Yesterday I received a call from a client informing me that he did not land the team lead he had hoped would start this week. We had brought him several qualified candidates and to realize that our client had landed none of them seemed a bit confusing. But the story started months ago and that is the crux of the problem.
Our client met with our candidates and one of his own. After meeting all of the candidates, he put the hiring on hold for one month. That is a big length of time to stand still for someone who has opened his or herself up for a move. At the end of the month period, he told us he wanted to pursue the team lead candidate (#1) he had sourced. He said #1 was stalling, and there were vacations to be had, bonuses to be had, etc. This is a huge red flag. It is one thing to know a bonus is coming, but when a candidate puts off signing an offer letter, it is usually because they are avoiding something, typically saying no to the hiring bank. Meanwhile, our perfectly good #2 candidate was eager to hear if he was moving forward. Our client didn’t want to burn that bridge, but he also didn’t want to hire #2 if he could get his own candidate first. So he simply asked our candidate to hold tight. As recruiters, we would caution any hiring authority that putting a candidate on ice without a definitive next step scheduled has 99% certainty of falling apart. We manage the hiring process all day, every day. This is not a scare tactic. It is reality.
After several weeks, the #1 team lead candidate signed the offer letter from my client, packed up his office of nine years, and called his boss to resign. In this competitive market, the boss was not going to take a resignation meekly; the boss hopped on a plane and came in person to plead with his employee to stay. The boss told #1 he could start a new loan production office for the company. I am sure more money was offered as well, and the candidate ended up calling my client to inform him he had received a counter offer from his current employer he could not turn down.
Humans are not comfortable with uncertainty. When we are confronted with discomfort and unease about the future, we begin to seek information that will push us one way or the other. We need to put our feet firmly on the ground, regardless of where we land. Candidate #2 started calling his contacts to ask what they thought about the bank from which he was waiting to hear back. He got information that he needed to convince himself that he didn’t want the role. It protected him from let down, since a stalled out process often can be perceived as “You are not our first choice.” At the same time, another bank came and gave him an offer as well; a bigger, more stable, more aggressively paying bank. Our client was turned down a second time in the space of a couple of weeks.
The lessons illustrated in this story are plentiful: do not ignore red flags in the interview process; keep your producers engaged with growth opportunities; do not leave candidates out in the cold without a next step scheduled; do not use “hope” as a strategy in hiring; know that every other hiring manager in your market is hiring for the same thing and competition is stiff; every good candidate will get a counter offer in this market; never let a second choice candidate get a whiff of being second choice.
One lesson we have seen play out repeatedly over this first quarter of 2014: candidates will take less money if a hiring company moves quickly. The excitement of a good connection and good chemistry makes a candidate forget logic; somewhat like a first date might get a person in a tizzy. The euphoria of a first encounter is powerful. The longer the process stretches out, the longer the candidate has to sit and think about how much he or she deserves. We have seen candidate agree to take pay cuts after the first interview, only to have increased the amount they need to accept the position by 30% from what they have currently by the time a long hiring process finishes. Of all the virtues a hiring manager should have, decisiveness is the most important today.