The Mysterious Case of the Missing Candidate

Some of you reading this might not be old enough to remember the Hardy Boys or the Nancy Drew book series. (Although you might remember the Nancy Drew movie starring Emma Roberts from 2007).

For those of you who don’t know, the Hardy brothers and Nancy Drew were teenage sleuths of literary fiction who specialized in solving mysteries. And I have just such a mystery for you now, “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Candidate.”

I draw upon my personal experiences many times when writing articles and blog posts. I also draw upon the experiences of others, including other recruiters, and that’s what I’ll be doing with this article. Nothing is more impactful than real life, and actual case studies serve to illustrate the importance of doing things the correct way in the employment marketplace, especially for the benefit of your career and reputation.

Vanishing without a trace . . . or a clue

A friend of mine who is also a search consultant and recruiter recently relayed a story to me. In this story, the recruiter placed a 25-year old candidate in a position with one of his clients. That candidate’s first day of work was scheduled to be on a Monday.

Monday came and went, but the candidate did not show up for work to start her new position. Of course, the recruiter’s client let them know about the situation. So the recruiter called the candidate to check on her whereabouts, but the candidate did not answer. My recruiter friend became worried, wondering if something had happened to the candidate. Perhaps she had been in an automobile accident? Maybe there had been a family emergency or tragedy?

Another day passed and the recruiter continued to call, but the candidate still did not answer her phone. It got to the point that the recruiter was considering contacting the police and filing a missing person’s report.

The recruiter had the phone number of the candidate’s father, so he called and expressed his concern, detailing his plan for contacting the authorities about the matter. The candidate’s father said that he’d seen his daughter twice lately, including during a Father’s Day brunch two days previously. As the recruiter hung up the phone, he was even more perplexed. So what happened next?

Ten minutes later, the candidate called the recruiter.

Had the candidate been in an automobile accident? Was there an emergency? Or a tragedy? The answer to all of these questions is the same: no. What happened was that the candidate had received another offer after accepting the offer extended by the recruiter’s client. The candidate decided the second offer was better, accepted it, and then started employment with that organization the previous day.

This, as you might imagine, brings up a whole slew of questions. 

A tale of bizarre behaviors that mystifies

Let’s recap what happened during “The Mysterious Case of the Missing Candidate.” Specifically, let’s recap the candidate’s behavior during the case. The candidate:

  • Accepted an offer of employment, giving her word that she would begin employment with the recruiter’s client on a specific day.
  • ALSO accepted another offer of employment extended by another company, even though she had given her commitment to the first organization.
  • Did not call the first organization to tell the hiring manager that she had accepted another offer and would not be showing up for work.
  • Did not call the recruiter to tell them that she had accepted another offer and would not be showing up for work.
  • Did not answer the phone when both the recruiter and their client called her to inquire where she was.
  • Did not return the repeated calls of both the recruiter and their client when they both left voicemail messages.
  • Only called the recruiter after presumably receiving a call from her father apprising her of the fact that the recruiter was considering contacting the police.

I’ve been in the recruiting profession for more than 20 years, and this tale mystifies even me. It’s difficult for me to believe that such a series of events occurred. I’ve addressed the subject of accepting an offer of employment before. When you accept an offer, this is what you are NOT saying:

“Yes, I accept your offer of employment, unless my current employer or some other company I’m interviewing with offers me something better, in which case I will take their offer instead.”

The hiring manager and other company officials did not extend the offer, thinking to themselves that as long as the candidate didn’t receive a better offer, she was going to show up for work. They 100% thought that she was going to show up for work because that’s what she said she was going to do!

Sacrificing long-term success for short-term gain

There are numerous problems with this candidate’s behavior. You might think I’m just saying that because I’m a recruiter and I’m sympathizing with my friend. That’s not the case. This is unacceptable behavior for one reason: the fact that it’s unacceptable. My recruiter friend is going to place more candidates. However, the candidate has severely tarnished her reputation. In short, the only person that the candidate truly hurt was herself.

She may have thought that she helped herself by taking the better offer, but that’s only in the short term. She made a sacrifice for that short-term gain, and that sacrifice was her reputation. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Will the recruiter ever consider working with that candidate again?
  • Will the recruiter’s client ever consider hiring that candidate again?
  • Does the candidate believe that she’ll be working at her new employer for the rest of her career? (Since she’s 25 years old, that would be the next 40 years of her life.)

This is a classic case of “burning bridges.” This candidate torched more than one bridge during this “series of unfortunate events.” (I know, I’m referencing another classic book series altogether, but it’s still applicable to this case study.)

There is a right way and a wrong way to do things, and that definitely applies to your career. Never sacrifice long-term success for short-term gain. Always keep your word once you give it. And follow through on your promises.

Professional success in the marketplace is not as mysterious as some people make it out to be.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of organizations. If this is something you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.