It’s been a busy season for us as we’ve engaged with several new clients and experienced a growth in business from our existing clients. I’ve always felt that the busier we are the more productive and efficient we become. But now I’m sitting in my office, with Long Way Round playing in the background for the 100th time, thinking about feedback we’ve been receiving from some of our clients. The feedback has been positive but some of the side effects have had negative consequences.

Here’s the background: We typically screen twenty plus candidates for a given role and we recommend only the top qualified candidates to our clients. We don’t provide any “fillers” to beef-up our numbers. We don’t have a set number of candidates to recommend – if ten of the twenty candidates are well suited for the position then we’ll submit them. If only one of the twenty is right for the position then we only submit that one candidate. Over the past few months we’ve been finding the best candidate early in the search. This is the type of candidate you know is the right person for our client and we recommend them for interview ASAP. Our candidate completes their initial face-to-face interview and our client is left with the same impression as us: this is the right person for the job.

Here’s the problem: Our clients request to meet with additional candidates prior to proceeding with the first candidate we recommended. This is fine and I completely understand why they want to see more candidates. We work on submitting another three to five candidates but they rarely stack up to the original candidate. Meanwhile the top candidate continues through the standard interview process and it’s reaffirmed by others that this is in fact the right person for the job. However, we’re asking the top candidate to wait for the inevitable offer while we interview other candidates, essential completing our due diligence. In my experience, a few things can and do go wrong at this point:

• Firstly, if not handled correctly, the top candidate could be left with a negative impression of your ability to make decisions.

• Secondly, the candidate is more than likely interviewing with other companies and could be working with a couple different recruiting firms, leaving the door open for your competitors to make an offer before you.

Now I know some people will tell me that if the candidate is truly interested in the opportunity we’ve presented they’ll wait for all offers to be on the table and so on. That doesn’t always hold true and why would you open yourself to the unnecessary risk?

The parable of Buridan’s donkey is a great illustration about the perils of indecisiveness. In short, a hypothetical donkey is placed midway between two identical piles of hay. The donkey can’t decide which pile he should eat first and can’t find a good reason to choose one over the other. Unfortunately the donkey’s indecisiveness doomed him to starvation. Don’t be the metaphorical ass standing still letting opportunities pass you by.

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Comment by Sandra McCartt on November 14, 2011 at 11:11pm

It's the age old debate of do we send the best candidate first or last of in the middle.  With a client like the one you have described i would send the best candidate last.  I have always been of the school to send the best first but in the last few years , unless my client is the type who will evaluate each candidate on a hire or no hire basiis, i have reversed the process.  I send normally three qualified but save what i feel to be the best for the last scheduled interview.  At that point i am having better results with clients moving forward with the candidate if they have seen two that although qualified are not my top pick.  I send all the resumes  initially  but manage the scheduling of interviews to position my best candidate for last.


If you lead the donkey to the first pile, then the second, then the quality suff last he will start to eat and forget about the other two piles.  The problem with Bundan was  that he put the donkey in the position to make a decision instead of leading him down the path he wanted him to take.  :)  So Bundan ended up being the ass  who let his donkey starve to death.

Comment by Chris Riopelle on November 15, 2011 at 12:11pm

Sandra, I certainly agree with your approach and the metafore you provided.  This scenario happened twice in the same month and in both cases it was with a new client.  Unfortunately we lost one of the candidates to the indecision.  Originally I shifted the blame to the client but after discussing it with a peer I realized that I was the one in control and should have done a better job of leading the client from candidate to candidate.  I won't let it happen again. 


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