Making a Fresh Offer to a Prior Candidate – Goldmine or Landmine?

If you’re in HR or a recruiter, you’ve had offers declined. What I find absolutely enchanting about such a miserable outcome is the underlying qualities that sneak out during this downhill process. AND, what if the candidate who declined is really the best candidate for the job?!?

Sometimes the most impressive candidates can suddenly get nasty during offer negotiation. They can become arrogant and demanding in their communications, suddenly ask for $20K more than they’d originally requested, or require outrageous benefits. They can drag out their decision for weeks, leaving the company wondering why they’d made the offer in the first place. Hiring managers can be difficult too. It can often become an ugly game of expecting the other person to step a little past the middle, a little bit of an unequal compromise to keep the upper hand.

In those instances, it's easy to say goodbye to a candidate and never look back. But what if a candidate handles the offer and negotiation tactfully and in the end rejects the final offer? Many reasons for declining a job offer have nothing to do with the company or a candidate’s interest in working there. Things like:

  • timing of personal events vs start date (like buying a house/vacation/wedding),
  • timing of payments (like big commissions paid out after requested start date),
  • work location (relocation required vs local office vs work-from-home),
  • fewer benefits (like phone/office/car allowance, higher healthcare expense).

Any of these could result in a declined offer by a highly qualified candidate, just due to bad timing or temporary budget restrictions. As the search continues and you re-evaluate the pool of top candidates, do you ever go back and reconsider that earlier candidate if their original reason for declining is no longer an issue? How do candidates feel about receiving a second offer from a company?

It’s sometimes a matter of pride on both sides of the table. If there was a strong enough match between the job opportunity and that ideal candidate to make the original offer, doesn’t that initial match still exist a little while later? I had an HR manager tell me he’d ask his hiring manager, “Other than your pride, why are we not reconsidering this person?” That’s ballsy HR gold. The kind of relationship every HR Manager and Recruiter should aspire to have with hiring managers they support in their organization. Even if it’s not about pride, being able to clarify that is priceless.

Would you go back and make a second offer to a candidate, after the first offer had been declined? Why or why not? As a candidate, what would you think?

Views: 697

Comment by Becki Dunaway on October 15, 2010 at 2:20pm
I have in the past gone back to a declined candidate pool. If they were good enough to have been given an offer in the first place, why not visit them again? Potentially, as you stated, things have changed that would allow them to now join my company. I have also gone back to prior candidates in the case where I have inherited a position that has been open for some time (and I mean, a long time; like a year). In this case, you can learn what's wrong with the role -- or maybe it had something to do with the hiring team.

I have also experienced having candidates who declined an offer to take a 'better opportunity' come back to me 6 months later whe they realized they made a mistake. In this case, we did not just make a new offer. We put the candidate through all rounds of interviews again to ask some point blank questions about their intentions. If the manager was satisfied with the answer and still had a need for the skills the candidate possessed, then we would proceed.

Bottomline, I think it really depends on how the candidate left it with you when they declined. If they just sort of never responded and the offer expired, then they would not be at the top of my list.
Comment by Christopher Perez on October 15, 2010 at 2:26pm
I would not automatically close my mind to that, no. Like many situations in the workplace, if a solid business case can be made for re-extending an offer, I say go for it. I have found that senior-level candidates and savvy clients appreciate some tact and a deft hand in situations like this. They also appreciate creative thinking that helps them achieve their respective strategic and tactical goals. If the case is framed in a reasonable way that takes into account how things are different (hopefully, better) now, then both parties would be cheating themselves out of a potentially elegant solution if they are not open-minded about re-engaging. My .02.
Comment by Jessica Nicholas on October 15, 2010 at 3:30pm
Good point, Becki, about needing to carefully review the reasons behind the offer being declined. Also, careful conversations with the candidate again are an important part of making sure it's still going to be a winning situation for everyone if a new offer is made.

Christopher, I agree with you too about senior-level candidates sometimes taking a different approach. Not only is it harder to find that perfect fit at a higher level, but searches can sometimes take longer - resulting in lots of opportunities to get creative on all points of the recruitment process!

Thanks for your comments. I look forward to hearing from others as well! Has anyone been on the candidate side of a 2nd offer?
Comment by Barbara Goldman on October 16, 2010 at 11:31am
I close deals for a living. Our recruiting model is such that I am involved in every offer.

Your post is so interesting, for a lot of reasons. I host a radio show that addrssses these issues every morning with recruiters, and the bottom line is that offers aren't prepared, or presented properly.

Many candidates grow horns during the offer process. It's all about fear. If you look at your candidate wih his eyes, more offers are accepted. The timing has to be right, the words, and the strategy.

My show is If you have questions regarding an offer, or strategies for offer acceptance, we can help.
Comment by Barbara Goldman on October 16, 2010 at 11:32am
Oh, and I must add that I readdress offers often, and with success.
Comment by Jessica Nicholas on October 18, 2010 at 1:39pm
Amen, Barbara! Offers must be carefully prepared and even more carefully presented. I appreciate your feedback and comment link for anyone reading with questions about offers!


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