Watch Out for These 5 Onboarding Red Flags

Aug 6, 2013

red flagYou’ve just locked down the perfect candidate. You sourced and screened him; your client interviewed and loved him; you extended him an offer and he accepted — time to run a victory lap!

Not so fast.

As recruiters, we sometimes forget how daunting a job change can be for candidates. While more than 25 percent of the U.S. population “experience some career transition” every year, it’s still a move full of ambiguity that requires adaptation to an entirely new environment and, sometimes, a variety of logistical challenges. For those reasons, step into your candidate’s shoes once an offer has been accepted. In doing so, you can begin to anticipate and troubleshoot potential setbacks. Below are the top five red flags recruiters should watch for during the onboarding process, and some suggested best practices for responding to them.

Red Flag: The candidate directly expresses uncertainty about still wanting the job.

What’s Likely Going On: He received an appealing counteroffer from his current employer.

How to Handle It: Talk to the candidate directly about his counteroffer. Request additional details and let him know you’d like to share those details with the hiring manager so he or she can respond directly. Remind the candidate how invested and interested the hiring manager is in bringing him onboard to join the organization.

Also discuss the risks of accepting counteroffers, including how this experience could affect his future promotion path, raise structure, and overall status at his current company. Help the candidate understand that in many instances a counteroffer does not successfully address the candidate’s real reason for leaving the job. Then get the hiring manager and candidate together to reignite the strong match and re-sell the opportunity.

Red Flag: The candidate continues to bring up a lot of additional questions about the offer.

What‘s Likely Going On: The candidate still has questions or concerns that haven’t been addressed yet.

How to Handle It: It costs companies $4,000 on average to hire a new employee, yet research shows that companies can lose as many as 15 percent of new hires in the period between offer acceptance and their start date.

It is a recruiter’s responsibility to make sure the deal is sealed through proactive, regular communication with the candidate throughout the onboarding process. If you sense hesitation, call the candidate out immediately and inform him the hiring manager is available to personally address any questions or issues. Directly ask the candidate, “Is the reason you are asking all these questions because you are hesitating about the job?” This provides recruiters with a chance to connect with the candidate on a personal level, offer more information about the position, and drive home a harder sell. You can do this by sending the candidate regular “new hire check in” emails leading up to his start date, and by encouraging your hiring manager to do the same. These emails should include an FAQ sheet built specifically to address the new hire’s potential questions regarding his specific position.

You should also send the hiring manager a “new hire confirmation email” to reiterate details about the candidate, the job, and start date. Use this email correspondence as an opportunity to encourage onboarding participation by ensuring that all necessary steps are taken on the hiring manager’s end to prepare for the new hire.

Red Flag: The candidate is not returning phone calls or emails for an extended period of time.

What’s Likely Going On: The candidate is second-guessing his decision to move forward with the new position.

How to Handle It: If you feel as though a candidate may be gearing up to decline an opportunity, even after the offer has been signed, be proactive and aim for transparency. Confirm his interest in the job and pitch him again on the benefits of the job, specifically highlighting how it aligns with his goals. Don’t attempt to salvage the deal yourself or accept a decline on the spot — always bring in the hiring manager to engage in further negotiation and conversations with the candidate.

Red Flag: The candidate unexpectedly asks for an extended start date.

What’s Likely Going On: The agreed-upon start date turned out to be unrealistic for the candidate.

How to Handle It: Every vacancy at a company comes at a cost, and 38 percent of U.S. companies say they have experienced negative implications from extended job vacancies. Therefore, recruiters must strategize with hiring managers regarding a candidate’s extended start date and also speak with the candidate to determine the root cause of the request.

Explain to the candidate that there are important reasons tied to the start date, such as trainings, coincided start dates of new peers, and project deadlines. Typically a requested start-date extension links to a logistical problem that can be easily solved. If this is the case, recruiters can work with hiring managers to provide the candidate with flexibility and/or resources. The candidate may also be requesting more time in order to process another opportunity or may be second-guessing the decision in general. If this is the case, the conversation needs to broaden. The recruiter should directly engage the candidate and explicitly ask if the extended start date request is so that they can consider other options. If this is revealed, the recruiter should immediately partner with the hiring manager to help re-establish the candidate’s confirmed acceptance.

Red Flag: The candidate is not complying with requests for information or documentation.

What’s Likely Going On: The candidate is hiding something or is delaying the process due to other in-progress job interviews.

How to Handle It: Be upfront with a candidate who is not following the process. It’s likely he is doing so either because he feels he may fail the process or he has changed his mind about the position. If you suspect the candidate is still interviewing, ask him outright whether he is entertaining other job possibilities. If so, use this conversation to re-sell the candidate on your position and the benefits of the role and plan to connect the candidate with the hiring manager very soon. Ask for specifics about his other opportunities so that you can position the hiring manager with good target information. If you suspect your candidate may fail his drug test or may otherwise fail to comply with documentation requirements, flag the issue to the hiring manager immediately and always have a “plan B” candidate at-the-ready if it is confirmed that this candidate cannot complete the process.

Finding the perfect candidate for your hiring manager is tough, which is why once an offer has been made and accepted, it’s all the more important to ensure that the onboarding process is seamless.

Be proactive; make sure you’re talking with the candidate openly throughout the process. Pinpoint and address red flags right from the start to ensure your perfect candidate doesn’t slip away.

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