We all know talent is in demand. Every executive and business owner I talk with mentions how tough it is to find and retain workers. Filling open positions with highly qualified people can be especially difficult. Starting a search, interviewing candidates, checking references and conducting background checks are time consuming and expensive. In addition, there are very real costs associated with leaving positions unfilled (lost revenue, overtime expense and potential burnout for those covering the work, etc.).

After all the time and expense, what happens when your top pick for an open role doesn’t work out? For many organizations and hiring managers, it means starting over. That extends the time a position is unfilled by weeks, or even months, and can double the expense. Surely there’s a better way.

We have a great client here in Northeast Ohio who takes a different approach. We recently filled an executive role for this client only to have the candidate back out a few weeks after he accepted. Fortunately for our client (and our firm), we quickly filled the role with the backup candidate. Here is how our client set the stage for a smooth transition.

1. During the interview process, he identified two candidates – with very different strengths and backgrounds – who could be successful in the role, then selected the candidate who he felt would fit best.

2. He let the runner-up know how impressed he was with her, that he felt fortunate to have two excellent candidates to consider and asked if she would be open to continuing a dialogue in case future roles came open.

3. When the initial candidate backed out, he quickly moved to the runner-up.

4. The client then met with the second candidate and, in his words, rolled out the red carpet! That included telling her the reasons he liked her for the role, being transparent about why he originally selected the other candidate and answering her questions about the situation.

5. He extended a great offer, revisited the importance of the role and talked about the career opportunities that would follow. He covered these items in person.
Even though she was second in sequence, our client never treated her that way. She quickly accepted the role.

As an aside, this particular candidate kept a great attitude throughout the process. Even when she learned that she was not the top choice, she did not take it personally. She agreed to continue a dialogue since she was excited about the role and the company. I believe she will add great value to our client and have a great career.

Not all searches produce two great candidates. When it happens, though, embracing the runner-up may really pay off.

To learn how we can help you attract and retain great people visit our Talent Solutions page.

For more information, contact us today!

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