Does Losing a Top Candidate Worry You? It Should.

Star candidates
The body languages says it all. This prospect will be moving on


There is no shortage of words about how to hire top talent – the best of the best.

And there are plenty of cautionary tales about the picking the wrong one – the many thousands lost when the hire doesn’t turn out as expected.

But there is really very little dealing with a different look at failure – when the best candidate takes a pass and says no, thank you.

Has it happened to you?  And does it bother you?  It should.

According to Dr. John Sullivan, a widely respected HR thought leader, very few corporate recruiters take the trouble to understand what happened when a sought-after game-changer votes with his feet.   In Sales, when you lose a big pitch you expected to win, a post-mortem is inevitable so that lessons can be learned.


You can’t fix what you don’t know

In recruiting? Not so much.  Which is flat-out bad business process.  Without an enquiry, you don’t know whether the reason is on your end or that of the candidate.  And if you don’t know that, you don’t know how to fix it or even if it is fixable.

Being unable to engage a top candidate – we are talking Senior Executive and Key Person here – does more than a stick a pin in your ego.  It wastes time and money and does damage to your brand.

Getting a high-level candidate to the short-list takes a lot of effort and investment which is lost if you don’t complete.   And the damage to your employer branding investment brand may not be that severe the first time, but if this happens more than once, there must be something wrong at your shop, right?

Add to that, if you do not conduct a post mortem and an “exit” interview, you don’t know what reasons the candidate is giving to his or her colleagues.   Was the offer too low? Was the fit not there? Are your offices unattractive? Are you not as hot as you thought you were?


The buck likely stops at you

Whether the recruiting process is undertaken by a search firm or in-house, the buck will find its way to the company.  Why?  Because nine time out of ten it will have fallen apart when the prospect walked through your door.

If the candidate was presented for an interview by a reputable search firm, it means that a specialist firm is satisfied not only that the person’s capabilities and skills are exceptional but that the culture fit should be symbiotic.

Admittedly, this will apply more to a retained search firm than a contingency recruiter due to the process each follows.  The retained search firm can be expected to do more in-depth research and will not present a candidate whom they feel is anything less than 100% eligible.  And that is taking into account the presumption that an exceptional candidate is one who exceeds the job criteria by 25% or more.

Under these circumstances, if super-candidate decides not to sign, it’s reasonably to assume that is because of something negative he is reacting you after getting to meet and know the employer.

Hence the need for you to find out and, if necessary, take action to fix.

Here are some of the prevailing causes for a U-turn:

  • Length of time to make a decision
  • Candidate has a poor experience on your premises
  • Weak selling — maybe your office can be made more more exciting
  • Job environment. The premises, or the colleagues, may not be attractive

Sullivan lists more reasons as well as suggestions for structuring a post mortem.  You can read more in this recent article.



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