Recruitment: When A Candidates Can’t Say “Yes”

Post by By Rick Dacri, Dacri & Associates, LLC; initially published in the July 2016 MTCMA newsletter


Finding the perfect candidate to fill the critical position in your municipality is never easy. Search, interviewing, and reference checking can be draining to you and your staff or board. And once you find the “right” one, you’d like to believe your job is over, but it is not. Getting the candidate to say “yes” is the most important part of the entire recruitment process. Without a “yes” everything else you have done is simply practice.

When a candidate cannot say “yes” to your job offer, you have a problem. Be clear to candidates that they have no more than one week, 10 days at most, to render you an answer. Baring extenuating circumstances, without an affirmative, withdraw the offer and move on. Otherwise, you’ll be left dangling and the candidate will likely reject your offer. In my 30 years of executive recruitment, never have I seen a candidates take an extended time to contemplate an offer and eventually accept it—even during periods of tough negotiations. If they can’t (or won’t) make a decision about a job offer, how can you expect them to make a decision about other aspects of the job? Remember, they either never wanted the job or can’t make up their minds—not very good traits for a new employee.

The Board of a large public organization extended a generous job offer to a highly qualified CEO candidate. The candidate was both surprised and hesitant by the offer (red flags). After one week of negotiations, the candidate asked for additional time to think about it (another red flag). Over the next five weeks, the candidate sought multiple clarifications to the terms of the offer and a delayed starting date before the board ultimately pulled the plug. Even though the board’s executive recruiter recommended withdrawing the offer after 10 days, the board continued the process and was shocked that it came to his point.

What went wrong? Here are 12 tell tale signs that your job offer will likely be rejected:

  1. The candidate seem less than happy about the job offer
  2. The tone of the negotiations is negative
  3. During the negotiations the candidate asks too many questions about unimportant details
  4. You are sensing a reluctance in their questions, comments and body language
  5. The candidate does not give notice to their current employer
  6. The candidate asks that you not check their job references
  7. You are not hearing any discussions about future plans when they join you or phrases like “we can do this when I start”
  8. The candidate is pushing a potential start date months out
  9. The candidate is saying he/she needs to complete unfinished projects before committing to a start date
  10. The candidate is hesitant about signing an acceptance to your offer
  11. If a relocation is necessary, the candidate has failed to contact a realtor or even toured the area
  12. It’s your turn. Let’s hear signs that you have experienced. Email them to me ( and I’ll share in a forthcoming MTCMA article

If you are seeing any of the above signs, it may be time to withdraw the offer.

So what should you do to ensure your job offer is accepted? Here are 10 musts for every successful job offer:

  1. Put the offer in writing. Make sure your letter is clear and concise and includes, at a minimum, the following: job title, reporting structure, starting salary, benefits, date of next review, and acceptance sign-off.
  2. Make the letter welcoming. If it is filled with legalese, you’ll turn off the candidate. Remember, you’re courting the candidate. This is not a prenuptial agreement.
  3. Deliver the offer in person—face to face. You want to be able to immediately address any questions, objections or issues that the candidate may have. You want to see his reaction to your offer. If his body language says “no” you need to find out why—and fast. If an offer absolutely cannot be extended in person, do it over the phone. Setting a positive tone now will increase the odds of getting a “yes” and will guarantee a positive start to the candidate’s employment with you.
  4. Give the offer letter to the candidate after you have delivered the offer in person.
  5. Be prepared to negotiate, particularly with professional positions. However, you’ll get minimal push back on your offer if you already got a clear understanding of what the candidate wants during the job interview.
  6. Be prepared for a counter offer from the candidate’s current employer. If she is good, her boss will probably not give her up without a fight. Discuss the possibility of a counter offer with the candidate during the interview process. Ask her directly if she expects to get one and what she’ll do. Find out early so that you can prepare your response.
  7. Don’t expect an immediate response to your offer. Give the candidate a few days to think about it, but no more than a week. The longer it takes to get a response, the more likely things could go wrong.
  8. Make sure you immediately address any questions or concerns. Never leave a candidate hanging. It sends the wrong message.
  9. Make yourself available, day or night, to respond to a candidate’s question—or to questions from his or her spouse.
  10. Be very clear to a candidate how important they are to you and your organization and why you want them. Be welcoming.

By knowing what your candidate wants before you extend an offer, you increase the odds of getting a positive response. By making it impossible for the candidate to say “no,” you ensure that your job offers will result in an enthusiastic “yes.”

Rick Dacri is a workforce expert, management consultant, and author of the book “Uncomplicating Management: Focus On Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar.” Since 1995 his firm, Dacri & Associates has helped municipalities achieve dramatic improvements in individual and organizational performance. He can be reached at and



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Filed under executive recruitment, municipalities, municipality, Recruitment, Uncategorized

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