A Post Mortem

By Ted Dieck | Candidate Advisory - Pick | Aug 23, 2021

I often share two reliable rules about the recruiting industry:
1) I (you) never get to know all the important information.
2) Time is the enemy.

I have this quirky thing… Whenever a deal falls through, I can hardly wait to dig into it, to see what I might learn.  Even better, years later, I can look back at my notes and see if lessons learned still apply.

In this example, we won’t try to figure out whether the end results were ultimately good or bad for the folks involved.  We may never get to know that.

Instead, here’s a look at how little, tiny surprises can suddenly and completely change a conversation. 

The Set Up

I had a request to fill a high level management position for a group of companies.

A week later, a similar but subordinate position opened up for one of the member companies of that group.

Amazingly, in a couple of days, I had the perfect match for the lesser position.

The employer’s urgency was clear. We were filling an existing opening. Everything was pre-approved. And the employer met with the candidate immediately.

The employer made an offer to my candidate the following week.

Sounds great, right?

The Shift

While all this was happening, the employer quickly filled the higher level position through their own efforts. And, of course, they had also extended the offer to my candidate (for the subordinate position.)

Looking back, with both these solutions in place, the employer’s urgency began to abate.

Meanwhile, my candidate elected to make a counter proposal. It wasn’t a terribly significant change. I suspect the candidate wanted to demonstrate that he was a good negotiator. Someone who wouldn’t just roll over and take whatever was offered.

Unaware that the employer’s urgency had declined, albeit very slightly, the candidate continued handling his own negotiations, just as he had requested. He probably never realized anything had shifted.

The Stakes

The candidate was employed by a company in decline. He now had the opportunity to join a growing company. In doing so, he had the further opportunity to work a broader arena. By his estimate, he could literally have had ten times the impact with the new employer, versus his existing position.

On the face of it, the little bump he requested for his base income was not a detriment to the developing agreement.

Both parties agreed.

The Stall Out

Although both parties – the candidate and the employer – were in agreement, final approval was mysteriously delayed.

The leadership of the overall conglomerate considered the deal for about a month.

When the final decision came down, the ownership determined there was no particular reason to put two new people on the payroll. The high level manager would be expensive enough and should get important results on his own.

The group would wait to fill the subordinate position and save a little money.  When the new group manager was up and running, he could add his own people.

Honestly, I can’t really argue with that logic.

The Surprise

The local President was surprised by the decision. The candidate was shocked.

I had kicked into neutral long ago, because the candidate insisted that he handle his own affairs.

Realistically, the overall group would likely end up in good shape. They had a high level manager signed on.

The candidate, technically, was in no worse shape.  He was still employed.

And, being human, the candidate dealt with his rejection by deciding that it was all for the best. Probably there was something wrong with the growing company. Staying with the declining company was the best bet for him.


I asked the employer this question: If the candidate had immediately accepted the initial offer, would he have been welcomed aboard?

Answer: Yes, absolutely, if he had acted quickly.

Time will tell how much of this matters to anyone over the long haul.

I would offer these thoughts for any candidate who is negotiating terms of employment…

Time is not on your side.

Your deal may well be contingent upon the approval of someone you don’t know and may never meet.

Your deal is influenced by factors that you and the employer cannot control.

Broaden your connections. The more inclusive your conversations, the more likely you are to get that critical Heads Up notice when something is changing.

Companies can think of a million reasons why they shouldn’t hire anyone.

Expect to get a little crazy. Keep notes and review them. When your emotions cloud your judgment, your notes should remind you and guide you.

Time is not on your side.

Secure all the help you can get.

Keep your conversations collaborative. Avoid yes/no situations.

Develop mutually beneficial positions. Demonstrate why your requests are also in the best interests of the employer.

Move quickly and thoroughly. Don’t leave important issues up in the air.

And, did I mention?

Time is not on your side.