What I've Learned from the 16 Engineers who Turned Down Job Offers at Our Startup - Deepstash

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What is "Closing"

What is "Closing"

"Closing" a candidate refers to convincing someone to join your company after you've decided that you want to hire them. For Kapwing and many other startups, the closing efforts refer to things we do after a candidate gets through our interview process. Since our interview process includes a week-long project and multiple interviews, candidates likely already have an interest in joining before getting to the offer stage.


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Closing Candidates at Kapwing

Kapwing is a Series A company with 16 engineers all based in San Francisco. Overall, we've closed 56% of the engineering candidates who made it all the way through our interview funnel.

Most of the reasons why candidates told us they decided not to take an offer fell in one of these three categories: Compensation, Stage of Company, and Domain.

  • Compensation : 4 engineers (25%)
  • Stage : 4 engineers (25%). one engineer needed an H1B visa, 1 decided to cofound a company instead.
  • Domain : 5 engineers (31%)


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Startups competing with other startups for talent, not big companies

Startups competing with other startups for talent, not big companies

Most of the time, engineers who turned us down decided to join other startups instead. Of the 16 people who turned down offers, 10 engineers went to a different startup, 4 stayed in their current role, and 2 took jobs at big companies.


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Pre vs post pandemic

Pre vs post pandemic

Our close rate has gone down after the pandemic (50%) compared to before the pandemic (64%). Since we've been working and recruiting remotely, we've had 11 engineers join, but we made 21 engineering offers.

  • Faster and less high-touch interview process means that more candidates who are not fully sold get through to the end
  • less personalized
  • now, we do two virtual interviews and no lunch.
  • changes in the market


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For us, it was harder to hire our friends

I notice in the data that engineers sourced from in-house referrals (mostly friends of the cofounders) have a lower close rate - 36% - than inbound applicants, sourced, or externally referred candidates. It’s possible that our friends are more likely to go through the interview process before they’re ready to commit to a new role, or possible that people in our network tend to have more options.


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Content Marketing

Content Marketing

After three years of recruiting for Kapwing, I've learned that creating a positive impression of your company through content marketing, publicity, and thought leadership is the highest ROI with hiring.

At Kapwing, nearly every candidates who joins mentions the company blog, TechCrunch articles , Instagram account, or YouTube channel before they accept a job offer. We set OKRs around publishing engineering blog posts and have full-time resources dedicated to our social media channels.


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Expiring offers and starting bonuses

Expiring offers and starting bonuses

Now, we make offers that expire within one week. That is, we set a deadline for a decision seven days after sending the candidate an offer letter.

If I can sense that a candidate will have multiple competing offers, we sometimes add in a signing bonus to encourage people to decide quickly. The signing bonuses expire 3-4 days after I make the offer. Setting a financial incentive for a quick decision has helped a lot with closing.


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Publicity and 3P Reviews

Publicity and 3P Reviews

After you make an offer to a candidate, they are in "Consideration" phase of the job search, and like a customer making a big purchase they will do thorough research to decide if they should make the leap. They will Google your company and read what others have to say about it.

product reviews, press articles, and mentions from industry leaders help candidates build conviction.

Investors can provide another source of external validation for recruits.


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Increase communication at the end of the funnel

Dramatically ramp up communication after a hiring manager gives the green light. Once we have conviction, we move forward quickly to make candidates feel valued and communicate with the candidate to check in before they make a decision.

  • Offer letter with details : it includes two options for compensation, one that is higher in equity and one that is higher in salary, as it gives the candidate some autonomy over their comp package.
  • Access to founders
  • Emails from other teammates and interviewers
  • Ask the reference to email them


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My Best Advice on Closing Candidates

My Best Advice on Closing Candidates

  • Set comp brackets, and break them when you want to. Compensation brackets give you confidence that you're offering a highly competitive package and enable you to pay engineers fairly.
  • Individual connections make a difference.
  • Going the extra mile shows candidates that you care and that they're special.
  • Talking with founders is a valuable and rare connection.


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It Is Possible to Close Candidates Who Are on the Fence

In reality, no one has a 100% close rate. Underneath the bravado of Silicon Valley, there are many entrepreneurs who either struggle to close, and it's a topic that's not talked about enough.

Josh, our first engineer, told me "No," but changed his mind a week later. We sensed Josh's hesitancy and stayed in touch with him after he turned us down, and his work has changed the course of our company.

My final words of encouragement for entrepreneurs is not to get emotionally attached to individual candidates.


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