In this career, we are always coming across different scenarios that we've never experienced before. Sometimes, it seems that the universe is completely against us filling a position.

This is one of those times. Literally everything that could happen... did. After 5 years in recruiting, I want to make sure I'm constantly learning and growing.

As I think about the whole process and what I can learn from this experience, I thought I'd share and see what insight others may have on this one. 

The (Long) Story

I've been working with a candidate on a permanent Director of Treasury position with my client for 3 months. She lives about 4 hours away so would have to relocate herself and her family for the position. She interviewed in person in February and was in love with the company and the opportunity. This would be a huge step up in her career and she got along very well with the CFO. Unfortunately, the client dragged their feet after the initial interview. And in the meantime, my candidate was interviewing for other positions local to her. 

About a month ago, she got an offer for a bank she'd interviewed with through another firm. We talked about it and she really wanted to work for my client but was also so unhappy at her current job and this was a good offer. She didn't know what to do. The other firm gave her 2 hours (really?) to give them an answer. The recruiter and sales person got her on the phone and yelled and cursed at her. They threatened that she'd be an idiot to turn down this offer and told her that if she didn't accept and tell my client that she's off the market, they'd never work with her again and she'd possibly not get anything else. This recruiter had placed her at her current company years ago and hadn't taken a fee so she felt some sort of obligation to them. We told our client that she had another offer but they needed to have a 2nd round interview before extending an offer, so they wished her luck. Well, in the end, she accepted their offer and put in her notice but told me that she still wanted to be considered for our clients' position.

We pushed our client and were able to set up the necessary 2nd round interview and the candidate drove back down, meeting with a couple more senior executives. She did really well and her excitement for the position increased.

Meanwhile, she left her company and started her new job. We were in touch almost daily during these last 2-3 weeks, texting, emailing and calling. She didn't like the new company. They work 12+ hour days almost every day (sounds familiar) and it seems as though no one there is happy. She also found out that 3 people have held her role and failed over the last couple years. She was still very interested in my clients' position.

Last week, she received another offer from a position she'd interviewed for. It was a great offer but she really didn't want the job. She didn't get a great feeling from them at the interview so declined the offer. Still, we used this as leverage with our client. Two days later, we finally got the offer! It was 5K less than she wanted (and had been pre-closed at) but came with a 10K sign on bonus to make up for it. After trying to pre-close her again at the new salary unsuccessfully, I went ahead and extended the offer. She was suddenly wishy-washy. It turned out that she'd also told her new company about the last offer she'd gotten. They responded by making a lot of promises for more money and giving her the opportunity for autonomy, saying that she can set up the department any way she'd like. Now, she thinks she may just stick it out. 

It was clear during this conversation that she was somewhat insecure. She was worried about upsetting her current company (who are "so excited about her") and that she'd upset me and my client, making it a very tough decision. She now knows what her current company expects from her and isn't sure if she'd be successful in the position with my client. I told her to remove everyone but herself and her family from the equation. I also used that opportunity to remind her of all the things she'd told me she didn't like about where she is now and all the reasons she'd told me that she really wanted the position I was now offering her. Then, I left it in her hands and gave her 24 hours to decide.

At this point, I'd typically bring in the sales rep for the position to help me close the candidate but didn't want to do that with this one. Mostly because we'd developed such a great relationship but also because of the horrible experience she'd had with the other recruiter. It was clear that putting pressure on her would ensure that she wouldn't accept. As hard as it was, I had to leave her alone to make this huge decision with her husband.

The following day, I received an email (Seriously? After everything? An EMAIL?!) letting me know that she was declining the offer. I called her but she didn't answer or call back. Ouch.

The next day, the candidate sent me an Edible Arrangement thanking me for everything I'd done. I've never gotten anything like this from a candidate I didn't actually put to work. It was a nice gesture and a real reminder of why I do this.

What can we learn from this?

  1. "Time Kills All Deals": My client took too long. She's a really great candidate and they knew it and she was always their top choice. But, they took their time and gave her a chance to find something else.
  2. Things change, sometimes overnight
  3. It's not about me. It was really hard to not take this one personally but in the end it's about the candidate and the client. I'm just the liaison in between. Her decision has nothing to do with me.
  4. I did the right thing by being more of a cheerleader and coach for her. I listened to her and talked her through everything during the entire process. I was honest and did what I said I would do. For that, she did the same for me. And she appreciated my efforts and consultative approach so much that she wanted to send me something to say "thanks". It's not the several grand in commission I would've gotten but still.. In the end, I did nothing for her except to be there and give her advise. Sometimes that's all people need or want from their recruiter.

What, if anything, would you have done differently? Any other lessons I could or should learn from this experience?

Views: 628

Comment by Amber on April 15, 2014 at 4:58pm

Running into the same thing here with a "new" client, Becky. 1st candidate was above their range, but they really liked him and FINALLY decided to move forward. Except they waited and waited to give me even a hint of their level of interest. Almost at the same exact time they reached out to get reference info, the candidate sent us both an email saying that they had received and accepted an offer from another company (which I wasn't aware he was planning on considering, much less accepting). So client asked me in an email to advise "what could have been done differently to ensure this doesn't happen again?". My part in that happening was that if I have no actual feedback I can share, I will not keep someone warm. I certainly will let a candidate whether or not there has been interest, etc. but if the client wouldn't give me any idea, I am at a loss. Now, the 2nd candidate I sent them was brought in immediately for an interview, hiring manager told him that he wanted to get the Regional VP in town to meet with the candidate the following week. Candidate has a job, and an offer from another company. Lo and behold, they don't get arrangements for said trip made. HR finally answers me after the hem hawing for 3 days and says they had been at a conference and have magically found some other candidates that would cost them less.

Sorry so long, but bottom line for me in this case: If I can't have access to people involved in hiring, if calls/emails aren't returned in timely manner, if feedback and follow up aren't given in a reasonable time frame - time for me to make them a former client.

p.s. Per Derek's comment, I tend to put one candidate in the running at the point of interviews to avoid indecision by way of too many options. But that definitely backfires sometimes. 

Comment by Don Fraser on April 15, 2014 at 5:16pm

Hi Becky,

you are correct that was probably a red flag to spend some time on, however this is another good learning opportunity for next time right? I read the scenario once again to refresh my memory, I forgot about the part where she sent you the arrangement, that is interesting. Obviously she liked you and appreciated you and felt some type of loyalty and concern for you and the time you spent. Therefore she doesn't sound like the type to deliberately waste your time.

Although she didn't consider the relocation to be an issue I wonder if it at least played a part, when all things are fairly equal it is always easier to not have to move your family to another location and I would never underestimate that. I honestly think this is more about a counter offer from her current company. Now that she had started it just became harder for her to leave. In talking with her current employer she felt she was giving them a chance and being honest with them. They found an opportunity to make a counter offer in which case that is a dangerous situation. In this case the question is did you ask her about counteroffers from the employer where she had just begun working? If so, how deep did you get? Did you ask her, how would you actually feel leaving this employer after such a short duration? What would you do if you were offered a counter at the current employer?

Anyway, not to drag it out, the only thing that matters now is that you learn what you can apply to future opportunities. I hope you will share with us again and next time during the process if possible. Maybe we can help you to save a deal!


Comment by David Wells on April 16, 2014 at 12:14pm

"What, if anything, would you have done differently? Any other lessons I could or should learn from this experience?"

 I understand this is hindsight being 20/20 and I am aware I am not privy to all of your conversations but there is something that I did want to comment on.

Well, in the end, she accepted their offer and put in her notice but told me that she still wanted to be considered for our clients' position.

This in and of itself is a huge red flag, especially combined with her lack of due diligence on the role she accepted, i.e. not knowing about the turnover or the amount of work.  This may make me sound relatively harsh but if I have a candidate accept a direct hire role and then tell me they still want to be considered for a position we were working on, I actually close them out and advise the client not to move forward with them.  Especially for an experienced candidate.

 In working with candidates that are that wishy-washy I find that they often make bad decisions and put themselves and you at risk.

Otherwise I think you did everything well.  

Comment by Will Thomson on April 16, 2014 at 3:41pm

Hey Becky-  thanks for sharing your post.  We are all humans right?  We get emotionally attached to our candidates.  It is just part of what we do.  I have to say you handled yourself well.  It frustrates me to no end when clients/companies make the "no decision" and take too long to move on a candidate.  I think your first point was the one that is most important.  Time kills deals.  It is kind of like you are in a relationship and someone asks you to marry them first.  You have made a commitment.  Hard to go backwards when you have made a decision.

Comment by Becky Northrup on April 16, 2014 at 3:51pm

Thank you for all of the feedback!

Amber, I always keep candidates warm and stay in touch with them between getting feedback. Especially for perm positions or clients that I know are a little slower. If for no other reason than for future positions and leads. If you constantly submit people and never follow up (even to say "Sorry I haven't heard anything.. How's your search going? Where are you interviewing?"), they may not answer your calls when you have something else. 

Don, I'm sure the relocation piece played a role in her decision, whether she told me it did or not. She told me that her new company would counter offer but until the day she got the offer, she didn't care about anything they'd offer because she didn't like it. 

Very good point, David. I told her I was going to pull her from consideration if she accepted the position and we told our client she'd accepted a position so they thought she was out as well. She continued to follow up with me about it and eventually talked me in to continuing the process so we went back to the client and let them decide. They really wanted her so let her come for the 2nd round interview. But, you're absolutely right. 

Comment by Theresa Hunter on April 17, 2014 at 2:47pm

I am with Don.  When I get consent from a candidate they are willing to look at an opportunity I called them about I do a candidate interview with them.  One of the things I go over are the counter offer scenerios.  I ask them have they talked with their boss about what it is that is causing them to want to look.  If they say no I tell them they need to have that discussion.  If they have had "the talk" and nothing was done to fix the problem I still talk about the counter offer and what it is all about.  Second when it comes to relocation I ask them is there anyone else who would be involved in making this decision with you?  Once I get the answer I ask them is your husband/wife in the same field as you and would they need to also have a job in the new area?  There are a million reason a deal can go south and do it quickly.  You have a great head on your shoulders which means you will go far in this business.

Comment by Steven Guine on April 17, 2014 at 8:49pm

Becky, I have seen this so many times and especially so in this market. It seems as if some hiring managers believe that they can treat candidates as they wish forgetting that a bad experience is bad news and travels the fastest. Your candidate will have shared her experience with her personal and professional network. The firm just made it that much harder to find great candidates and thus adding to the myth of a talent shortage.

Comment by Amber on April 18, 2014 at 5:55pm

Becky, agree with your point and do the same - I more clearly should have said I won't keep them warm for that client without a reason to.

Comment by Noel Cocca on April 19, 2014 at 8:38am

Thank  you to everyone for jumping in and helping out Becky!


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