New Employee Resignation: Who Should Take the Blame?

Nobody likes a new employee resignation or a situation in which a new employee is fired shortly after being hired. (Recruiters commonly refer to both of these situations as a fall-off.) Except maybe the candidate who fell off. Maybe they received another offer after working at their new employer for a month or less. Perhaps they hated their new boss and decided to travel the countryside like Jack Reacher.

But recruiters don’t like fall-offs, and employers certainly do not. But the like-ability of fall-offs are really not at the heart of this discussion. As with most issues, what people really want to know is this:

Whose fault is it, for crying out loud!

Well, if you ask the recruiter, they’ll probably say it was their client’s fault. If you ask the hiring manager, they’ll probably say it was the recruiter’s fault.

Let’s start with the “elephant in the room.” It’s obviously the candidate’s fault! Because if they hadn’t fallen off (through a resignation or otherwise), then there would be NO fall-off!

Okay, okay . . . we can all agree that the candidate is the villain in this situation. But who really is at fault? Or is nobody at fault? These are good questions to which we shall attempt to find good answers. Or at least plausible explanations. Or at the very least, “second shooter on the grassy knoll” conjectures.

“The Case of the New Employee Resignation”

To solve this Hardy Boys mystery, let’s work backwards. Who is ultimately responsible for deciding which candidate will be blessed with an offer of employment? The employer is ultimately responsible.

Yes, the recruiter is responsible for presenting candidates. However, hiring officials are the ones who decide which candidates continue through the process and which do not. And of course, those officials decide which candidate is the winner.

So . . . it’s the employer’s fault! The mystery is solved!

Not quite so fast, skippy. There are a lot of different factors involved here, including the following:

  • Whether it’s an exclusive search or a non-exclusive search
  • Whether it’s a contingency search or a retained search (or a hybrid of the two)
  • Other sourcing methods that the organization may be employing
  • The length of the hiring process in terms of days and weeks

Example: a hypothetical for-instance illustration

Let’s use the first factor listed above in an example. Let’s say a recruiter has a recruitment agency exclusivity agreement for a search. As a result, their client is only going to consider candidates that the recruiter presents. That means 100% of the candidate pool is being provided by the recruiter.

Conversely, that also means the recruiter is 100% responsible for the candidates from which company officials will choose. The organization’s options are only as good as the options the recruiter presents.

So let’s also say that the company ultimately selects a candidate to win the “offer of employment derby.” The candidate accepts the offer, starts work, and becomes a new employee resignation. In other words, they promptly quit 17 days later, well within the recruitment agency guarantee period.

Who is at fault? (Besides the candidate. Darn them.)

What we’re looking at is shared blame. Sure, the company was ultimately responsible for selecting the candidate. And it was also responsible for the candidate’s experience after being hired. However, while there were things that company officials could have done to avoid a new employee resignation, there were things that the recruiter could have done, as well:

  • If the candidate was a fall-off risk because they weren’t a great fit, culturally or otherwise, the recruiter could have identified that risk.
  • If the candidate was a fall-off risk because they were entertaining multiple offers, the recruiter could have identified that risk, too.

So let’s take a step back. Since the employer ultimately selected the “winning candidate,” it is responsible to some degree for the new employee resignation. But since the recruiter presented the “winning candidate” and gave them a full endorsement, they are also responsible to some degree.

The question is this: how is the degree of blame proportioned?

The blame game: fun for the whole family!

Here’s how it works. Since the search was an exclusive search on retainer, the company made a greater commitment to the recruiter. Basically, company officials said, “We believe in the value that you provide, and we want to rely on that value exclusively.” Consequently, the recruiter made the search a top priority on their desk. Theoretically, they brought their A-game to the search.

And if a recruiter’s A-game results in a fall-off . . .

Sure, there are things that happen that are out of a recruiter’s control. And out of the control of their client. Candidates can be flighty. They can be unpredictable. Heck, they can lie right to your face. The bottom line, though, is that recruiters are in the business of talent analysis.

So in this case, let’s say the recruiter is to blame 50% and their client is to blame 50%. Seems fair, right?

BUT what if the search was a non-exclusive, contingency search? Well, then. That’s a “horse of a different color” for the following reasons:

  • The company did NOT put “all of its eggs” in the recruiter’s basket with an exclusive search.
  • The recruiter did NOT present 100% of the candidate pool. So the company had plenty of other options from which to choose.
  • In addition, the recruiter might not have given the search top priority. (No A-game. Maybe a B-game. Let’s hope they didn’t sink to a C-game.)

Priority + urgency + commitment

In this situation, the employer is making less of a commitment to the recruiter. They’re not relying on the value that the recruiter brings to the process exclusively. The recruiter, conversely is “mirroring” their client by making less of a commitment to the search. But notice that the client is setting the tone in terms of priority, urgency, and commitment. The recruiter is simply taking their cue from the client.

So in this particular instance, how should the degree of blame be proportioned?

Since the company set the tone of less priority, urgency, and commitment, then it is more responsible for the new employee resignation. For the sake of argument, let’s say the recruiter is to blame 25% and the company is to blame 75%. And that’s probably the most a recruiter should be blamed in this situation. Depending upon the circumstances, it could be 80-20 or even 90-10.

Some hiring managers might try to tell you that they put the same amount of urgency on every search. They might also say that they treat all searches equally. Baloney. This is planet Earth. Some searches are more important than others. As a result, organizations treat them differently.

So with all of this in mind, this statement should make sense:

If an organization is putting a high priority on a search, they’re devoting more time, energy, effort, and money to it. And if they’re devoting more of those resources to it, then there should be less of a chance that there will be a fall-off.

Not only that, but . . .

If a recruiter takes their cue from their client and puts a higher priority on a search, they’re also devoting more time, energy, effort, and money to it. And if that’s the case, it should also contribute to less chance of a fall-off.

New employee resignation: gambles to guarantees

There are quite a few recruiters who believe they should never be blamed for a new employee resignation or other fall-off, not even 1% blame. However, it is undeniable that the candidate the recruiter presented and endorsed fell off. Sure, there might have been things completely out of the recruiter’s control. That’s why they’re never 100% to blame for fall-offs.

But how many times has a recruiter watched one of their candidates accept an offer of employment and then crossed their fingers? Why? Because they’re hoping the candidate makes it past the guarantee period. They know the candidate is a risk. Recruiters gamble all the time with candidates. So, essentially, do employers.

Are we saying that every placement is essentially a gamble? To varying degrees, yes. When you gamble, sometimes you win. And sometimes you lose (insert fall-offs here). But when you gamble and lose, should you point the finger completely at somebody else and blame them? No, that doesn’t make much sense.

When an organization hires a recruiter to help fill a position, it represents a shared gamble on the part of both the organization and the recruiter. If they share in the gamble, then they share in the blame should that gamble fail. As we’ve discussed, the only question is the degree to which they share in the blame.

Survey says . . . you’re responsible!

Ultimately, how responsible recruiters feel for fall-offs rests on just one statistic: how many of them offer a guarantee to their clients. Top Echelon conducted a survey of recruiters regarding guarantees. As part of that survey, we asked them the following question:

Do you offer a recruitment guarantee to your clients regarding placed candidates?

As you can see, the overwhelming majority DO offer a guarantee.

  • Yes—95.9%
    No—4.1%

If you are responsible enough for a new employee resignation or other fall-off to offer a guarantee, then you feel as though you’re at least partly responsible. True, recruiters offer all sorts of different guarantees. Some are 30 days. Some are 90 days. Then there are refund guarantees, not to mention replacement guarantees only. But the recruiter is offering a guarantee that the candidate will not fall off. And a guarantee, but its very nature, denotes responsibility for the outcome.

Except maybe for the 4.1%, who have somehow convinced their clients that they are NOT responsible in any way, shape, or form for a new employee resignation or fall-off. Even if they might be a little responsible. No, they’ve convinced their clients that the clients are responsible. Or perhaps they’ve convinced their clients that the candidate is the one who is ultimately responsible.

Thus escaping responsibility, theoretical or otherwise, while placing it squarely on the shoulders of the most deserving party (who has zero interest in rectifying the situation) and still retaining their full fee.

Who says recruiters aren’t master salespeople?

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