How to have a candidate never drop out again

Experiencing candidate dropouts is probably up there with the worst parts of the job as a recruiter.

But unpredictability is part of the game when our job centres around working with people.

However, there is a lot we can control as recruiters, and the best don't experience anywhere near as many candidate dropouts as average performers.

So what do they do differently?

Here are 12 things that top performers do exceptionally well to prevent those painful dropouts.

P.S. If you enjoy this newsletter, you will love attending our Hector Recruitment Growth Events. They consist of networking, 10-minute power talks from three current top performers and Q&A - we have an upcoming growth event in Manchester in 5 weeks; you can join the waiting list here to be first in line to grab tickets (Speakers & Tickets will be very soon 👀)

Candidate dropouts are the bane of every recruiter’s life.

There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you have a role filled and then at the last second, someone drops out.

Although there are unique situations that can result in a candidate drop out, the majority of the time the clues have been there all along - you just weren’t looking hard enough.

This may sound harsh, but as recruiters we are often an unreliable narrator for our candidates, assuming what they say is 100% true. 

In reality, there are a lot of clues that can enable us to tell when our process has not been managed effectively.

We’re going to give you 12 key pieces of advice that you can implement, so you can get rid of drop-outs for good.

#1 Clear role expectations outlined

Candidates can drop out for a number of reasons, but the #1 cause of early dropouts is that candidates do not know what the job entails, and they don’t want to waste their time with a recruiter who communicates poorly. 

It’s harsh, but it’s true.

To prevent early drop-outs, you need to get a candidate bought into your opportunity by ensuring that the role expectations are clearly outlined. 

Your candidate should be 100% clear on what the job is before you start booking them into interviews. Just because you think they’re perfect doesn’t mean that they want your job.

#2 Regular communication touchpoints

For a perm process, you should be speaking to your candidate before and after each interview, and the same applies for contractors. 

You should be catching up with your contractors once a week, and you should be aiming to speak to permanent employees once a month once they’ve accepted a role.

During the interview process, you need to gauge with each candidate how they like to communicate and ensure that you are also following their lines of communication, especially if they’re at work and need discreet communication from you.

#3 Personalise the process

Similar to regular communication touchpoints, make the process personalised for your candidate. 

If you know that they hate e-mails but love WhatsApp, can you text them instead to provide them with updates? 

If they prefer video calls to phone calls, can you accommodate them? Whatever is going to help you build trust with candidates, you need to do it.

#4 Call out red flags or things you aren’t sure of 

If a candidate is presenting you with a red flag, it’s important to call it out to them immediately and discuss it instead of brushing it under the carpet.

Some examples are:

The package isn’t what they want

  • What does that need to look like for them to accept it?

  • What other packages are currently being offered?

  • What are their non-negotiables, and what are they flexible on?

Remote working/hybrid working

  • What do they like/dislike and what needs to change?

  • What are their concerns with the current working arrangements on offer?

Losing interest in the role

  • At what stage has this happened? Is it after the interview? Was something said?

  • Is it another role they’re interviewing for?

  • Have they got interview fatigue or something going on in their personal life?

It’s your job to find out what these red flags mean and either mitigate them, or know that it’s time to cut the process short.

#5 Prioritise high-quality feedback

This goes without saying, but if you aren’t giving your candidates clear feedback and giving them space to speak about it and understand it, they’re going to feel cast aside and not valued.

Some great tips for this are as follows:

  • Book in longer calls for feedback so they aren’t rushed, ideally outside of their working hours so they can be present

  • Understand their feedback first before presenting the clients so you can sell against motivations

  • Find out their concerns and act as a sounding board for anything they’re unsure of

  • Be clear on what the next steps are and ensure you come back to them promptly with anything you were unable to answer on this initial call, the next time you speak

#6 There’s a difference between selling against motivations and simply ignoring your candidates’ wants

Sometimes, candidates need a helping hand to get them hyped about a role. 

Maybe they’re junior, or maybe they’re really experienced and haven’t interviewed in a while. Cold feet don’t mean they aren’t interested - you need to understand what their motivations are and sell against them effectively!

Now, this is really different to simply ignoring what a candidate is saying and trying to sell to them anyway.

For example, let’s say a non-negotiable for them is that they need to work 3 days from home. 

You are trying to sell them to take 2, even though they’ve told you point blank that the minimum they need is 3. You are fighting a losing battle. 

There may be times when you can sell against this, but you need to understand that candidates are not going to bargain their non-negotiable if they are really important to them.

#7 Know when it’s time to let go 

Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security when it comes to candidate control. You know in your gut when it’s time to pull a candidate from the process.

This doesn’t mean that you’ve done your job badly - in fact, it shows that you’re taking responsibility. 

You need to protect your clients as much as your candidates, and wasting valuable time on a candidate who is never going to take your offer is pointless.

Whether it’s a gut feeling or you have enough red flags to know that it’s time to let go, don’t put off doing this as they will simply drop out later on in the process.

#8 Talk about the package on every single key call

Although money isn’t everything, money is still a huge deciding factor for candidates when accepting a role. 

You need to consistently remind them of the package that they are going for as well as any additional benefits (car allowance, healthcare allowance etc) that are bonuses on top of what their standard basic salary is. 

Consistently informing candidates and getting their thoughts at different parts of the process is crucial. 

A candidate may say ‘yes’ to a salary before the interview, but later on down the line, think they want to ask for more because of the responsibilities that they will have. It’s important to never assume and always ask these crucial questions.

For example:

“Now you have had the interview and understand the role and what is expected, how does this compare to the salary we discussed at the beginning of the process?”

“What are your current thoughts on the package that you have been offered?”

“What do you like the most about this package and why? What has changed since we last spoke and why?”

#9 Always be closing

It’s a cliché statement, but it couldn’t be more true. You need to ensure that you are closing candidates at key points during the process and always getting an idea of whether their feelings towards a role change. 

Closing a candidate can be as simple as realigning with them on whether they would accept an offer if it had X, Y and Z components and if anything else has changed since you last spoke to them. 

You can do this on every single call, but make sure it isn’t overkill (for example, if you spoke to them yesterday, and you’re calling them quickly for a piece of information, don’t then go into closing them - it isn’t the time or the place). 

Having candidate control through closing on every/most calls will ensure that you have a watertight process, and also give you the confidence to accept an offer on your candidates’ behalf. 

Especially if your candidate is in multiple other processes, it’s your duty of care to remind them about this role on every call so they don’t get it mixed up with other opportunities.

A great way of doing this is:

“If you were to be offered this role tomorrow, what would your reaction be?”

“If you were offered X salary, would you accept or would you decline?”

“The client has come back with X as a provisional offer, what are your thoughts?”

It’s important to always check in with your candidates and Always. Be. Closing! 

#10 Never lose sight of their other processes

Even if you are ‘certain’ in your gut that your candidate is going to stick with you and your client(s), don’t assume they aren’t in demand elsewhere. 

Always make sure that you have full oversight of all of the processes they’re in as well as how they feel about them, especially if you have them interviewing with more than one client of yours. 

If you know that they’re working with another recruiter, and you weren’t able to get exclusivity to represent them - you need to be HOT on what those processes are and understand them inside out.

#11 Counteroffers

Counteroffers are a huge contributor to candidates dropping out. It’s crucial that you’re consistently talking to your candidates about how they will speak to their current employer and how they will manage a counteroffer. Especially if you have a candidate who has never dealt with a counteroffer before, it’s important that you’ve spent time talking through with them what their counteroffer could look like, as well as gauging whether a counteroffer would sway their decision.

It will also allow you to see your candidates’ true motivations: is it simply a salary increase or is it more than that?

#12 Cross-examination

When you do experience a drop out, it’s important to look at yourself and the process and assess what you could have done differently. You’re not going to be perfect - but if you ignore your mistakes and refuse to acknowledge the part you have played then you’re never going to improve. The best recruiters prevent future drop outs by being willing to look in the mirror

Sometimes drop outs can’t be controlled but what can be controlled are your emotions + the experience you deliver, even if you don’t get the end outcome. Some of your best promoters and referrals can come from people you didn’t place, but you did a terrific job with, so keep this in mind!

P.S. Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

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