QUESTION: I have had four offers so far this year with three offer turndowns.  I know that every deal is different, but if there is one common thing you can think of not going on here.  It is unusual for me to have this many rejected offers.  – Conrad, Massachusetts

ANSWER: Without knowing more, my instinct would tell me you are letting the offers go through without any commitments.  The way I train and develop clients is an offer does not go out to any of my candidates unless I know it is going to be accepted in advance.  Now, it is not a perfect system.  I do not think there is one.

Just to give you some perspective, in our biggest year we were over $3 million in revenue, and I think had a half a dozen turndowns/counteroffers with volume in the 150 or 175 placement range.  It was something I studied to death because there is nothing worse than losing $20,000 or $30,000.  Your heart is set on it.  Your recruiters’ hearts are set on it.

We taking a data sheet we started to really uncover what was going on in their career that made them open to talking to us now and going in depth to find out the things that they viewed as less than perfect at their current assignment and the effect it was having on them.  From the time you approach the candidate at that initial call throughout the hiring process continue to talk to them about this.  Let us say it is 3 or 4 weeks between the interview and they get the offer, maybe a little bit longer.  Always bring up to them . . .

Conrad, you had mentioned these things were going on in your career.  Can you tell me more about them?  Tell me more about that.  Has that gotten worse?

Generally, after they have talked about it, they have become more sensitized to those events now that they verbalized them.

There are three scenarios that can occur that will result in an offer being turned down.

(1) One of the reasons people turn down offers is they ultimately take counteroffers.  The more I can sensitize them to the imperfections of their current assignment, the less likely they are to.  We had a whole counteroffer prep process with on of the main points was really holding in front of them what was the imperfect.

(2) The other reason you got a turndown could be they just got cold feet.  Here I would ask them some pointed questions.  Why were they looking in the first place?  Were they just kicking tires or were they deadly serious?  I do not send tire kickers out on an interview.  If I sent someone that is a borderline tire kicker on the interview, when they come on to the interview I want to find out why they are in love with that assignment and maybe go deeper into why they would leave.  I would say something very frank to them.

If they say:

“You know, this was really exciting.  It does not mean I do not love my current company still.”

I respond:

“Well you know, I do not want to do you a disservice, but I just recommend not going to the next interview if they want to call you back because you are not in a position to leave.”

When you say that to them versus trying to sell them, they are going to tell you why they are in a position to leave or why they are not in a position to leave.  Either way, you win.  If they agree with you, you have just saved yourself a lot of aggravation and you can really set yourself up with another candidate.

(3) The third scenario where you probably have a turn down is competing offers, which we are blessed with right now.  I do not mean that facetiously.  For all of you who have lived in a recession, having a market that is sparse in candidates and high in openings is a recruiter’s dream.  Something has to be in shortage.  It is either job orders or candidates.

When job orders are in shortage, it is the client’s/buyers’ market.  When candidates are in shortage, we have leverage on fees and things like that.

With that, I am always kind of testing along the way . . .

Hey Conrad.  We have not talked in a few days.

NOT “Have you heard. . . ?”  Not a yes a not question.

What other recruiters have you heard from?  What opportunities are they talking to you about? I want you to be totally honest with me.

This all starts in the data sheet part of the process.

Tell me where you are interviewing, and the commitment I am going to make to you is I am not going to go in the backdoor and try to get my own candidates in there.

By the way, I did it.  I honored that commitment.  But I wanted to put the candidates in a position where they could be frank, where they could say . . .

Mike, I really like your opportunity, but so far out of the 3 things I am looking at, it ranks second.

Cool.  What would the client have to do or what would you need to see in the opportunity for it to rank first?

Sometimes there is really nothing.  Sometimes you hear some things.  Sometimes they are misperceptions of what is really going on with that company that you can easily have your client fill in at the next interview.  But it just puts you in a position of at least not getting blindsided.  Then you have a business decision to make.  Do you pull him out and try to set up another candidate.  I am going to let the client know that they have got to fight a little bit harder for that candidate because as human beings we simply want what we cannot have.  So if you tell a hiring manager . . .

Bob is really interested, but it ranks second and he is moving along with his number 1.  So let us get some backups.

Maybe the hiring manager gets a little bit more aggressive.

Great question though.