Should Candidates Claim Temporary Insanity?

I had an interesting conversation with a former candidate this week. This is someone who got the position I recruited him for and by all accounts is doing a fabulous job. Nothing unusual about that, until you understand that recruiting this candidate just about drove me nuts.


When I first sourced him, he was terrific. Had the skills and education (very specific, prestigious university grad) my client wanted. Excellent culture fit – really brought the right “start-up mentality” energy this position needed. We talked money / relo early and often. This should have been a relatively painless placement. And it was… until we got closer to the offer. At some point the candidate flat out lost his mind. All of a sudden he wants to negotiate everything from salary & PTO to his parking space. He felt the need to tell me at every turn how many other offers he was sitting on. He even wanted to have his brother in law the lawyer review his offer letter before he committed to anything, even verbally (it was a mid-level manager role).


I did everything I could to keep my client happy and not get the offer rescinded. It almost didn’t happen. At one particularly low point I told the manager that I wanted to pull the offer. This guy was certifiable and I didn’t want my fingerprints on that train wreck.


Luckily, we were able to get through it. I held my breath the first few months, but almost as suddenly as the “crazy” appeared, it went away. My guy went to work, did a fabulous job, surpassing his boss’ expectations. His direct reports love him. He even got a decent parking spot. The candidate lunacy has given way to solid performer/company guy. And to think it almost didn’t happen.


We can laugh about it now, but it got me thinking about some of my recent hires. Sure, some have gone smoothly, but plenty more have gone off the rails as we get closer to the end. Then once they’re on board they turn back into, well, the terrific employee I recruited in the first place.


Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Does anyone else see temporary insanity kick in with their candidates?

Views: 326

Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 7, 2011 at 8:57pm

You are not alone, you are not alone.  I have been around since Lincoln was a cadet and i have never seen anyting like the flashes  of lunacy i have seen in the last six months.  Start, stop, jump, jerk.  I am getting whiplash sitting still.

Comment by Marcia Tiemeyer on November 8, 2011 at 12:21pm

I agree, candidates are squirrly, you would think there was a permanent full moon.  People are just worried and conerned about what has happened in the economy and what they don't know about the future of the economy.   They are just trying to choose the best possible scenarios that they feel will last for a while.  Many know they should be looking for a new opportunity, but then get cold feet and second guess themselves.  All of them are looking or positions that they hope will guarantee them employment and growth for years to come, not yet realizing that there are no guarantees on anything anywhere any more.  They are just plain afraid!  I just had a candidate decline my 6 mo contract for hire offer from a large fortune 500 company with plenty of growth potential, for a dead end position at a hospital because it was perm and offered him $1.00/hr more than my offer.  Yes, I said one dollar an hour more.  That is squirrly!!!

Comment by Steven G. Davis on November 8, 2011 at 2:13pm

Yup...It seems like "FUll Moon Madness Daily"...I had one that said she need to review the job description before accepting the offer, after a day and half, she still "hadn't had time to read it"...My client pulled the offer on my recommnedation. Gets better, she came back a month later and wanted to revisit her candidacy for the same position...REALLY!!!!...Oyeeee.

Onward and Upward and add it to the laugh cup..except my cup runneth over as is yours!!!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on November 8, 2011 at 3:29pm

Thanks everyone for making me feel a little less crazy. I wonder if candidates (or even hiring managers) have any idea the mental gymnastics we go through trying to keep a deal from falling apart. Indeed Steven, the laugh cup runneth over!!  :)

Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 8, 2011 at 4:10pm

I have these mind trips about what goes on with a candidate after they get the offer.  First they are all excited that they made it through all the interviews so they sound great and ready to go.  Then they go home all excited and tell the wife who immediately says, "When does the insurance start, how much will you have to travel, do you get a xmas bonus, will we hve to move in the next two years, how much is maternity coverage, will you have to work on weekends?


Then he calls his brother or brother in law or best beer drinking buddy all excited about his new job and that person says, wow , that's great, did you get at least a 25% increase, what is your boss really going to be like, is the company really solid, i heard they had some layoffs in 2003, do you have to work with any family members of the CEO, that can really be a trap, what is your office like do you have a window if you don't that would make me crazy , is it a cube environment, do they give you a call and laptop , do they monitor your use of those, what about a company car or expenses, don't get yourself into a deal where it costs you money.  what is the commisson scale, have you really chekced that out to see if they have reasonable expectations.  i have a friend who went to career guy who helped him negotiate even a higher salary and hiring bonus than he wanted maybe you shold check with that guy.  Gee i guess you are going to lose some vacation time, will we have to cancel our fishing and hunting trips that we have always done with the guys, we sure would miss you.   So the excited receipent of the offer starts to have weird thoughts and a knot in his nether regions.


So he calls his mother and or father.  Mom says, John why are you changing jobs again your dad was with the same company for 25 years, you sure hop around a lot, you should be more stable don't forget you have 4 kids that are not that far from college.  What if it doesn't work out and you are unemployed, who is going to make your house payments and send those kids to school.  We could help but we can't support your whole family.  Don't forget how excited you were when you got the job you have now.  Maybe you have not worked hard enough to get what you need there, maybe you should talk to your boss about the future before you just up an leave a good job with a good company.


No wonder candidates are crazy, everybody is a career advisor of has some interest in what happens to poor old John.

Comment by Cathy Trinh on November 8, 2011 at 4:21pm

Most of my offers have gone sideways lately because these "WONDERFUL" candidates have been sitting with the mentality of "The Grass is Greener on the other side"....Very annoying, but with a little patience and hard sell (OR the infamous take away)...I've been able to get them to get back on track. Yes, I've seem temporary insanity kick in with candidates. 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on November 8, 2011 at 4:57pm

@Sandra I laughed so hard when I read that - my husband's name is John, we have 4 kids, and you sounded just like my mother in law at the end there.  :)

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on November 10, 2011 at 7:06am

Funny post Amy!  Candidates get the "full moon" effect all the time.  Fortunately, we are here to guide (??) them through their haze!  It may be purple...  Are they suddenly (or constantly and we just noticed) on drugs?  


It's like: Where did that come from?  Who are you?  Where is my candidate?  What did you do to him?


And when the deal is done we sigh and say "What a great placement! Everyone is happy!"     


I need a drink!

Comment by Tom Dimmick on November 12, 2011 at 9:50am

You are indeed not alone. My clients want passive candidates (Translated into candidate speak = "Make it worth my while") while telling me that with +9% unemployment there should be plenty of candidates.  So who's crazy?

Comment by Glenna Halligan on November 13, 2011 at 10:14am

If a recruiter doesn't have this experience (and more than once), then they are incredibly lucky! You are definitely, not alone!


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