99% of people not being jerks.

>but a lot of society is predicated on 99% of people not being jerks

Maybe thats why the 1% are so successful then.

Being a jerk is like being (and very correlated to) short volatility[1]. Most of the time it's profitable. Every once in a while the world goes upside down, all the jerks are rounded up, have their stuff confiscated, tortured, and killed.

- 1789 French Revolution (Aristocracy rounded up and killed)

- 1911 Chinese Revolution (Ruling class rounded up and killed)

- 1917 Russian Revolution (Ruling class rounded up and killed)

- 1966 Chinese Cultural Revolution (Landholders rounded up and killed)

- 2003 Iraq War (Ruling class killed)

- 2011 Libyan War (Ruling class rounded up and killed)

[1] Buy short volatility with SVXY https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSEARCA:SVXY

I would say that most of the jerks are not among the most successful people (though perhaps there are more jerks than non-jerks up there...)

If they don't like it that way they should offer some minimum term of employment or a two-way minimum notice period.

I think the situation is already balanced in terms of expectations that both parties won't be dicks. If a company gave you a job offer, and then rescinded it the day before you started, after you've quit your previous job, you would be perfectly justified screaming from the rooftops that the company dicked you over.

But ultimately there is nothing contractually stopping either party from being dicks, which is what we expect contracts to provide.

If you pressure people to agree to something, it's your own damn fault if they change their mind.

Give people time to consider their options, and they 'll be less likely to change their mind.

At my place, reneging carries a significant negative tone (it is also where I learned the word). It is also deeply against the culture here to miss commitments willfully and without notice.

In particular, one tentative but reneged new hire was on a visa from India. I'm not sure what happens there. Though I'm not sure if the visa was sponsored by my place or not.

I wouldn't. But. I've seen plenty of stories from friends who had received a written offer and then had it rescinded before/on the start date. There's no legal recourse.

Still, it's shitty, and I don't engage in shitty behaviour just because someone else does it.

Don't ever reneg on something you signed. All these small defections to acquire a small advantage for yourself poison the well for anyone trying to act honorably.

I work at startups, the company I pulled this with folded 2 months ago. As someone whose been both an engineer and a manager, I really don't care about feelings when it comes to my life. I'm not going to work some place out of "honor" and waste years of my life if a better opportunity comes along.

Exploding offers are fine. Sudden exploding offers are terrible. If a company recruiter tells you at the beginning of the process: "Hey, this interview process takes two weeks and we expect a response 3 days after your offer letter, which would be 3-5 days after your last interview", then I don't know if I'd be thrilled, but I wouldn't call it bullshit.

Avoid like the plague any company that only tells you about the explosion as the grenade already has the pin out.

I think it's ok for colleges to impose "no exploding offer" because students have less leverage, are still exploring, and are generally hired in larger batches. A company can always hire more people later if they miscount yield.

Exploding offers are much more acceptable in the real world. If I have 3 top candidates for a specialized position, and the one I offer takes 2 weeks, I will probably lose the others. They will know thus aren't number 1, and might get offers elsewhere. So allowing the candidate to shop the offer may cost me 6-8 weeks to restart the process.

I got burned by this a few days ago.

Exloding offers are BS for college hires but not experienced hires.

The self interested way to deal with this as an employer would be to give offers to all three and tell them up front that there are multiple offers being sent out and whoever accepts first wins.

That's still psychologically stressful for the potential employee, but I'd at least respect it for the honesty (assuming it is in fact an honest statement).

I'm torn on exploding offers for schools. On the one hand, schools usually have a number of potential students on the waitlist, and these folks would certainly like to know that they aren't going to be left hanging indefinitely.

On the other hand, exploding offers are absolutely a BS tactic to the extent that a student can accept at one school and then, if they get a later offer from a school they like better, reneg on the acceptance with relatively few consequences. They'll probably be out a tuition deposit, though, which may or may not be a significant burden depending on how wealthy the student's family is. That worries me because it becomes a serious abuse of non-privileged students' relatively vulnerable situations. And even without that, it's certainly still a craven exercise in shaking students down for pocket change.

I'm sorry - I meant colleges imposing "no exploding offers" on corporate recruiters.

I recall EDS having a "take it or leave it" policy that scared me away.

Exploding offers are actually explicitly forbidden by my top 20 university's on-campus recruiting policy.

Nonetheless, a very famous tech company that was once very prolific, but by 2012, most people considered as their "second choice" company routinely issued exploding offers to CS students in late August/early September before anybody had a chance to interview elsewhere.

To this day, they still recruit on our campus, and while one of my best friends reneged on them to work at Google (which actually in retrospect turned out to be a very wise choice), I wasted a full year of my life at this second tier company; the actual employment experience proved to be as shady as their recruiting experience.

Needless to say, I was extremely unhappy there.

> Nonetheless, a very famous tech company that was once very prolific, but by 2012, most people considered as their "second choice" company

So.. Yahoo?

Microsoft? I'm only basing this off the implication in http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/11/26.html

I interviewed with Microsoft in university. After a half-day on-site interview I was taken into a room and a recruiter made me an offer. She expected an answer on the spot.

The recruiting staff had told me a week or two beforehand that this was their process. I didn't know the details of the offer until the day, though.

Of course unbounded doesn't work either... When does the company move on?

I like to ask, "When would you like to get back to us?" and then have a very reasonable conversation about any expectations or constraints.

exactly. we should be trying to create a process of mutual respect. its a big decision for both of us, and if we are going to work together we should understand each other's need to get more information, look at other opportunities, and most importantly get a decision made so we can both get on with our lives.

if a company says, 'you have until next tuesday to respond to this offer', if it makes sense for me i agree, and if it doesn't i ask for more time (i.e i have another interview scheduled tuesday).

i also never take negotiating or career advice from a recruiter :)

Exactly! I'm interviewing with 2 companies and they both had weeks of interviews, and both finally decide to move forward, but take over a week to get the offers together. One has the gall to tell me that they require a response in 48 hours and speaks of internal SLA's, while the regional president of the other company calls me to apologize about how long their process takes and how thrilled they would be if I joined their company. It's a thought provoking article. I don't think recruitment policies and processes are given due consideration as a competitive issue by many business owners and managers. I'd expect that the impact of a team that is relatively less confident, less skilled in negotiation and potentially even less financially stable than their competitors would be very substantial.

TekSystems gave me an exploding offer, probably to discourage me from looking into other opportunities. The employment agreement was so bad (and violated state labor laws) that I walked away from that one quickly. On the other hand, my next employer, where I'm starting late next month, wanted to give me all the time I needed to consider the position: it requires self-management (rather than s boss telling you what to do) and a 2000 mile relocation.

Exploding offers are a bad "job smell."

As a recruiter you are inherently in competition with everyone else. Interviewing implies no specific commitment to the candidate, and conversely no specific commitment to the employer. That's how the game works. Offers are inherently temporal as well as financial - too late or too low are equally bad.

Exploding offers are often BS all around, but candidates are inherently exploding due to the nature of the job market. You can't sit around unemployed waiting for an offer. And many startups can't sit around waiting for candidates to shop around either.

Erik hired me for Spotify. At the time, amusingly enough the three BigCo offers that I had involved pressure tactics exactly like this. Very glad I pushed back on the pressure back then to work with his team.

It got me out of college. I had two offers. Second was a time-bomb with only a few days to decide. It turned out ok, but it was definitely uncomfortable.

The second time I looked for a job, I asking for another couple of weeks. And they let me have it. That was a good sign. If they hadn't, I would have worried about them a bit.

If you think the examples in this article are bad, try getting a job as a teacher in the UK - they will offer you the job on interview day, and if you don't take it there and then, go to the next candidate. No time to consider your options, certainly no weighing between 2 options you have.

What about offering an 'early signing bonus' which pays you $x if you sign quickly?

This article is bullshit. Let's say you have one position and five candidates. Without any form of deadline the process would be dragged out until everyone has made up their mind, explored all different opportunities etc. It's completely unreasonable.

As the hiring party, how would you feel about a hypothetical deadline from the hiree on how long you have to evaluate them and present an offer? Would limiting your time for that evaluation be unreasonable too?

Why not just say "we have one slot to fill and have made several offers. There is no explicit deadline but if someone else accepts first, they're getting the job.

That's even worse. Not only does the offer explode, you don't know when it explodes.

Exploding offers are necessary. I agree they should be discussed with the candidate at the interview so there is full disclosure. That being said, I have a role I need to fill and I'm aggressive with hiring. If the candidate doesn't want to work for my company on it's merits (assuming my offer isn't way off base of course) then I want to move on to someone who does. The candidate's time is important, but so is the company's.

Oh right, sure, I totally believe this.

Just like all of the other stories of "needing to hire someone immediately" and having an open head count go unfilled for months and months. It's not a credible story, I'm afraid. I've seen what it's like to hire people in tech, I've been on both sides of it. And frankly the issue of timeliness is so far down the list from being able to find someone experience and competent who you can trust as to barely be an issue. If you think you need someone in role RIGHT GODDAMN NOW, you're probably mistaken and need to readjust your expectations and values. Good people are insanely more valuable than random "butts in seats", it's worth it to make sure you're not alienating them or driving them away with silly hard sell tactics.

I think this bs is more prevalent in the Bay Area companies. I once got an exploding offer for 24 hrs! I politely rejected it since they were not willing to agree for a week's time that I asked for.

A great way to test the waters, is to reply saying:

something to the effect of "<This is a great offer and I strongly believe I'll choose this>" and then add "I have a two more interviews in the last stages and will be hearing back from them by end of next week. To be fair to everyone who has put in the effort, including me, I'd like to finalize by end of next week. Please let me know if this can be accommodated".

Once I even mentioned that it's in a company's best interest that I choose the offers after I heard from all, instead of agreeing now and then taking up on a better offer.

All this is possible if you are in a commanding position in your career (and financially stable). Otherwise, it takes a lot of confidence to call their bluff.

I have interview with about 20 companies in the last 10 yrs, only one has refused to budge from its initial exploding offer (and I'm glad I didn't go for that one)

Giving an amount of time on the offer (30 days? 90 days?) seems pretty reasonable. That's probably not what he means by "exploding".

Bloomberg gave me an exploding offer once. The HR drone told me over the phone that they like to close candidates quickly to make sure that they don't pursue other opportunities.

I took the job despite blaring klaxons in my head because I was desperate for income. Didn't stay long though.

Depending on whether they're using an external recruiter, this is often a tactic of the agency.

It's very simply a tactic to decrease the chances of you going elsewhere. Like many agency tactics, it's all about the commission.

Depends on the deadline. If the offer expires in a week, that's hardly unreasonable. They need to find someone and move forward.

If they expire in 24/48 hours I agree they're bull.

Different but relevant discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11313193

You should politely ask them to send you a new offer letter with no deadline (and a higher salary). Don't whine, negotiate.

Well I have been interviewing with a few companies for internship, it's nice to see things from recruiter's perspective.

"I've done a lot of recruiting and given out maybe 50 offers..."

I'm a coder who has never actively recruited, yet still over the course of my career have given out maybe 20ish offers, and been in the interviewing process for countless others. I'm questioning the deep expertise implied here.

This post is so wrong in so many ways. First, it is extremely bad practice to leave commitments of any kind open in perpetuity. Secondly, if you are looking to hire 3000 monkeys and you are searching for people that are good enough to pass you minimum standards, sure you can wait one month and see if each candidate you make an offer to joins your company. What if you are hiring only 20 people, 10 of which for very specific, key roles? You want the PERFECT candidate for the position, and you cannot keep the process open forever. you have a budget, you cannot make multiple offers for the only one position you have to fill?! Third, you do want to know if the candidate wants to accept the offer because he likes your company and the position or because he cannot find anything better. Many would argue that is much better to hire a candidate that would put passion in what he does, rather than hiring a mercenary. Finally, what other business activity do you do without a clear timing commitment?

You refer to engineers as "monkeys", it's clear you don't have any respect for them in the first place.

Quite the opposite. You misread him. He's contrasting hiring generic labor to hiring specialized, skilled talent.

Exactly. That is exactly what I meant. Thank you.

Quite the opposite. I am making the point for an approach that does NOT treat them like monkeys!

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