Overcoming Candidate Objections in Tech Recruiting

The tech job market is wide open.

Technology is increasing at unprecedented rates, with more than one million programming jobs expected to be unfilled by 2020 (according to Explore Group). What’s more, the demand for software developers is predicted to increase by 21% in the next ten years (according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Consequently, tech recruiting is becoming increasingly challenging. With the unemployment rate in the tech industry reaching historic lows, companies are scrambling to find and procure qualified talent to meet their needs. More companies than ever are finding themselves in need of developers—and it’s only going to get harder to find developers, DevOps, programmers, etc., as computer and IT jobs in general are projected to increase 12% over the next decade—a much faster rate than most other occupations. This means that around 546,500 additional jobs will soon need to be filled by a limited number of qualified tech candidates.

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Why do you need to pursue passive candidates?

According to LinkedIn’s “The Ultimate List of Hiring Statistics,” most candidates for today’s jobs—70%—are passive, while only 30% are actively seeking a new job. At the same time, 87% of these candidates—both active and passive—are willing to consider accepting a new job position. Out of these, 52% of candidates who actively apply for a job are under-qualified.

With developers and other tech professionals being in short supply, and your company needing top quality hires, you are going to find yourself actively wooing passive candidates to fill your positions.

What IS a passive candidate?

A passive candidate is someone who is not actively looking for a new job. However, 92% of passive candidates are willing to discuss and consider a new job opportunity.

Passive (and active) candidates will present a variety of objections when you attempt to initiate conversations with them about job openings within your company.

The recruitment sales game

Keep in mind that as a recruiter you are also a salesman: you are selling your company to a potential employee. You will need all the sales psychology you can muster to play the recruitment game.

You have to be able to head objections off at the pass; field questions in a positive and convincing manner, build trust and promote confidentiality among the players (you and the potential candidate) and accept frustration and disheartening losses as part of the process. Above all, realize that, as with any game, you cannot always win – but you can play well enough that even after a loss, if you present your pitch well, you may get another opportunity to persuade that candidate again in another round!

The tech recruitment game: dice in the air
Tech recruitment: it’s not about winning, it’s about playing your cards right

Below are five of the most common candidate objections and some tips on ways to overcome them.

Five common candidate objections – and how to overcome them!

Objection 1: “I’m not really looking for a new job right now” (or “I really like it here for now”)

Tips to overcome objection 1:

1. Accept this statement in a positive manner. You will never create a good rapport with a candidate by being negative or disrespectful towards their desires.

2. Redirect the conversation. Many candidates do not mean it when they say they aren’t looking for a new job – they may just be trying to get you off the phone because they are busy. Tell them it is awesome that they are happy in their current job, and that a contented employee is absolutely the kind of employee you are looking for. Then change the subject. Draw them out about their company – what they like about it, why they like working there, what part of their job they enjoy most – then use what you’ve just learned to make your company appear even more attractive than the one they currently work with!

For example, you might say something like this: “That is awesome! We work really hard at (X Company) to make sure our employees are happy in their jobs, and like any other company, we want to have employees who are happy to work for us. What is it you like best about where you work now?”

Once the conversation is open, you can bring it around to, “You sound like the perfect fit for the candidate we are looking for…”

3. Ask for referrals and networking ideas. Once you have described what you are looking for, ask if they know of any networking opportunities for you to find a candidate, if they can offer any referrals (keep in mind that over 30% of new hires come through referrals, according to SHRM), and if you can connect with them on LinkedIn. Once you get this far, you have a good chance that the candidate will reconsider and want to apply for the job himself/herself.

Objection 2: “I’m in the middle of building a new software program (or other project), so now is not a good time to leave”

Tips to overcome objection 2:

1. Accept this statement in a positive manner. What’s not to respect about a person who doesn’t want to bail in the middle of a project? Tell them you respect their decision, and that that is exactly the kind of person you want working for your company.

2. Keep the conversation going. Ask what the project is, the expected completion date, what they like about it… As with the first objection, use what you can learn to steer the conversation around to what sort of projects they might be doing with your company, how your projects might be more interesting, more important, more valuable to their portfolio, etc. Be sure you are not condescending about their work in any way – just use a little psychology to pique their interest and let them decide if your work is more appealing. By no means do you SAY your project is more interesting, etc. – but as you explain your company’s needs to them, use what you have learned to make it sound like their dream job.

3. Ask for referrals and networking opportunities. Good techs know other good techs; often their circle of friends/business associates will be similar in ability, as they network closely to help each other with ideas, questions and problems. You may get a good referral, or possibly a connection with the candidate you are working on that will allow you to check back with them in a few months when they might actually be ready to move on. Either way, you come out with some strong possibilities.

Objection 3: “I just started this job”

This may seem difficult to overcome, but if you are a forward-thinking company, you will realize that this is an excellent future opportunity. You may not get this candidate immediately, but if you establish the contact and continue to follow the lead, you have a good chance of landing this candidate as a future employee.

Tips to overcome objection 3:

1. Plant the seed. Don’t come across with a hard sell for your company; instead, ask them if they would be open to the possibility of a future position with another company.

2. Keep the conversation moving forward. Don’t ask questions that can end the conversation with a simple “no.” Instead of, “Could I interest you in a developer job with our company?” try “Would you be open to hearing what our company has to offer its developers?”.

3. Don’t push for an immediate answer. Instead of, “We’re looking to hire someone for a position now,” try “We’re in the process of building a strong development team, and we are looking to put it together over the next couple of months. Would you be open to letting me tell you about what we’re planning and see if it sounds like something you’d be interested in when we are ready to launch the program?”.

Objection 4: “You’d have to offer much better benefits than what I have now”

Benefits for tech candidates: handful of carrots
Benefits and advantages: what can you offer tech candidates?

This objection can be easy to overcome if you’ve budgeted for a salary much higher than what the candidate is currently paid. However, in today’s tight tech talent market, where the best developers are generally paid generously, this might not be the case!

Tips to overcome objection 4:

1. Focus on intangible benefits – job satisfaction, emotional fulfillment, career advancement, office comradery, etc. Remind the candidate that monetary benefits are not necessarily the most important form of compensation. Ask the candidate to recall the best job he or she ever had. Ask if it was the best because of the money or the work. Use her response to frame your answer. For example, “If the job I am trying to fill provides that kind of personal fulfillment, and the pay is equitable to what you are making now, wouldn’t you want to know?”.

2. Promote your strong company brand. Ideally, the company you represent has a strong company brand, and you can leverage this to overcome the competition’s alleged benefits. If not, this will be an area for you to work on to attract more qualified tech talent in the future.

3. Emphasize the ability to develop and grow with your startup. Perhaps you are a startup, so your brand is not yet firmly established. Many startups are looking for highly qualified tech talent, and for many techs, being a part of building a business from the ground up is a strong draw. Be prepared to present your short- and long-term goals so the candidate will feel that if they accept the position, they will be a vital part of the dynamic growth of your organization. 

Objection 5: “I don’t like what I’ve heard about your company”

Tips to overcome objection 5:

1. Outline the company makeover you are planning by hiring the best people available. If your company has received unfavorable media exposure, or has a poor or nonexistent employer brand, leverage this to appeal to the candidate’s confidence in his qualifications and ability to help your company improve/regain its reputation and public image.

2. Acknowledge the concerns expressed by the candidate. If your company is truly seen as having a negative brand, work with your marketing, PR or HR (or all three!) department in advance to create an action plan and carefully crafted verbiage designed to allay candidate’s fears.

3. Be open – not defensive. Be as transparent as possible. Some candidates welcome the challenge of helping bring about positive change, and complete honesty on your part will avoid any surprises and bitterness further into the relationship.

General Guidelines

Last of all, here are a few tips to help overcome objections cited by candidates in any conversation:

1. Acknowledge a passive candidate’s objection with sincerity. This builds trust, shows respect for the candidate’s thoughts and feelings, and paves the way for a viable conversation.

2. Request permission to re-contact the candidate in the future and to connect through LinkedIn. Keep the communication lines open for future discussions.

3. Be an active listener. Your ability to coax a candidate into considering a new position is directly related to your ability to skillfully leverage information learned in the initial conversation to craft compelling arguments and present the most persuasive facts.

4. Set a general timeframe for your second contact. No one likes to be surprised or harassed by repeated overtures. Propose a reasonable time and get the candidate’s approval to speak again: “May I check back with you in X months?”.

5. Bring in the VIPs. When nothing else seems persuasive enough to turn a passive candidate, put your senior executives in contact with a desirable candidate. It is hard to resist feeling important when the higher-ups personally seek you out for a job proposition – and hard to convince yourself that you shouldn’t at least find out why they want you so badly.

We hope this article helps you see the value of including passive candidates in your recruitment program, and that our proffered tips will help you overcome their objections to achieve a successful outcome.


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Nathalie Figuière

Nathalie is Content Manager at CodinGame. When she's not busy creating quality #techrecruitment content, chances are she’s watching Friends or snuggling her little grey cat, Moon.