Recruitment and the Runaway Bride


After telephone screen, two personal interviews, and reference checks, you roll out an offer letter to the promising bright star, which he/she accepts. But comes Monday, even the visiting cards have been printed and when the phone rings, its sets your heart palpitating

It’s your Dream Candidate who has now turned into Julia Roberts, the bride-to-be who skipped town just days before her planned wedding in Georgia,

Hi. You know, after talking over the offer with my family, I’m unfortunately going to have to decline.” You ask why. The candidate gives you some song-and-dance about this decision being the best thing for their family. They want me to remain in Kolkata. Shifting to Mumbai will be difficult at this point of time.

It sets in chain a flurry of reactions in the organisation. If a consultant is in the loop, he/she sadly gets blasted left, right and centre by the recruiter.

“Your candidate backed out”

The consultant is being all trussed up with nowhere to hide. Because when your candidate goes through a long process, gets hired, strings you along, makes all the right noises and then ditches you at the last minute, you’re the messenger — and you get shot.

“Unavoidable Circumstances” or “unforeseen situations- Analysis

Maybe the prospect was not serious about leaving current job, and attending interviews just to assess the so-called ‘market value’

It is akin to a Bollywood love triangle where the girl agrees to get married to a guy that the family found. Just when the knot is to be tied, the hero emerges and takes the bride away. Maybe HR/Line Manager convinces him/her to stay back through a counter offer



It’s akin to the Bollywood ‘ Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ where Kajol getting engaged with Salman, goes to the summer camp to find her long lost love – Shahrukh and then dumpes Salman to marry Shahrukh


Maybe the prospect was a Shark. He used you to “up” his earnings. He shopped for the best deal. You were obviously not the best. Meanwhile, he just kept your letter in his pocket for comfort. (There’s even a dedicated site for people who have accepted offers and are serving notice periods, who want to look for options — an open and deliberate breach of contract!)

Is a blacklisting CIBIL like directory a way out?

It has been a roller coaster year for us at Serial backouts from candidates had left us in the lurch.  In frustation we proposal to create a CIBIL like national directory to record all instances of candidates  backing out after they get a an offer letter and saw the post getting quite viral[i]. With 100+ comments and 400 likes, with the HR community and jobseekers from across the world voicing their concerns on the topic


There was a massive outcry against the thought, candidates being equally vocal, saying HRs also drag their feet, keep them waiting etc etc.


One IIM Indore graduate, a banker now said on FB – Similarly, also ban people who go to shops, take quote for goods and do not end up buying. Mark them as defaulters in CIBIL. Next time you go to buy groceries, your CIBIL record should be checked.

Are Penalty Clauses a way out?

In the past, leading corporates like Phillips Carbon Black have inserted a ‘penalty clause’ in their offer letter to 15 candidates holding them liable to pay 5% of offered salary (CTC) if they accept the offer but don’t join. The intent to enforce was clear when one vice-president hopeful had to pay Rs 4.5 lakh for breaching it.

“It takes us back by months if a probable employee backtracks. We ask them to think twice before signing the offer letter,” said Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, executive director of human resources (HR) of the carbon maker.

Such penalty clause is uncommon in India but niche skilled jobs in the West have this clause. Legal experts say that such a clause is absolutely valid as it does not hinder the employee’s right to earn a living. It is a very smart and legal way of weaving in the exact damages that one has to pay if there is a breach of contract[ii]

Play the ‘Tom Vs Jerry’ game smartly and with care


In this Tom Vs Jerry game, what could be the precautions?

  • Make it snappy: Nothing succeeds like speed. When the organisation does its homework and then takes the leap of faith with lightning speed, the employee has very little time to think. Sometimes the length of the process tends to increase the anxiety for the employee, forcing him to reconsider his decision. So, never ever interview candidates and then assume they’ll be happy to wait patiently. They’ll just lose interest. Fast. Applies a lot in case of CA Industrial Trainees and CA Freshers, where candidate are desperate to join the first feasible job.
  • Can you make him an “Offer that he cannot refuse”? Was the first time you discussed money with the candidate was in the job offer itself? Did the HR discuss whether there were any benefits that were must-haves for the candidate and could be potential deal-breakers?” Surprise!
  1. Probation period salary is different to their post-probation salary
  2. “You can’t take any annual leave until you’ve been here for a year! “
  3. “You’ll be expected to work until 9:00pm 3 nights a week and we don’t cover taxi fares”.
  4. We know you interviewed in our head office, but you’ll actually be based out in [insert dodgy neighbourhood one hour away]”.
  • Comfort, emotional fit, the feel good factor are all very important. Could we have taken the spouse into confidence and understood whether he/she was equally convinced about the new employer?
  • Could we have asked the candidate “What other job options are you taking a look at? How does our job rank in relation to the others? If Company X made you an offer that was identical to ours, which one would you take?” However, it is unlikely that you get an honest answer here.
  • 45-60 days before they join, HCL, a leading IT company steps up efforts to engage candidates. It uses ‘gamification’ where it tests candidates’ participation and keenness through quizzes. If a candidate does not participate or interacts with other colleagues, it is a sign that he may drop out. The company reaches out to him and re-engages. Similarly, EY, a leading Big 4 firm asks managers to call a probable employee before he joins to show that the firm is interested in him. They sell the job profile and give the probable a hamper of detailed job descriptions, company profile and career path chalked out. [iii]
  • Hound the search consultant to keep exploring the market and have a back-up ready J

Summing Up

If they still back out, maybe the marriage being called off was better than an early divorce. Let us not forget that we are only human and let us accept the fact that they too are also just human like us and not anything else. Like us they too can have many internal and external influences/flaws for them to change their decision at a drop of a hat or act differently at times without any rhyme or reason.

The trick here is to constantly learn from ones mistakes and not repeat the same mistake the next time round. A good recruiter is one who will reinvent himself and bounce back stronger, better and smarter.