8 Reasons Why You Are Losing SQL Server Candidates You Want to Hire

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We're hearing it from Managers and Clients more often…"I keep missing out on strong candidates I want to hire" or "I've had multiple people turn down an offer" or "I'm losing candidates throughout the interview process to other companies/jobs." The market is becoming increasingly tough when it comes to attracting, engaging, and hiring strong technology professionals! You need to ensure you know the major pitfalls when it comes to missing out on talented individuals you want to hire, while also creating a quality "interview experience" for candidates.


Awareness is essential to ensuring you have a quality application, interview and selection process that attracts, engages and then keeps job seekers engaged! We've outlined the major trends in mistakes we've seen clients make, which resulted in them missing the window on strong technology professionals.

1. Application, interview, and selection process is too lengthy

It's somewhat baffling when a Manager really wants to hire a candidate, but then is surprised when that individual is no longer available weeks later when they are finally able to extend an offer. Information Technology is an in-demand skill set across the world, especially with certain skill sets like full stack Developers. Therefore, it's only a very short matter of time until a strong technology candidate receives multiple job offers.

When you have a job opening you need to hire for, you should view "complete hiring activities" as part of your daily responsibilities matrix. This could include responsibilities such as:

  • Writing a quality job specification/description
  • Reviewing resumes
  • Scheduling interviews
  • Completing candidate score cards and providing interview feedback
  • Following up with HR/Recruiters on hiring
  • Scheduling candidates you want to move forward with for facility tours and/or conversations with HR to discuss benefits
  • Quick calls to candidates you want to move forward with to provide a status and timeline for next steps

There's always going to be the issue of not enough time to write a new or thorough job descriptions or not enough time to interview, but if you prioritize writing job descriptions that include key information that could attract the right candidates, interviews and other tasks associated with hiring, it will save you time in the long run by not missing out on good people and having to start the process over!

We've seen some clients with 3-5 steps in their interview process, or more! On top of that, there are major scheduling delays, so it could take a week or more in between steps. If someone is actively looking, not working, has a huge network, etc., the chances are that you'll miss them due to a long process and/or extensive delays. Do your best to have a process that's manageable on both sides and one that's completed as quickly as possible with strong candidates.

2. Candidates aren't "sold" on the opportunity, environment, team, company, etc.

How do you market your roles? The group and team this individual will join? The environment and culture of that environment? The specific goals and priorities they'll have? Working at the organization itself? The major benefits and perks of working there? The current and future technical landscape/roadmap?

If you want to attract quality talent to your job openings, you need to put on your "marketing hat!" Companies and Managers lose strong candidates to other offers which seem more appealing, whether that's a true or perceived reality. Don't allow yourself to miss out on a candidate you want because they don't understand the perks of working there, the growth potential that exists, the complete technical landscape, all the wonderful team members they'll work alongside, etc. For every job you're hiring for, take 2 minutes and jot down why you think an individual would get excited about it, and communicate that to the individuals who'll be recruiting for you.

3. Rigorous interviews or overall bad interview experience

I've lost count of how many quality candidates called after an interview to say "I was completely crushed right from the start with technical questions." While asking deep technical questions is necessary during the process, there are best practices and guidelines to consider so a candidate is prepared and still has an overall positive experience during the interview. First, try to invest the first few minutes of every interview in an approachable, positive and friendly light. You could achieve this by showing appreciation for their time, welcoming them to the interview, introducing yourself and where you fit in, making small talk, setting expectations, and/or learning about their motivators. Second, set expectations around the interview process and at which phase they'll be doing coding exercises/demos, panel interviews, or just have to answer a number of highly technical questions. Third, ask them questions about what they're concerned with, such as their career and technical interests/goals. Fourth, provide more insight into the major priorities and aspects of the role.

4. "Over-Interviewed" for role

It's surprising how the line and level of questioning often times doesn't align with the level of the role. Especially with newer interviewers, they need to be reminded to ask questions for that level. For example, is it relevant and effective to ask extremely complex custom coding questions for an individual who'd be in a mid-level production support role? What's the benefit of asking design and architecture questions for a more junior level individual who's recently graduated college? For each new position you're hiring for, frame your questions accordingly, and provide guidance around appropriate and effective interview questions/scenarios to other team members who will be involved in the interviewing process.

5. Unrealistic expectations

As a Manager, seek guidance on supply vs. demand related to the talent pool of the skill set you're hiring for. Don't fall into the situation where your "wish list of requirements" doesn't exist in one person, or will only generate a candidate pool with a market rate far above what you're able to pay. Also, factor in the "skill vs. will" concept. What's better, to identify a candidate with 80% of the technical skills you're looking for a strong will to learn, or someone with 100% of the technical skills who doesn't have strong initiative and a desire to learn new skills/approaches? I think the majority of hiring professional would take the former in a heartbeat!

6. Inaccurate or incomplete Job Details

Issues around quality job descriptions are one of the most apparent hiring concerns. Without an accurate job description that does an adequate enough job of highlighting key details job seekers are interested in, and distinguishing between true requirements and the "nice to haves," how are the individuals working to identify candidates for you going to quickly find the top tier of talent out there?

We often hear candidates mention that they went to an interview and were asked about technologies / duties that weren't specified on the original job description. Or we hear from candidates that the interview went great, but it's for a job completely different than what they thought they were interviewing for! Unfortunately, this is a waste of everyone's time. Having a clear foundation of what your opening entails, and what a candidate's day to day responsibilities will be, is essential to every job description. Spend the time up front to write strong job descriptions so there's no confusion as to what you're looking for! If the expectation is set up front, that allows you more time in an interview to really get to know the candidate and their background. Spend 15 minutes flushing out key priorities, day-to-day responsibilities, all the technologies and tools they'll work with, project details, requirements, preferred qualifications, etc. now, and save yourself hours later!

When possible, provide the candidate an opportunity to meet the person(s) "doing the job." While this may not be possible if they are replacing someone who left, when it is possible this is a huge value add to potential candidates. Every individual in your group/team offers a different perspective on the role. Actually allowing the candidate the opportunity to speak to a person in a similar, or the actual, role allows the candidate to get a feel for what a "day in the life" is really like. What are they challenges they face? What is the most exciting part of the job? Any candidate we've had interview that had the opportunity to do this, exclaimed how great it was and that it gave them a better sense of what they'd be responsible for, not to mention it helped cement their excitement and interest in accepting a job offer! You could even take this a step further by adding a shadowing component to your interview process.

7. Counter Offers or More Appealing Offers

It can be really frustrating to lose a candidate to a counter offer after you were so excited to have them join your team. Keep in mind that the candidate experience is important throughout the entire interviewing process. They need to feel engaged and informed from start to finish. Find out what's motivating them early on in the interview process and make sure that you answer all their questions around the topic. Keep in mind that not all candidates are motivated by money! We often see it as the 2nd or 3rd motivator these days, with things like company culture, project, job duties, technologies used, training and learning potential, work-life balance, flexibility, and benefits ranking higher. While losing candidates to counter offers may occur from time to time, you do have the ability to mitigate it by being transparent and informative when it comes to all aspects of hiring process.

8. Too many individuals involved

How many individuals are involved in the screening and interviewing process? What sort of consensus on the applicant is needed for an offer to be made? Are the right people involved? On several occasions, when we've talked to a client who's frustrated because they've had a position open for 6+ months and wasted countless hours on interviews. Come to find out that the issue boiled down to having "too many cooks in the kitchen" (i.e. too many individuals involved in both the interviewing process and the decision-making process of whether the candidate gets an offer). We had one team who required 10+ people to all agree that the individual was a fit for both the company and the position, and if one of those people said no to either not a "company fit" or a "role fit," they said no to the candidate and started from scratch. Evaluate who's involved, and make sure it's both an effective and efficient number. Just like teams with more than 6-8 individuals can become counter-productive, there's a limit on how many people should be involved in your interview process.

Next Steps

Remember, the interview process goes both ways - while you're interviewing them for your role, team and organization, they're interviewing you too, and their experience needs to be a positive one if you want the chance to have them on your team! With that in mind, take the time to assess your current process, and identify:

  • Any roadblocks or challenges in your process
  • Where you've lost good candidates in the past
  • Improvement opportunities

Here are some recommended actions you can take:

  • During a team meeting, ask open-ended discussion questions about your current interview and hiring process. What does your process look like now? How many steps does it entail? Where and why have you lost good candidates? When they were interviewing, what do they remember about the experience (positive and constructive)?
  • Schedule a brief sit-down with the internal HR/Recruiter you work with the closest to capture feedback on the hiring experience, i.e. what they've heard from past candidates.
  • Look at Glassdoor to review any comments around the interview experience.
  • Identify a strong Manager internally and schedule coffee/meeting to discuss hiring best practices.
  • Going forward, minimize any of the above issues during your process.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Comments For This Article

Thursday, November 24, 2016 - 8:56:28 PM - Michael Alfes Back To Top (43843)

 I am an experienced SQL Server Job Candidate also with 2.5 years experience of going thru this KPI=0 process and I approve this message.


Sunday, November 20, 2016 - 2:30:56 PM - Alfred Miranda Back To Top (43808)

My only criticism is that this article is to focused on SQL Developers.  The items outlined are true to all levels and positions available at most companies today.  I'm finding the first four listed to be a more global issue.  This article would have a greater impact if it were rewritten with a broader perspective.  There are significant losses of opportunities by following the rigid and homogenized recruitment process most companies are performing.  This type of hiring filters out innovators and change agents most companies profess they are looking for in their candidates.



Saturday, October 29, 2016 - 11:15:37 AM - Tim Back To Top (43653)

#3 & #6 is why i do not interview with external companies (as a senior level software engineer, not a DBA). If i do not already know you and you me, it is not happening. I have declined interviews with the "top 5" SV companies, and it feels great to avoid the unpleasant people and their idiotic processes. Just say no.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - 8:09:15 AM - Greg Robidoux Back To Top (43633)

Thanks Carolina for pointing that out.  The article has been updated.


Monday, October 24, 2016 - 6:06:14 PM - Carolina Ragazzon Back To Top (43626)

Great article!

Yet, is it possible that in the line "the chances are that you'll miss them do to a long process and/or extensive delays"

the DO is in fact DUE? 


 For the rest of the article, it is true to reality! Thank you so much for it!

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 4:45:50 PM - Erica Woods & Cate Murry Back To Top (43607)

Dave - thank you for chiming in with your comments and suggestions; all really great points!  We have a follow up tip we just submitted around a recommended hiring model, so we hope you find as much, if not more, value in that one. 

To your next point, we had written an article last year around Interviewing Suggestions for the Interviewer, and you brought a new suggestion (non-canned questions) up.  Link is https://www.mssqltips.com/sqlservertip/3561/for-managers-only--10-tips-for-an-effective-sql-server-interview-process/ if you want to check out.  


Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 2:15:39 PM - Erica Woods & Cate Murry Back To Top (43606)

Virgil - this is such a great point, and one we're glad you brought up!  It's surprising, but a good amount of the job descriptions used are "blanket" or repetitive (i.e. same one used for last opening).  I once had a Manager ask me to google that type of job and then use a description that came up because he was extremely busy.  On that note, it's wise to ask the first people you talk to about the opening something like "Was the description written with your current opening in mind?" or "Who wrote the position?" to get a gauge if it's customized for the opening at hand.  

Second, this point is exactly why you should ask solid questions to truly understand the role, such as "What will the top priorities be?  What do you want this person to accomplish in the first 3 months, 6 months, etc.?  What are all of the technology stacks and versions this role will be utilizing, and are there any on the horizon over the next 6-12 months?" 


Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 12:42:43 PM - Dave Wentzel Back To Top (43605)

This is one of the best articles I've read in a while.  

You can distill the list down to, "Learn how to interview better/be interviewed better".  

I do A LOT of tech screens for my employer and all resumes are 3-4 pages.  Seriously consider a 1 pager.  I know that violates OCR and Buzzword Bingo rules...but at least consider providing a one-pager to the poor guy who has to read your drivel and interview you.  If you can't succinctly present your skills in a compelling way, I'm not interested.  Seriously, I read maybe the first third of the first page of all resumes, then I'm halfway asleep or checking my email.  

Conversely, employers/interviewers need to learn to interview better.  Why are tech screens so grueling?  If you can't have a nice chat with a candidate that has a good flow and determine if they are a good fit for your environment...you're doing it wrong.  The tech can be taught, I want to learn about YOU.  And for god's sake, forget the canned interview questions like, "what makes you want to work here?"  Um, gee, more money.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 10:14:51 AM - Virgil Back To Top (43600)

 I suppose that can go into your "Innacurate or incomplete Job Details", but I have seen recently a job posting where I knew for sure the employer was looking for a database developer but they didn't even bother to set even the job title correctly... it just was "Senior software developer" when it should have been "Database developer"... Job description was even a bigger mess... I suppose they must have re-used a previous job description but they didn't bother AT ALL to tweak it.... And we're talking about a company with more than 1,000 employees here...

Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 9:20:15 AM - Greg Robidoux Back To Top (43598)

Thanks C and Barry.  That was the lazy editor's fault (that would be me).  This has been fixed.


Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 9:06:58 AM - C Back To Top (43597)

That was a great article, Erica, and definitely gave me something to think about.

One thing though, the title should be "8 Reasons Why You're Losing SQL Server Candidates You Want to Hire"


Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 8:59:53 AM - Barry McConnell Back To Top (43596)

Reason #9 Poor grammar - the title should be You're (contraction for "you are") not Your (possesive).

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