Skip to content Skip to navigation

If You Accept a New Job - Please Show Up!!!!

September 28, 2008
by Tim Tolan
| Reprints

It’s truly one of the most dreaded realities in the search business.

Although this phenomenon happens rarely – it does happen.

Search consultants engage in a retained search assignment and perform the search execution flawlessly. The profiling, sourcing and identification of the perfect candidate for a critical senior level technology opening is performed …by the book. The initial screening goes well, the candidate interviews also go well and the candidate is more than just mildly interested. Then it’s on to the position questionnaire to further test their commitment and once again - they deliver. They take part in the requisite client driven psychometric testing with no hesitation whatsoever. Let’s not forget the battery of interviews with multiple executives, lunches and dinners and more testing and reference checks to further qualify this seemingly stellar candidate. It’s a love affair on both sides of the table. Perfect!
 
The “trial close” of the candidate goes as planned. You further qualify them and their family on the relocation – everything appears to be “all systems go”. The verbal offer is made and presented to the candidate. Once again – everyone is “all good” and this search appears to be on “final approach” and coming to closure. Finally, the written offer is delivered to the candidate and he/she nods their head north and south and they happily execute the offer letter with enthusiastic anticipation of starting their new career and joining the new organization. The prospective new employer makes preparations for their new arrival. Internal (sometimes external) communications are drafted, offices are cleaned while business cards, laptops, PDA’s and cell phones are all ordered so the new executive can “hit the ground running” on their arrival.

Then all of the sudden something strange happens - and you feel it in your gut. You follow-up (as you always to prior to the start date) multiple times with the candidate just to touch base and something just feels different. It’s in their tone of voice, their energy level, interest level or enthusiasm. Or… worse…you leave multiple voice mail messages for this individual to follow-up with no return correspondence. OUCH!!! Something is wrong here…

Finally you get an e-mail or voice mail (they are scared to death to talk to you by phone or in person) from your star candidate letting you know they have decided to stay with their current employer and withdraw their name from this search. UNREAL!!! Often, it’s the classic self-serving method some candidates use by negotiating with the written offer (they have in hand) with their current employer to increase their compensation or position in the organization. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of fear or it could be family reasons or personal reasons that they decide to opt out. In any event – it is a painful outcome. Just painful.

If you EVER get to the point where you are not 100% committed to accept an offer, change your career and SHOW UP on your first day to commence work - let someone know as early as possible. You really owe it to the company and the search firm that invested so much time and money pursuing you as their candidate of choice! So.... PLEASE PLEASE inform them EARLY in the process if you decide not to continue as a candidate. Never at the last minute! It is bad form - and just the wrong thing to do.

Healthcare IT has two…maybe three degrees of separation - at best. Someone knows someone else that knows you. Remember that the next time you attempt to “float a trial balloon” with a search firm or a prospective new employer unless you are serious about your intentions and you plan to “SHOW UP!!!

Now…that’s not too much to ask is it?

Topics

Comments

Tim,
You're absolutely right;  integrity is based on experience and communication. The social system of effective executives has a very good memory.

Your post reminded me of Mark Horstmans 'First Law of Interviewing', "Until you [the interviewee] have got something, you've got nothing."  And, the interview process has two, distinct parts to an interviewee, 1) getting an offer, and 2) accepting an offer.  Here's Mark describing this in his own words (3 minute video):

It seems to me that, the 'until you've got something' law is a driver of the behavior you're describing.

I would like to hear your reaction to Horstman's advice. How would you modify the advice to be appropriate to executive-level search?

Joe:
Truer words were never spoken. I agree with Mark- and I tell my candidates the very same thing. The other part of Mark's message is that it is totally unethical to go on an interview UNLESS your goal is to get an offer and join the new company.

A candidate that simply goes on a "fishing expedition" to either see if they can leverage an offer into a raise or a promotion at their existing company or to test their value in the market is violating an unspoken ethical standard that should be evident to anyone that holds an executive level position. It's truly beyond me why anyone would go to though the entire search process which can last for weeks and months — misleads others and simply walk away after an offer is presented. It's just wrong.
Great post Joe.

Excellent post Tim.
I've got some ideas as to how things like this can happen. For example: A person is very complacent at their job and feels they are probably being underpaid by about 20-30 percent. They start poking around on job boards or with search firms and see that they are probably qualified for a position that pays that extra money. On a whim, they shoot off a resume or make a call, figuring they will probably never hear back. They aren't especially interested in the job (or the relocation it requires) but it doesn't really matter because they are just testing the waters.
Unexpectedly, they hear back from the organization and things begin to pick up speed, like a snowball rolling downhill. At each step in the process, they comply reluctantly (inwardly, not outwardly) and things keep rolling. They probably even up the amount of money they are looking for, or vacation time, in order to kill the deal, but like a weed, it keeps on growing. Finally, the candidate and spouse are sitting at the kitchen table in front of an offer letter, staring at a job they don't want, but a paycheck they do. The bills are sitting right next to the offer letter, by the way.
Some people in that situation will go through with the process they have started and take the position, others will call it off right there. And, by the way, I think that's the last point at which you have the right to call it off. In the situation you describe, things have gone much further. And I agree with you, at that point, the candidate no longer has the right to walk away — they have agreed on a package, probably received concessions, and money has been spent.
Job applicants have to act with consideration of all involved (just like in any other situation), and walking away after a contract has been signed just isn't fair and considerate. As you say, while the decision might not result in immediate consequences, people have long memories, and nothing will make you stick in their mind like sticking it to them.

I find it amazing that this even needs to be addressed, but I have seen it and lived it. Because of that I am much more aware of everything that is said and done throughout the process, even the tiniest things. Is the candidate returning my calls/emails in a reasonable amount of time, and is that staying consistent? Are they involving their spouse in the process, did they put alot of time and effort in to the CV that was presented, are the references really the people they work the closest with, are the reasons they gave for pursuing opportunities legitimate reasons to leave their current position? The reference point is something I am continually intrigued by. If I see references from colleagues from 2 or 3 companies ago only, I am concerned. One or two of those are fine, but the client needs a current colleague. If the candidate can't deliver that, that is a huge red flag in my mind.

I guess what it comes down to, is that you need to do as much due dilligence as possible, repeat the same processes with each candidate. If you are following a process that works regularly, you can honestly say that you did everything that you could. Control everything you CAN control, because you can't control everything. And unfortunately that includes someone else's integrity and actions. Great points by everyone who commented.

Mark:
Thanks for your comment. It truly is all about the candidate's integrity and actions. I too have seen this happen a few times in the past few years and I am amazed each time it does. The product in the search business is human capital and they walk, talk and unfortunately change their minds and do things that make us all stand back in amazement.

Anthony:

Good point. Making a decision to "float a trial balloon" to see what's out there can start a candidate down a trail of interviews and offers very quickly in this candidate driven market. Unless the candidate is genuinely interested and has made a firm commitment to move on - they should never throw their name in the hat for ANY new opportunity.

It's just wrong.

And further, if an offer comes along, only to be turned down because the candidate was only interested in "seeing what's out there" - that candidate needs to understand that companies and search firms both have long term memories and they will likely be excluded from any future opportunities if and when they come along.

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

To help readers cope with the shortage of skilled healthcare IT workers, Tim Tolan’s blog...