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The One That Got Away. Why Recruitment Doesn’t Stop When the Candidate says “Yes.”


By: Jan Nickerson, Senior Outplacement Consultant

Who doesn’t love to check off a task when it is completed?  There is a weight off our shoulders, freeing up our time and energy to take on the next project with its planning objectives and timelines.  Once again, we dutifully we track our progress against milestones, and pay close attention until projects are completed. We can then check the box completed and move on to the next project.

When it comes to talent acquisition, however, take care to not check off the box prematurely.  Successful recruitment does not end once a candidate has accepted an offer. Instead, it must continue seamlessly until the candidate begins and is fully onboard. Otherwise, companies risk losing that perfect candidate.

What’s at stake.

In today’s tight labor market, it can take three, four, five and even more months to find a candidate who is the right fit. A 2019 retention report from the Work Institute indicated that on average, it costs an employer $15,000 when they lose an employee. In addition, there is the loss of productivity and profits associated with the vacancy and the added workload placed on employees who need to cover the gap.

But here’s another data point worth considering: The Work institute also found that 44% of new employees left within the first 90 days, which means the recruitment process had to start all over again. And delaying further productivity and profitability from the position being filled.

The risk of radio silence.

Imagine getting engaged and then hearing nothing from your future spouse until the wedding day. In many cultures, the engagement would not last. And yet, this is what often happens once a candidate has accepted an offer—companies go “radio silent.”

Coming off of the emotional rush of being wooed, this “dead zone” of silence is eerie. It can leave candidates feeling ignored and unwanted. While the hiring manager is focused on catching up on work that was neglected during the search, the “new hire” is left wondering whether the company has suddenly lost interest. Doubts about the organization’s culture, financial stability and whether the role is a good fit can creep in, and the candidate begins to lose interest altogether. This period of uncertainty leaves the door open for another company to swoop in with a better offer or for a current employer to make a counteroffer.

A case in point…

I recently worked with an engaging candidate who was articulate, passionate and knowledgeable about his business. Three prospective employers were eager to hire him. As his career transitions counselor, I spoke with him several times a week as he weighed his options. Ultimately, he chose the first firm that he was most enamored with from the start. He verbally accepted the offer and waited for follow-up paperwork.

Once the other firms learned that he had not yet accepted an offer in writing, they continued to pursue him. More than a week went by with no word from the original company, and one of the other companies ultimately made an offer that he simply could not resist. He accepted the offer from the third company and is happily working there today.

What companies can do.

While there are certainly no guarantees, there are steps companies can take to lessen the likelihood of a candidate backing out of an accepted offer.

  • Maintain a streamlined hiring process. Ideally, make an offer within a week following the final interview. Wow the candidate with an offer the same day!  Companies that efficiently collect feedback, have clarity about their hiring criteria, and quickly arrive at a consensus about which candidate will get the offer stand a better chance of keeping their hiring on track.
  • Be transparent. Let the candidate know what the timeline is for background checks, drug screenings, and calls with references. Update the candidate as steps have been completed.
  • Avoid surprises. Make sure that caveats, such as non-competes, ownership of intellectual property, and waiting periods surrounding benefits are discussed verbally before candidates are startled reading about them in the written offer.
  • Begin onboarding from the moment of acceptance. During the two to three-week period between acceptance and start date, keep in touch with the candidate at least once a week to answer questions, provide updates, and reiterate how excited the company is to have the candidate join the team.  Make it personal – let the candidate know how excited you personally are to have him or her join the firm.  If there is a company meeting or tradeshow event the candidate would benefit from attending, consider extending an invitation to pay for travel.
  • Ask the candidate to work on an assignment. This might take the form of researching a competing organization, reading an article about the industry, or providing insights into a particular challenge the department is facing. It is important, however, to be respectful of your candidate’s time as she closes out her current role.
  • Include spouses and families. If there is a move involved, invite the spouse to travel for a house hunting trip. Ask if there are any aspects of the community, such as soccer programs, schools or cultural attractions, that the family is particularly interested in learning about.


As with all relationships, communication is a key part of forming a positive bond between a company and a new hire. Organizations that have a strong communication process in place from the beginning will be more successful in recruiting, in keeping the right candidate and in retaining existing employees.