At one point in my career, I was working on a high-criticality recruiting initiative. One position for this team in particular was pivotal. The opportunity was compelling; however the location was a bit challenging for some.
I had sourced a candidate for the position who the team thought was very strong. Everyone was very excited to have this person join the team. We negotiated–hard–to get them. After a couple weeks’ negotiation, the candidate made the choice to pursue a different opportunity.
You might think that a professional recruiter isn’t bothered when a candidate turns them down. Recruiting is a numbers game, after all, and when you’re in a highly competitive market for talent it is a given you will get declines. While the latter is true, allow me to disabuse you of the former.
A good recruiter assesses a candidate’s engagement level and evaluates the likelihood they will accept an offer. There are times when our instincts tell us ‘this candidate isn’t into us’, and in some cases we can raise a candidate’s level of engagement through qualifying and overcoming concerns/anxieties, having key leaders provide information to the candidate about the future vision for the product, etc. Then there are times when something outside our control impacts a decision to accept (family, spouse’s employment).
Having a great candidate decline a critical position is a huge bummer, especially for what we call ‘purple squirrels’–candidates that have such a unique skillset that finding another, similar person will involve a long search.
If you ever find yourself needing to decline a position, consider reading my earlier post on how to gracefully turn down a job offer before making that call or sending that email. And know that if the recruiter sounds disappointed, it’s likely quite genuine.