How to Combat Falloffs and Turndowns

Falloffs and Turndowns

The enemies of every recruiter: turndowns and falloffs. We’ve all been there. Your star candidate accepts a counteroffer, or that sure thing turns out to be anything but when your candidate suddenly says yes to another position. We’re often left scratching our heads asking… 


How could this happen? The turndown and the falloff are the dirty words any recruiter or recruiting manager would like to live without. And why are they happening so often now? 


The demand for talent has increased substantially. Top talent can afford to be picky about their terms of employment.  Hiring managers know how difficult (and expensive) it is to find and train replacements for top performers, so they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep them. It’s a tough market for recruiters, and it’s getting harder and harder to shake loose firmly embedded talent from their comfortable positions. 


We make it harder on ourselves, too. Most turndowns and falloffs happen thanks to our own professional carelessness. Let’s face it: recruiters aren’t perfect. No matter how professional or experienced we are, we sometimes miss critical steps in the process. 


Things fall through the cracks. And when we take shortcuts in the placement process— simple mistakes such as failing to cover the counter offer early and often, or not following up after a placement is made, increases the likelihood of a turndown or fall off dramatically. 


Right now, it’s a candidate’s market and it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. But, don’t throw in the towel just yet, fortunately, there are steps we can take to minimize, if not completely prevent, turndowns and falloffs. 


1. Truly get to know your candidate 


Don’t be in such a rush to fill a job order that you skip the crucial step of getting to know your candidate. Instead of just completing a rough candidate datasheet and quickly submitting the candidate for the position, take a minute to slow down. 


Take the time to understand what your candidate likes and dislikes about their current position and employer and discover what they would change about their current situation. Gain an understanding of their personal life: hobbies, recreational activities, their spouse and children, what they would like to do more of, etc. Try to find out everything you can about their personal and professional priorities. 

A career move is not just about the candidate—it’s about anyone in their circle that will be impacted by the change. Today’s candidates make a strong effort to balance work with personal affairs and you, as a recruiter or employer, need to understand how a career move can affect that balance. 


Find out the real reason behind the desire for a change and it’s usually not money. Finally, understand your candidate’s dream job. 

What is their ideal job? The perfect next move in their career? 


Only then can you be more than just a recruiter. You’ll know what makes them tick, why they’re ready for a job change, and what they want next in their careers. When you develop this level of professional relationship with your candidates, you will increase the odds of successful placement and decrease the chances of turndowns and falloffs. 


2. Encourage candidates to ask current employers for changes 


It may sound like you’re helping the opposing team, but it works. Once you understand a candidate’s motivation for a job change, encourage them to ask their employer to accommodate their needs. 


The vast majority of the time our candidates won’t want to do this. But, it’s a great way to flush out other areas of professional dissatisfaction to help the candidate really commit to the idea of a job change. 


The best time to get the candidate out of the process is in the first conversation. Once the candidate actually attempts to resign, the hiring manager will likely make an effort to change the situation that’s causing the employee to look for another job. 


Never go forward with a candidate unless they have a good reason for considering a new position, or if they go to their employer to ask for changes in their current situation. Let them know that you don’t want to waste your time searching for the ideal position unless they’re absolutely ready to make a change. Make them prove it to you.


 3. Get a verbal agreement about a potential job change 


Eliminate uncertainty by attaining a verbal agreement from a candidate about their commitment to a career move. Get a confirmation that once you’ve found the right position, one that fills the void that their current position does not, and one that is a desirable next step to their career path, more often than not, they will act. 


By verbalizing this commitment to change, it becomes a reality. Avoid working with candidates who are too unrealistic. If they say, “If you find me the perfect job that fits every criterion I am looking for, then I’ll make a job change” Perfection in the hiring process doesn’t exist. 


The key to getting a verbal commitment is to take a few of the major motivating points for making a change and fulfill them. Once you have it, it’s time to discuss roles in the process and then set expectations. 

4. Establishing roles and setting expectations 


One of the most important steps in the recruiting process is to establish roles and set expectations. Like any relationship, the recruiter/candidate needs ground rules in order to thrive. Clearly define how your team will all work together. Many recruiters don’t, and then wonder why phone calls are never returned and feedback isn’t given. 


A great way to begin a relationship is to explain your role in the recruiting process; ideally, a professional job description. It is a powerful tool for a recruiter. You have a significant role in this process. 


It’s also important to set expectations on preferred communication methods and times as well as an expected timeframe to return calls. Be firm. Discuss the ramifications of not honoring the ground rules. Let candidates know that they can and will be dropped from the process if they don’t play fair. 


5. Get their skin in the game


The more skin in the game, the better chance you have of winning. It all starts by getting the candidate’s commitment upfront to a new opportunity. From being flexible in scheduling time to talk, sending in a resume on time, to updating a resume to highlight the most recent relevant experience, it all amounts to the skin in the game. 


It can be helpful to have candidates send an email explaining why they are a perfect fit not only professionally, but also personally for the opportunity. Try to have candidates do something for the hiring manager or recruiter all throughout the process, from providing a list of researched competitors to a 90-day business plan of what they would do if they got the job, this keeps the candidate deeply involved in the process and encourages their commitment going forward. 


6. Requalify at every contact 


Every time you talk to your candidate, make sure you have a handle on their commitment level. Ask “has anything changed in your work or personal life since the last time we spoke?” Be a great listener. 


If something has changed, make sure you really understand the impact it may have on the process of job search. Requalify, “On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being you are ready to take the new job, where are you in the decision-making process today?”


Follow up with, “What do we need to do to get you to a 10?” Things can change in an instant. Make sure you’re understanding your candidate’s position daily. 


7. Accepting the offer on their behalf 


Know where the candidate needs to be on a financial level. Many candidates hate this, but if you are truly working closely together, there are no issues with discussing this upfront. Ascertain what an offer needs to be financially in order for the opportunity to make sense for the candidate. 


Don’t accept from the candidate “I want to evaluate the opportunity first to determine that.” because that is a losing proposition. What many candidates want is to take a job is based on its specific requirements. 


However, this is invalid in the eyes of hiring managers. They consider a position pay range and what a candidate currently earns and come up with a figure that usually doesn’t go much beyond the midpoint. Inject a dose of reality here. 

Candidates need to understand that at max they’ll be looking at a 10-15% raise from their current position. If a candidate has a problem with these figures, it’s time to remove them from the hiring process. 


Once you’ve agreed upon a number that the candidate can live with from an earning perspective, get a further commitment of acceptance. Ask, “If things go well in the interview, and you like what you see, and the hiring manager likes what he sees, can I accept an offer at $X on your behalf after the final interview?”


 Many times candidates don’t like this question. But, a good recruiter maintains control of the process at all times. If the candidate raises any objections, for instance, “I need to see the benefits, vacation policy, etc.”  Simply reply with “Let’s assume all the data is in line and meets expectations in the final interview, can I accept the offer on your behalf?”


If there is any answer other than yes, there’s more going on than what the candidate is telling you. There may be another issue pending, or a hidden objection. At that point, it is time to start digging for the real issues. 


8. Covering the counteroffer – both emotional and financial 


Because companies won’t let their best talent walk out the door without a fight, it’s hugely important for recruiters to give candidates a thorough explanation of the counteroffer and a strategy to deal with it, and be sure to cover this early on in the process. 


Make sure candidates understand it is a certainty. There are two types of counteroffers that come when a good employee resigns. One, the emotional counter offer that appeals to an employee’s sense of honor, loyalty, or guilt. It may sound like, “We built this together!” or “you are a critical part of our team!” 


Prepare your candidate for an emotional roller coaster and help them ride it out. Financial counteroffers are becoming more and more aggressive thanks to the costs associated with losing a productive employee. 


Make sure your candidate knows that it’s coming. This is the time to explain the reality of working for a firm once they’re on notice that an employee has considered another job. From the firm’s perspective, the employee’s loyalty is gone and they’re the first to go if cuts need to be made. 

From a candidate’s perspective, point out that things haven’t changed, it’s still the same job, company, and people they were dissatisfied with. Rejecting counteroffers, both emotional and financial, is in the long-term interest of the candidate, no matter what the circumstances. 


9. Role-play through the counteroffer 


Handle the counteroffer by equipping a candidate with confidence. Role-playing is a great way to prepare for this eventual circumstance. It gives the candidate the chance to address in advance any emotional and financial counteroffers. You can be of great help here. 


Encourage the candidate to focus on the transition plan, explaining that it’s not about the company, it’s about the candidate’s future, family, and career. Make sure they understand the importance of keeping a friendly relationship with their current employers. 


Entertaining a counteroffer and then rejecting it completely destroys that relationship, and burning bridges is not the way to walk out the door. 


10. Don’t forget about a placed candidate 


Starting a new job is tough. Many companies really struggle with the onboarding process and have trouble ensuring that the new employee gets off to a good start. It’s an uncomfortable first thirty days for most new employees. And, this is when they’re most vulnerable to a call from their past employers. 


Recruiters should touch base often with any placed candidates for the first 90 days in a new position. Contact candidates on their first day, after two weeks, on the one-month anniversary of their hire, and after 90 days. If, in your conversations, you detect a problem, address it immediately with the assigned hiring manager and the candidate. 


Ask the hiring manager to help resolve the issue and to help with transitioning and onboarding. Your goal is to make sure that your candidate and the hiring manager have the best chance of successfully working together. Turndowns and falloffs are professional hazards for any recruiter. 


They can be damaging to your reputation, to your confidence, and to your relationship with your client that you have worked so hard to attain. That’s why the best recruiters are proactive. They work with their clients to develop a win-win hiring process, educate them on the marketplace, and get them involved in helping to sell candidates on opportunities to head off these deal-breakers. Minimizing turndowns and falloffs are all about the details. Don’t take shortcuts that cause you to miss critical information. Take the time to implement these 10 steps into your process now to maximize your recruiting success in the challenging market ahead.

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