Candidates (and recruiters) do Stupid Things

The first staffing lesson I learned was, “Candidates do stupid things”. My boss at the time was a tough and cynical agency recruiter (headhunter) with 10 years experience. Wally had been rode hard with had plenty of stories to prove his point. That lesson was driven home yesterday in a most painful way.

On Wednesday last week, Intelligent Decisions was awarded a contract at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The contract has 13 positions ranging from Project Manager to entry-level administrative support personnel, with 4 of those positions to start this Wednesday, AS IN TOMORROW! In order to make that deadline, I had to have signed offer letters to the hiring manager NLT 3pm Monday.

With all but 1 position filled by Friday, I was feeling pretty cocky (never a good sign if you believe in karma). But after spending the weekend scouring my database, Monster, and the web, I had several resumes that looked promising.

With a growing sense of urgency, I hit the phones first thing Monday morning. And after several unsuccessful conversations with other candidates, I connected with John Doe (name changed). He had the right credentials, experience, and seemed willing to accept the salary. Notice the operative word here; ‘seemed’.

When I explained the salary was “$___ per year”, John heard, “$___ per HOUR”! You crunch the numbers, it makes a huge difference.

Believing we were G2G, I pressed forward with an expedited application process, confirming John’s credentials & clearance, crafting an offer letter, submitting the offer letter for approval through my chain of command, and finally sending John the offer. By the time he received my email, it was 2:45. That was when he called and said he wouldn’t take the position at the salary.

Ever hear the expression, "One aw crap wipes out a thousand atta-boys"?

Was John stupid for hearing an hourly rate, or was I stupid for failing to ensure he heard me properly? Well, I’m the guy who spent 5 hours yesterday spinning my wheels, so you tell me.

Here’s the take-away, don’t ever assume (yeah, I know) the candidate understands all that you've said. Sometimes they hear what they want to hear.

Ask, and then ask again.

Make it a GREAT day!

Views: 1062

Comment by Noel Cocca on July 31, 2012 at 7:38pm

Nice post, and reminder Tony!

Comment by Jennifer Brownell on August 1, 2012 at 8:26am
"ask and ask again" word from the wise oh and beaten. Nice post.
Comment by on August 1, 2012 at 10:52am

I usually work on the principle that unless I've said something at least 3 times the other person hasn't understood it. 

I am a bit surprised that someone could mistake an annual salary for an hourly rate.  Most people have a reasonable grasp on the going rate for their job across different sectors.  There's a bit over 2,000 hours in the working year (presuming a 40 hours week), if someone offered me a job at 2,000 time the going rate then I'd presume either they were insane or I'd mis-heard.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 1, 2012 at 11:11am
Been there, done that, ate the lemon. It is indeed a bitter vetch. Good post.
Comment by Tim Spagnola on August 1, 2012 at 11:19am
Thanks Tony- at times I feel I'm alone with some of the things I encounter on the recruiting trail. Nice post!
Comment by Jason Alba on August 2, 2012 at 12:21pm

Tony, great story.  I have a number of stories about poor communication.  I'm convinced that the job search is 99.9% communication... and that goes for anyone involved (HR, recruiters, the client, candidates, etc.). I'm guessing you'll clarify more frequently in the future, at least until the sting wears off :) 

Comment by Wallace Stuart on August 2, 2012 at 2:32pm

Excellent post Tony. If you've been in the industry long enough you also learn that in general "people do stupid things."  Clients, candidates, and myself included. Is it just me or has anyone noticed that the longer you do what we do, the harder it becomes to surprise us by what others say or do? 

Comment by Tony Palm on August 2, 2012 at 2:41pm

OMG, hey everybody, it's Wally; as in my first boss in this crazy business of ours! Thanks pal, guess you did something right, I’m still here almost a decade later!

I'll post the rest of 'Wally's Rules' momentarily in a separate blog so everyone gain from his experience.


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