We have all experienced it – make a great offer and boom, and your C-Suite candidate declines. WHAT??? How does this happen?
After all, you received verbal acceptance, you checked references and the last thing you thought was that 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 a hire.

There are four areas of risk for top candidates to consider:

  • New Manager Risk
  • New Team Risk
  • New Product/Service Risk
  • Market Risk
In our current recruiting climate, you will need to address each one of these risks, and likely address how you plan to navigate through the pandemic. You will need to make sure your opportunity exceeds what the candidate currently has, or he/she will not 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 manager, and 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 consistently sending the appropriate signals, presenting an emotionally even persona, and following through promptly on all promises.
You cannot take too much time (more than a week or two) to deliberate on whether you like this person or not, it is imperative that you perform your candidate diligence in parallel with the hiring of the candidate – or you will lose them. You, or someone on your team, or the recruiter, will need to communicate continued interest to your selected candidate every 48-72 hours.
You should 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. Now with only outdoor dining, this gets people more relaxed and informal, you will actually get a glimpse into who this person really is.
Your process to hire from start to finish needs to be about 8-10 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 timelines 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 already 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 you sent candidates in a short time for everyone to meet, and decide if they are a good “fit” – you want the candidate to also share the fit sentiment – the team and the candidate can 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 “feel”.
Group video interviews via Zoom/ Microsoft Teams/ etc. are growing in popularity and allow everyone to see each other’s reactions.
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 on the business. 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 a skill or accomplishment 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 is underperforming. The CEO will ultimately join because he/she feels that the board will support him, and he likes the product and the market opportunity, and feel like he/she can make an impact.

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?

Top-level candidates are going to evaluate opportunities in a way that others won’t. They are typically loyal and approach risk of change like this cautiously. Top-level candidates want to see a product through start to finish and build strong relationships with their current CEO/ board and team. Your opportunity must be significantly improved from what the candidate currently has in order for you to acquire this talent.

A strong recruiter will assist you and inform you of what the candidate is really looking for in a new opportunity, and assist you in positioning your company as a top choice. In addition, a strong recruiter will only provide candidates that have an interest and are a good fit for you and your stage of development or growth.  The recruiters also know the market and who is available and what the candidate’s motivation an appetite for change.