Why did your candidate just say, “I will need to think about the offer…”, after letting you believe throughout the process that this was the perfect job for him? Where has it gone wrong and why do you get the feeling that, by asking for time to think, your candidate is actually preparing you for the fact that he is going to decline the offer?
There are many reasons why your candidate may decline the offer. Some are good reasons, many are not so good. And there are various points in the recruitment process at which this may occur (either on a formal level, when the offer is actually made, or on a psychological level, before the process has even reached that stage).
Carefully analysing the process you have just been through with your candidate will probably reveal the answer to your questions; and being honest and self critical about your underlying motivations and thought processes may, on occasion, reveal even more about what has just gone wrong.
Putting on your sales cap, you are likely to be thinking of recruitment in terms of placement fees; recruitment is about hitting sales targets after all; but for candidates, going through your recruitment process can be a highly stressful and emotionally challenging experience.
Experiences of this sort often give rise to anxiety, uncertainty and apprehension. Learning to recognise this as a recruitment consultant, and being able to manage it intelligently from the very beginning of the process, can make the difference between the candidate declining your offer and accepting it.
Tip: think about working with the candidate as a person first; think about the placement fee second; that way you are more likely to achieve the best outcome for all concerned.
It is extremely disappointing when your candidate declines the offer. It is careless when the warning signs were there early in the process, and you were so fixed on the fee that you failed to notice them; it is unforgiveable when you knew the warning signs were there from the outset, but for whatever reason you chose not to deal with them – and I am sure, at some point in our careers as consultants, we have all been guilty of doing that. How many of us have said, “I knew that was going to happen!”
So here are some steps worth putting in place:
Prepare your candidate for the possibility of an offer early on in the process; get his thoughts and feelings on what this would mean to him right at the beginning so that there are no surprises later. Find out why he was motivated to apply for it in the first place and exactly what he hoped to gain by leaving his current position.
Your job as a recruitment consultant is to sell the opportunity to your candidate, and the best way to do this is to ask questions that will get him talking about how he will benefit by taking it. Rather than you telling him that this job would be good for his career, you need to ask the sort of questions that will get him telling you why it would be good for his career.
Prequalify your candidate before and after first interviews take place; ask him if he would accept the job if a suitable offer were made – confirm with him exactly what a ‘suitable offer’ would mean, including terms, salary, package, scope of the job, reporting relations, etc; ask if anyone else would play a role in his decision making process, find out what other factors he would need to consider and what else he may need to know about the company and the job.
Make the offer to your candidate only when you know that he is psychologically ready to accept it. This sounds strange, but if you believe that the candidate may have some doubts remaining when the offer comes through, do not make the offer. Revisit the potential sticking points and address any problems you may anticipate.
Why? It is essential to stay firmly in control at this point, otherwise you would lose the opportunity to give your candidate the type of support that could have helped him overcome any lingering doubts, the negative impact of which would have strengthened had they been left unattended to.
Furthermore, such doubts have the potential to become major obstacles in your candidate’s mind, regardless of how small they were initially; such that, if the offer is made too early, additional psychological pressure will be created by the perceived need to make a decision before all of the doubts have been ironed out, and as a result your candidate will be more likely to decline.
When all of this is said and done, remember that things don’t always go according to plan and circumstances can change at the last minute. If the offer has been made and your candidate requests time to think, don’t immediately panic that he is definitely going to decline.
If you believe that you have done the ground-work and your candidate has been taken through the proper steps, there may well be a legitimate reason why he simply wants more time to think. Make sure you know what else he still needs to think about, as you may be able to give him the right advice to help him resolve his doubts.
Go back over all of the reasons he gave you at the beginning, about why this job would be good for him and what he had hoped to gain by getting it, and make sure that these reasons still stand.
Set a Deadline If your candidate still needs thinking time, then give him time – but set a deadline on it. Remind your candidate that there were other people in the process who may be offered the job if he doesn’t want it. Explain to your candidate that the client may withdraw the offer if he takes too long to think it through.
The psychological effect of pulling the offer at this point should be sufficient to distinguish between a candidate who is truly motivated to take this job, but genuinely needs some more time to think, and a candidate who was never going to accept the job in the first place, no matter what offer was put on the table….and as a consultant you need to learn how to identify the early warning signs and not allow it to get to this stage.
Discuss the Resignation Process with your candidate. Find out what the process will be in his company and to whom he will resign. Simply discussing this and asking how he will feel about doing it will help him prepare for it – and remember for some people it can be a very daunting prospect.
On some occasions, the fear of telling the boss that you are leaving can be overwhelming, and worrying about how you are going to be treated during your notice period can be enough to break the deal. It is sometimes easier to do nothing at all (even when we know that we will benefit by taking a particular course of action), than take action which we anticipate to be uncomfortable. Think dentists.
Discuss Counter Offers with your candidate and make sure that there is no chance of him being bought back by his current employers. Make sure your candidate is aware of some of the standard techniques that employers will use to buy people back – after all, it is less expensive for them to offer your candidate a modest pay rise than go through the more costly and time consuming process of recruiting a replacement.
Ask the candidate if he will now go and close off any other applications he has in the pipeline – and if he says that he is not prepared to do this, you have still got a lot of work to do – starting with finding out when this other opportunity came into the equation, why you were not aware of it, and what it offers that this one doesn’t.
Make contact after the resignation and stay in contact well into the period when your candidate has started his new job. Never assume that his employers will not come back at the last minute and make him an offer he cannot refuse and never assume that everything is on track, just because you haven’t heard otherwise from the candidate.
Putting these measures in place will not guarantee that your candidate will always accept the offer, but they should go a long way towards reducing the chances of reaching the end of the process to discover that the candidate was never going to accept the job in the first place…