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The "Hard Close" and Other Recruiting Nonsense

It's a candidate driven market, y'all.

If you're a recruiter reading this, you know EXACTLY what I mean. For certain skill sets, opportunities are damn near limitless. I've been recruiting in tech for the last several years and I'm telling you, jobs are more plentiful and offers more competitive than I've ever seen.

Enter - the Hard Close.

Recruiters like to play this little game with themselves. The game is called Candidate Control. The objective is Make The Candidate Say Yes. This could be saying yes to a conversation, an interview, and ultimately, an offer. The holy grail of the recruiting process. The end all / be all (especially if you're on commission).

Full disclosure - I find the concept of "candidate control" to be irritating, annoying, and downright fictitious. Influence? Sure. CONTROL? Ewww. Go away.

So back to the hard close.

This is when you have an offer out to a candidate who isn't quite ready to pull the trigger. They may have other offers, still be interviewing elsewhere, or just not quite ready to make a decision. So the recruiter (desperately clinging to some semblance of control) does the good old takeaway. This offer will turn into a pumpkin at midnight! If you don't say yes RIGHT NOW you'll never get another chance!

Fine. The answer is NO.

See I've LIVED through the hard close myself. A few years ago I was approached by a start up newly launching in Seattle. GREAT opportunity to build out a recruiting function. There were some pieces already in place but some really cool work ahead and my potential boss was great. The interview process was smooth, they met my comp expectations, and I was seriously thinking about it.


At every touch point I shared my concerns and timeline. What I was walking away from. Assurances I needed to accept the new role. I was ready to say yes, but wanted ONE MORE CONVERSATION to walk through things like benefits, work / life balance, basically sanity checking what I thought I knew about what I was getting into.

I was told I was taking too long and needed to get back to the team THAT DAY. I'd had the offer letter in my hand for maybe 24 hours.

That's it. That's all it took for me to decide this was NOT the place for me. I immediately sent my regrets and regards. I didn't need to change jobs. The company needed me more than I needed them. Sure it could have been an epic opportunity, but there was also a lot of risk. And if the recruiting leadership was not willing to give me another day or two PLUS their time to discuss what mattered to ME - they didn't deserve me.

Now imagine you're a software engineer, or data analyst, or any of the other hot jobs out there right now. You've got multiple offers with more recruiters calling you every day. You're ready for a change, exciting about something new, but want to be really thoughtful in your final decision. You just want to make a call with all the available information in front of you. Then the recruiter pulls this shit, probably making you feel insignificant, not heard, and frankly, probably not respected.

So what's a recruiter to do? Yes I understand there are timelines - roles can't sit open forever and you can't let someone take 3 months to decide if they want to accept an offer or not. There are two critical questions you should always be asking your finalists -

1. What other information do you need (from me, my company, or outside) to make your decision?
2. What is your timeline to make a decision?

And finally, SHARE YOUR TIMELINE TOO. If you know this offer is going to expire, or there is a business need to put a specific deadline (need to respond to other candidates, team is going to implode if we don't fill the role, whatever) TELL YOUR CANDIDATE.

A little honesty and transparency goes a long way - a hell of a lot farther than "hard close" takeaways.


  1. Well written and factual in my experience

  2. Well written, Amy! Do you think it is more harsh with international students? There are already not too many companies open to sponsor internationals and when someone gets a job and are given a "hard close" statement, they are forced towards a "yes". I interned at Amazon Web Services, and I had a smooth experience, but I think things are ugly at lot of places.

    1. HI! I think any time there are limited opportunities (i.e. an employer's market) employers can WRONGFULLY think they have more "control". While I don't personally have experience with international / student hiring, I can see where that situation could unfold... and it's really unfortunate!

      That said - I think recruiters have a responsibility to push their partners in hiring to do better... we don't always have control (over clients either!) but we owe it to our candidates to at least try to influence / do the right thing.

  3. LITERALLY dealing with this with a HM today. Formal offer went out this morning and he want's an expiration EOD 2/8 and candidate is expecting a response from his second choice by 2/13. If I were a candidate I'd want ALL the info and that's only 3 business days different....

    1. TOTALLY AGREE! HMs often shoot themselves in the foot with these kinds of arbitrary deadlines. 3 days???? We're not talking weeks here... call in sick until 2/13 and tell the candidate not to answer the phone either ;)

      Totally kidding... I think...

      - Amy


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