We have all experienced it – make the offer and boom, and your lead C-Suite candidate declines. WHAT??? How does this happen? After all, you got verbal acceptance, you checked references and the last thing you know the candidate was all in – or were they? Probably not. Most candidates juggle perceived risk when making a decision to change from one company to another. Let’s examine the three main risk factors and how to uncover, address and negotiate them before you make an offer, ensuring you have an acceptance every time.

There are four areas of risk for top candidates to consider: New Manager Risk (especially if they have not worked with you prior), New Team Risk, New Product/Service Risk and Market Risk. In our current recruiting climate, you will need to address each one of these risks. You will need to make sure your opportunity exceeds what the candidate currently has, or he/she will not make a move.

New Manager Risk

Most important to address is the new manager risk. Assuming you are the hiring manager – this person is coming to work with you. You need to show them what a great leader, and hopefully great person you are. You need to build trust to the point where your candidate believes and feels that you are the very best choice they have. It goes beyond chemistry and into work ethic, integrity, trustworthiness, ability to lead, how well you communicate. Finally, the candidate will assess how you treat them at every step of the way in the recruitment process. You need to make sure you are sending the right signals, consistently, presenting an emotionally even persona, and following through promptly on all promises. You cannot take too much time to deliberate on whether you like this person or not, therefore, it is imperative that you perform your candidate diligence in parallel with the hiring of the candidate – or you will lose them. You will need to communicate continued interest to your selected candidate every 48-72 hours. You may want to ask them out socially to dinner with their spouse or significant other – so you get a feel for what they are like (and they will get a feel for what you are like) in a more casual setting. This all boils down to:  How the candidate feels in your presence, can they trust you, and will they follow you?

Your process to hire from start to finish needs to be about 7-12 weeks max. If the candidate does not feel important you will lose them. Conveying of sense of significance to the candidate can be as simple as thanking them for their time, following up when you say you will, and communicating next steps and timeline to hire while they are in the process. Also, addressing any concerns you may have openly will go a long way into building trust and a strong working relationship.

New Team Risk

The candidate will need to coalesce with his/her peers – the people you have in the company at the executive level. It is important that all key stakeholders (maybe even a customer or two) be exposed to your top selected candidate. It would be ideal if your top two candidates meet everyone, and mutually decide they are a good “fit” – you want the candidate to share the fit sentiment.  You goal is for the team and the candidate to see themselves working together in a productive manner. Communication styles, work ethic and stamina, alignment all need to be considered in the fit equation. It should be a mutual “ good feel”.

The New Product/Service Risk

The candidate wants to feel comfortable that the product or service will perform, and that their contribution will make a significant impact. Most candidates want to add something to their resume – that means that the “been there-done that” candidate is not going to be enticed unless you can offer them something to add to their CV. For instance, a Chief Medical Officer/SVP Clinical wants a product to go from start in the clinic until approval and market. A Chief Commercial Officer needs to have a product launch, and successful commercialization under their belt. A CFO wants to take a company public. You get the point. The CEO is a different animal, and typically loves a challenge, and wants to lead a team to develop a product that impacts the market in a way no other product has to date, or fix a company that underperforms. The CEO will ultimately join because he feels that the board will support him, there is financial resources to back the company,  and he likes the product and the market opportunity.

Market Risk

This is evaluated three ways – size of market opportunity, competitive landscape, and timing, is the market ready for this product/service?. Another factor to consider is, does the candidate buy in? Does your candidate think that the opportunity is real, and is the timing for this product in the market right now or soon? Does the candidate view the opportunity as growth?  Are your projections realistic?

Top level candidates are going to evaluate opportunities in a way that others won’t; they will balance the risk with their professional goals and ability to make impact with your company. They typically make great decisions and are slow to change, and want to see a company through what they sign on to do,  build strong relationships with their team. Your opportunity must exceed what the candidate currently has in a significant way in order for you to acquire this talent. A strong recruiter can help you identify candidates that will find your opportunity appealing, and also contribute in a way that meets or exceeds your goals.