Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Back Out candidates phenomena

back out
1. To withdraw from something before completion.
2. To fail to keep a commitment or promise.
Recruiting is a very exciting and challenging profession and even more so when you recruit IT consultants. The challenges for an IT recruiter in today’s job market are in convincing and managing IT job seekers to remain committed and not back out during the hiring process. With the current IT market boom, good IT consultant can find himself with multiple job offers at any given point of time and will get approached and head hunted by head hunters and recruiters alike constantly. And because he has multiple offers at hand he is bound to remain true to himself and not being loyal to anyone consultant, after all he can only take up one offer at one time. This will also means that to the other recruiter he is bound to be another case of a back out candidate.

As a recruiter, the most frustrating aspect of my job is to have in my hand a candidate backing out – during or after the selection process. For most of us, the stress that we go through as a recruiter is not so much from the targets and the deadlines but the uneasy feeling of not knowing if your selected/shortlisted candidate(s) will remain committed to your offer and take up the job.

My first back out experience in Singapore was with a candidate who had a niche-hard- to-find-skill that we sourced and selected from one of the leading software house in Southern India. The pre-qualifying and the interview process went smoothly and the client was happy and they want him on board ASAP. To make a long story short, we waited for him for one month and on the day of his departure he kept us in tenterhooks by not picking up his calls and when we called his home his family will not give us proper response however subsequently we managed to talk to him and he assured us that alls well. But later I got a call from the airport and that was 2:00 in the morning and he told me that he is not flying and he will not be able to join us because of family reason. That’s it. He decided in the last minute he won’t join us. Here our client IBM is under tremendous pressure themselves from their client because this candidate was supposed to be the lead guy and they wanted to parade him in front of the client the following day. Poor me, I had that sinking feeling deep down inside and I just wasn't feeling good at all to face the client.

Backing out of job offers is a big issue especially in country like India because of the bullish job market. I believe the situation is not so bad for organizations which are of repute and are well established such as Infosys, TCS, Wipro, etc but those second and third tier organization are the one facing the brunt of most of the back out cases. This could be attributed mainly due to the fact that the big boys do not have difficulty in attracting job applicants because of their good brand image and willingness to shell out above average market compensation.

Types of back out:
Let’s look at what stages of the recruitment process a back out can possibly happen.
1. Candidate backing out before the interview
2. Candidate backing out after interview
3. Candidate backing out after accepting the offer
4. Candidate backing out before joining
5. Candidate backing out just after joining

Probable reasons for back outs:
Varied reasons can be attributed as to why a candidate back out, from my past experiences below are some of the common ones -
* Have in hand several offers and will decide on the one best offer
* Developing cold feet at the last moment before submitting his/her resignation letter
* HR/Line Manager convinced him/her to stay back
* Was given a very good counter offer by employer so decided to stay back
* Not serious about leaving current job, and attending interviews just because the opportunity was presented to him/her.
* Learnt of the project which was not to his liking/preference/expectation and is not keen on joining
* The final offer not up to his/her expectation
* Did not agree with some of the clause(s) in the offer letter/appointment letter
* His/her friends/contacts gave negative feedback about the organisation so decided not to join
* Required joining time not reasonable
* See what offer he/she can get from the market to negotiate a better salary with existing employer
* Selection process took too long and has already accepted another offer
* Tried re-negotiating for more salary after selection
* Genuinely have personal/family issue because of which he/she cannot take up the offer

Repercussions & affects of backing out:
- Recruitment is an expensive activity. Every time a candidate backs out the recruitment process has to be initiated all over again.
- Good amount of time and effort is wasted to find a new replacement and projects can and do get delayed and all these translates to revenue lost
- But most important of all is the lost of client’s trust. This is non tangible and will have long term adverse affect vis-à-vis client-vendor relationship.

How to avoid & reduce candidates backing out:
• If you and your candidates are in the same area it is always advisable to meet face-to-face.
• Be it on the phone or in person spent as much time as you can and dig for information – what motivates him to look for a change, professional and personal reasons, what are his expectations in terms of money and roles, etc.
• It is important to be in control when it comes to recruiter-candidate relationship. To achieve that it is important that you conduct a thorough pre-qualifying. Get all the low-down about his background and aspiration, et al.
• Always insist on obtaining either verbally and/or in writing his/her response and commitment to the job offer. You may do this with a direct approach or with great subtlety. Which approach you resort to will depend on each individual or their level of seniority – you need to make the right judgment.
• Constantly update him/her on the process and try keeping-in-touch on a frequent basis.
• Pay close attention while talking to him/her and listen for those tones and expressed/unexpressed concerns and look for those signs that might indicate his intentions.
• If any of his/her words, expressions, actions gives you a sense of doubt and concern, then drop him/her and move on. It is better to drop him/her now than later have a back out in your hand.
• Have a set of questionnaire that you can run through with him/her before proceeding to qualify him - questionnaire that will test his seriousness and sincerity to look for a change.
• Do not hesitate to ask them if they have discussed with his/her family members about this plan to look for a job change. Especially for those who are married, please confirm with them if they have consulted their other half.
• Try and get inside your candidate’s mind, understand his needs and his aspiration.
• Pro-actively try to cover all areas that you possibly think will be a likely point of concern (reason for a back out) for him at a later stage and addressed them immediately.

If after all this you have a back out it’s probably all right, after all, let us not forget that we are only human and let us accept the fact that they too are also just human like us and not anything else (wink!). Like us they too can have many internal and external influences/flaws for them to change their decision at a drop of a hat or act differently at times without any rhyme or reason.

The trick here is to constantly learn from ones mistakes and not repeat the same mistake the next time round. A good recruiter is someone who no matter how many times he falters and gets knocked down will reinvent himself and come back again and again but stronger, better and smatter.


Appreciate if you can share any additional suggestions/comments on how one can avoid candidate backing out.

*** Happy hunting folks!***

7 comments:

Arun Kottolli said...

well written article. Well thought out.

Arun Kottolli said...

The main reason for backout is that the candidate is not comfortable with the change. Given the indian culture, there will be more backout cases in India.

Arun

Manmay Madiman said...

Hi, I work with totus consulting, a strategic HR consulting firm in Chennai, India.

Our Principal Consultant Ganesh Chella had written an article in Business Line, a leading business daily in India on the same topic, titled "Problem of the runaway bride".

You can see this at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2006/02/13/stories/2006021300690900.htm. I think it's a pretty interesting read in the light of your article.

Anonymous said...

Very well written.

-Soumya

Sushma said...

Considering the number of candidates who do not show on Joining day in Bangalore, India; I would say your candidate from southern India was not a suprise at all. As a recruiter myself I have always had a Plan B, no position is closed till the candidate joins and spends more than 3 months on the job. That is my learning in recruiting for IT positions.
Your shock and sinking feeling is something I have also faced a number of times in my career as a recruiter.

Faisal M said...

I just had a consultant backing out after the offer, with a start date less than 48 hrs. It is indeed the most disappointing feeling, was just able to face the client and explain the situation.

It happens more in the contracting jobs, especially with the Smaller / Mid level IT consulting co's as they do not seem to value the Client-vendor relationship.

Had lesson learnt, will never submit consultants without an NCA signed and an assurance to hold the consultant for min 2 working days from the date of interview.

Faisal M said...

I just had a consultant backing out after the offer, with a start date less than 48 hrs. It is indeed the most disappointing feeling, was just able to face the client and explain the situation.

It happens more in the contracting jobs, especially with the Smaller / Mid level IT consulting co's as they do not seem to value the Client-vendor relationship.

Had lesson learnt, will never submit consultants without an NCA signed and an assurance to hold the consultant for min 2 working days from the date of interview.