QUESTION: In the 25+ years I have been in the business in the past 6 months I have had more turndowns than in all the years prior. Thoughts on how to reduce these turn downs?  – Joan

ANSWER: One, it is a highly competitive market. We can only work to reduce the number, because I do not think any of us can eliminate it, because candidates can lie. We can hold their feet to the fire, but only so far.  

It is a process from the taking of the datasheet. I will give you a couple of points because this is really relevant. It is a great question. 

When you take the datasheet, one of the things I go through, after you do your assessment which in 25 years, you know how to do that, I am going to say something to the effect of – Going forward. . . We have not gone on the interview yet. It looks like your background. Looks like you are a good fit. Can we agree that throughout this process you can say “no” until you say “yes” and that you will be crystal clear with me with what your agenda is. You can say “no” until you say “yes” means you can say – No, I do not want to go on the interview. No, I do not want to go on the second interview. No, I do not want to go to the final. No, I do not even want to take the offer.  

Now, one of your points is a turndown, but I want to have this discussion early on because this is one of the things that minimizes counteroffers. You can no until you say yes, and I walk them through that. Once I go through all of that I ask – Can you make me that commitment?  

From there I would say “Our job together as we go through this process is to make sure you find and identify all the information you need to make a clear, firm, yes or no decision at the point of the offer”. Then I remind them about this discussion as they move through the process. They have a phone interview, and then they have a face to face.   

The only thing, and I am not beating you up, Joan, because I do not know your process. I am just saying sometimes when people are in any industry or in any profession for as long as you have been, they begin taking shortcuts.   

I am checking in with the candidate every step of the way.  If they had the phone interview, are they interested in going on the face to face. You check-in.  Ask questions such as – What did you like about the opportunity? What inspired you about the conversation? What other information do you want to make sure you have at the end of the first face-to-face meeting for you to be able to comfortably move to the next step?  

Then I reiterate everything they said that back to them and they ask again if you have all the information you are looking at the end of the next interview what else of you need in order to look at that offer seriously, what else would you need to know to be able to say yes? Even though it is really early, and you are not even at the offer stage, when you ask these questions now, there is not a lot of pressure on them to make a decision.   

Then if an opening creeps up, I want them to be honest with me. If you are always selling your opportunity, they are going to withhold some of their information. My question then becomes – What do you need to make a clear yes or no decision? This is where they may share that they are entertaining other options. 

This is where you can ask, “How does our opportunity rank with this other opportunity or these other opportunities?” Learning how the other opportunity ranks and why the candidate is ranking in that manner and if there is an actual offer on the table.

From here I would coach the candidate because sometimes they think they are waiting for an offer and they have told another recruiter who is representing them at another place – keep him warm, which means, he is back up, or she is a backup. Call the employer, not human resources, not the internal recruiter, call the guy or gal you interviewed with and say – I think I am about to get an offer. I would rather work for you, but I am going to be on a tight decision timeframe. I am going to need to make a decision very, very shortly. If you were me, Mr. Employer, what would you do? Meaning the candidate is calling the person of the company they prefer.  

One or 2 things is going to happen. They are going to call back and say – Do not do anything. We are on the final stages and I am waiting for the sign off here. We think you are our guy or we are going to move forward with you. Or, they will say something along the lines of – Hey, you know what, you have got to do what you have got to do. If they tell you, you have got to do what you have got to do, you are not their number 1 candidate.  

I have worked in several hot economies. We did not let people think about offers. If you are letting them think about offers, the only reason they are thinking about offers is because they are waiting for another one. That has to be set up in the interview process too, so going back to that first datasheet.   

Those are some techniques that jump out to me that I used to do. They are a little bit confrontative. My experience is when people want to think about it they use it to leverage either their existing employer or other offers that they would rather have, and that is not why we are here. I am totally okay with you saying no to my offer, no, I do not want to work for this company.  I am not okay with my client losing their backup candidates while you explore what your other options are.  

Thank you for the question. That is a good question. 

Photo by Andrés Canchón on Unsplash