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No-shows by candidates up even in tough job market

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The Economic Times
19th August, 2019 23:30 IST

KOLKATA: A strategy head at an ecommerce company recently backed out of accepting an offer after making the recruiter wait for two-and-a-half months. Another candidate for a CXO role in an industrial sector company did the same after agreeing on the draft compensation.

No-shows are no longer restricted to the boom times. There is a rising number of such cases among senior professionals even in this tough job market. Companies and headhunters say this is the new reality, especially in sectors such as digital and technology, where demand exceeds supply. The reasons vary, say headhunters. Some use it as a tactic to negotiate counteroffers and stay back; some try to assess their market worth, and others decide not to leave given the uncertainty of these times. And, there are those with indemand skills, who have more lucrative offers.

“In exciting times when people have multiple offers, no-shows are common. But in difficult times, too, many decide, even after job negotiations, that they prefer remaining in their comfort zone,” said Arun Das Mahapatra, partner-in-charge-India at Heidrick & Struggles. “There is an air of caution in tight markets… So, thoughts like known devil vs an unknown tend to surface,” said A Ramachandran, senior partner at EMA Partners.

The turnaround time for a senior hire is typically four to five months, including the notice period. When a candidate pulls out at the last minute, there is a huge opportunity cost because of significant senior management time that is invested in such hires.

Recently on LinkedIn, AntWorks COO Govind Sandhu outed a candidate who did not turn up after accepting an offer without informing the organisation. The issue triggered a social media debate, after RPG Enterprises chairman Harsh Goenka tweeted about it.

“What candidates need to understand is that there is a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears, and not joining causes a setback in business continuity,” said Goenka. Reneging on an offer at the last minute without an explanation is unprofessional, he said.

BTI Consultants managing director James Agrawal said no-shows tend to be more common in sectors such as digital, startups/ecommerce/IT, where there is enormous disruption and huge focus on human capital. He sees 20-25 such cases a year at the senior level. “In the last two months, we have had as many as nine dropouts in our digital practice,” said Atul Vohra, managing partner at Transearch India.

He said that when good talent leaves a company, it’s intellectual capital walking out of the door and a replacement always costs more in terms of the learning cycle and cultural integration. “Companies will then give a counteroffer and be aggressive about it,” said Vohra.

“It’s important to engage with the candidate and keep an eye out for all potential warning signs that s/he may be having second thoughts,” said Amit Agarwal, managing partner of Stanton Chase India. Heidrick’s Mahapatra said they keep an adequate number of equally strong backups.

All agree that there’s little companies can do, beyond blacklisting. Hari TN, HR head at BigBasket, said neither side should be washing dirty linen in public. “Candidates have a freedom of choice. Sometimes the way they exercise this choice will come across as unprofessional and mercenary… but it still does not call for publicly calling out this behaviour,” said Hari.

Santrupt Misra, director, group HR, at Aditya Birla Group said it is advisable to act with restraint unless one knows the facts. “There are examples where corporates have withdrawn campus offers because business plans change. Why shouldn’t equal rights be with individuals? It depends on facts and the situation,” he said.

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