As a Leadership Search firm, many of our clients struggle to hire their internal non-leadership roles. Therefore, we’ve pulled together a few best practices to guide the process.
A vital responsibility of any leader is recruiting top talent, and one of the greatest joys of leadership is identifying, recruiting, and engaging a new teammate. In contrast, one of the most frustrating and deflating moments occurs when you have your dream candidate at the finish line only to have them decline your offer. WHY does this happen? Why would a candidate take their time (and yours), over months, only to stay at their current organization? Well, let’s take a look.
One key factor in candidates not accepting a new offer is “comfort.” It’s comfortable to keep things predictable and not rock the boat. Change is uncomfortable, movement is hard, and the unknown is scary. How can we help our candidates see the value in transition and the opportunity cost of staying put? As a Search Advisor, I’ve learned that it helps to reiterate your candidate’s initial concerns about their current situation in the initial phases of the process. Learn what drove them to explore the opportunity in the first place. When you have your “recruiter hat” on, it’s your responsibility to identify your candidate’s real motivation to make a change. As you get closer and closer to the offer stage, it is in your best interest to remind the candidate of these factors. And, continually explore if a position at your company indeed affords them the opportunity, the growth, the security, or the development they’re seeking.
One way to mitigate this is to build rapport throughout the process continuously. Taking a more conversational approach to these topics and asking questions about the current temperature at their current place of employment is a great way to keep the lines of communication open. When they give you details, listen carefully. Address any changes you’re observing to be sure they are still open and excited about the opportunity you’re representing.
Another tool I have found to be successful is to have the “offer conversation” before the final step. The “offer conversation” consists of walking the candidate through the scenario of receiving an offer from your client. It may sound something like this:
“If today’s meeting goes well and CompanyX makes you an offer tonight at your target salary, is this an offer you are prepared to accept?”
If you sense any hesitancy in their answer, this is a perfect time to walk them through the concerns they articulated about their current position earlier in the process. Reiterating the reasons they began looking at this opportunity in the first place, is an excellent way to alleviate possible fear regarding the new opportunity.
Are you still sensing some hesitancy? As a last resort, it may be time to have the “white flag” conversation. The “white flag” conversation is essentially preparing to move on from this candidate (i.e., waving the white flag.) It is essential to be prepared to lose this candidate for this role potentially. Typically, we would say, “John, I’m still sensing some hesitancy. If this is something that you are losing interest in or are not experiencing the same excitement you were earlier in this process, please let me know. At this point in the process, we want to be sure we’re in lockstep in moving forward. If the odds of you accepting the role are not very high, let’s talk about it. I value your time and my client’s time, so we must be on the same page right now.” The candidate will either agree that it’s best to bow out of the process. Or, they will not and double down on their commitment as the thought of losing this opportunity becomes a reality.
Being clear in your communication and always keeping the client and candidate’s best interest at the forefront of your mind will not guarantee every candidate’s acceptance. However, it will certainly help to mitigate risk and keep you sleeping well at night.