Double Dating on a Search Is Just Plain D-U-M-B... | Tim Tolan | Healthcare Blogs Skip to content Skip to navigation

Double Dating on a Search Is Just Plain D-U-M-B...

March 27, 2010
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It’s late in the search assignment– the offer is pending. Just as the sun will set in the west, you can almost predict the outcome. No relocation involved. Salary and bonus are both greater than what the candidate earns today – almost 18% more money. All good. The culture seems to be in order with what the candidate is looking for and the position itself is actually a promotion. There is a love-fest between my client and star candidate. It’s hard to script it any other way – it’s just perfect…. OH YEAH!

The client calls me and as predicted the offer is on the table and NO surprises. None. Time to call the candidate to share the good news. The call goes something like this:

Ring…Ring… Ring…Ring…

(Candidate) Hello

(Tolan) Hi Joseph – I have some good news! My client called and we have an offer! It’s exactly what we have been talking about and I would like to go over the details with you – is now a good time?

(Candidate) – Sure but I have some news for you too. I have another offer and I think I am going to accept it. I wanted to wait before I told you about it.

(Tolan) WHAAAAAAAT? What other offer? You never told me about other opportunities you were considering! When did you learn about this other opportunity – and how long were you going to wait before telling me?

(Candidate) I starting talking with them a few weeks before you contacted me and I really did not want to tell you until you had an offer for me so I could compare it to this one.

(Tolan) WHAT? Please help me understand what you just said…..

This (believe it or not) happens more often than I’d like to admit – and with very senior level executives. Playing the dating game is not wise for a variety of reasons.

1. You just burned a huge hole in the bridge with the trusted search professional you just led down a path fraught with deceit. It’s over – forever. Done.

2. Your credibility is shot. Actually – you have no credibility.

3. Your ethics have been challenged and you lost. You have no ethics and apparently it’s just all about you. You can’t hide those lying eyes.

4. The references you gave me all think you were taking a different job – so you have some explaining to do – mainly about credibility and ethics. Oh YEAH. You have stepped in it – big time.

Double dating (secretly) on a search assignment is just dumb.
Just plain D-U-M-B. Sorry…


It may be helpful to look at this from an economics perspective. By "economics" I don't solely mean the money, but the give and take that economists study in social transactions, or game theory.

Tim, I'm wondering if your search intensity decreases if you know that a candidate has another ball in the air. If so, or if the candidate believes that may be so, then those who do not inform you about the other opportunity have a real or perceived advantage over those who do inform. It's the notion of distributed responsibility the more people involved in an endeavor, the less intensity each will apply.

I always assume they have another oppty in play - that's why I ask them up front. When they mask the truth and just lie about it in the middle of a search, it has an entirely different (ugly) outcome. Putting all of the cards on the table is always the best policy for the candidate and for the client.

I feel your pain...but I have seen plenty of situations where the hiring company led the candidate down the garden path only to pull the impending offer at the last minute. I even had a family member show up for a position on start day to be told the job was 'canceled' because they did not get the engineering contract they thought was in the bag.

So, it's a nasty world out there and on one hand if its all about the company, then the candidate can't be slighted if all they think about is themselves.
Also it would seem to me you would be telling the hiring company that this guy/gal is soo good you better act now or we could loose him to another offer (almost as a matter of course).

Kate: We always ask about other oppty's and sometimes (ok more often than not) they are not honest (remember - it's all about them). We try to understand the entire landscape before proceeding with them as a candidate.
Bad news early is good news. Bad new late is very bad news. I never want to find out about another oppty late in the game. Nope. Not good.

Tim, from the point of view of the recruiter I can see how this could be your worst nightmare. From the other side of the table, however, isn't it better to keep a lot of balls in the air? Don't you, as a recruiter, assume that candidates are generally looking at more than one opportunity, whether they tell you that or not?

Great post, Tim. From the recruiter's point of view, I completely understand that a candidate's lack of honesty can be very damaging. Do you ask potential candidates up front if they have any other possible offers? If they say, "well yeah, there is one company I spoke with a while ago," how do you proceed?