Ed Hunter: How to tell if a Candidate will take a Job

Because I’m at the top of my game and the height of my powers in recruitment, I get asked for my opinion quite a lot.

Only recently, Samantha from my office asked existentially “Ed? Why don’t you p*ss off?”

And, just yesterday in fact, a client and I had a tête-à-tête on some really high level recruitment methods. “Do you really think you’re going to achieve much with an attitude like that Ed?” he pondered over email.

So with this in mind, I thought everyone else might appreciate the benefit of my vast experience.

Here’s how you can tell whether a candidate is going to take a job. Or not. Or maybe.

Scenario 1

It’s your first placement in recruitment. You’ve been working your arse off for just over 6 months with no sign of any real traction. Your boss insists you’re doing a great job, but that things really do need to start moving. You get an exclusive job and find someone perfect. The client’s really happy because they’ve finally found someone after leaving it ‘exclusive’ with no less than twelve agencies over eight months. Your candidate has nothing else on. They’re delighted with the offer and accepted verbally in the final interview.

Is the placement going through?

Yes? No? Hard to tell?

No Idea

Hard to tell to be honest. It’s unlikely though, your first deal in recruitment is harder to achieve than anything you’ve done before. Ever. Even when you have done it, it’ll probably fall out. Your second will be easier for some reason. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is.

Scenario 2

You find a candidate a job that’s closer to their home. They have a young family, so you know a shorter commute is important to them. You’ve managed to negotiate a £10k pay rise and the promise of another salary review in 6 months. The benefits package includes childcare, a generous bonus at the end of the year and they tag you in a selfie on LinkedIn, thanking you and shaking hands with the hiring manager in front of a company sign.

Will they take the job?

Yes? No? Or, hard to tell?

Larry David I Don't Know

Hard to tell really. They might have just been counter-offered with the promise of a promotion and “the end of the year’s ages away”. Also, realistically they accepted this job knowing they weren’t going to see their kids, so maybe they don’t like them. Back to the drawing board, wouldn’t count your chickens here.

Scenario 3

A candidate who’s been out of work for twelve months calls up regarding a contract advertisement you placed. On paper he’s spot on. He tells you the bank’s close to taking the house and the ex missus has threatened not to let him see the kids any more if he doesn’t start working soon. He smashes the interview and as you’re on the phone offering him the job, you hear him patting the dog on the head promising him some food, very soon.

Is he going to take the gig?

Yes? No? Hard to tell?

Tom Hanks Thinking

Again, hard to tell. It might be “one of many things he’s looking at” and although the pay rate is infinitely better than nothing, it’s a much lower rate than they were on 3 years ago. “Have rates really gone down?” The dog’s a pain in the arse at times and it’s one less mouth to feed if he’s not here. Keep that ad up I would.

Scenario 4

A candidate fresh out of university is looking for their first real job. You meet the candidate to make sure they’re reliable. You coach them through the interview process, leaving no stone unturned. You tell them their teeth grill might make them look unprofessional and that cold, limp, fish on the end of their wrist might be better a touch firmer. They somehow get an offer on the same day. They’re delighted. They snapchat you to let you know. Then call to tell you to download Snapchat.

You go along on their first day, even picking them up from home. You’ve made them a packed lunch and drop in to see them regularly over the first three months of their probation period. You joke around on WhatsApp occasionally and even bought them a few drinks that once you saw them out in town.

Are they going to stay in the job past the probation?

Yes? No? Hard to tell?

Monkey Thinking

Probably hard to tell. Now they’ve found out what the working world feels like, it’s not really like university, and to be honest even though this job exactly relates to their degree it’s not their true calling in life. Have you got anything in VR? Or maybe something like robotics? The cool kind, not the car factory stuff.

Scenario 5

You’re working a contract desk. You’ve negotiated an enormous pay rise for a candidate that you’ve worked with on five separate occasions. This contractor is on first name terms with your family. You bought a car off him once and both know you paid over the odds. He owes you, he even told you that after the clutch went 4 months in. This job’s in a country that doesn’t allow nationals of his origin to enter easily. But, because he’s an old friend, you’ve helped him through the visa process and have even paid for his flight over.

He’s out of work now, and thanks you profusely for all the help. A thank you card arrives on his first day including a voucher for a meal-for-two.

Is he going to stay in the job long enough for you to see commission?

Yes? No? Hard to tell?


Impossible to tell. You could ask him, but he probably won’t tell you the truth. He’ll stay in the job for the time being, but don’t question why his CV’s still on a job board, and for the love of god don’t give him grief. He’s only just heard the end of that clutch you burnt out.

Scenario 6

You’ve had a rough month and an even worse quarter. The boss is on your case, and sick of lying or protracting from the truth you tell them it’s looking like curtains for your time here. There’s one placement you’re pretty sure is dead in the water as you haven’t heard back from the client in 5 weeks.

The hiring manager is hard work and the gatekeeper now knows you by your voice alone. They’re pleasant but even they feel sorry for you. There’s one candidate left in process who’s got three other offers.

Will they save you?

Yes? No? Hard to tell?

Adam Scott Don't Know

Yeah, probably, pretty hard to tell though. You’ve lost all hope and this may just be prolonging the inevitable, but if any deal is likely to come in, it’s this one and they’ll probably stay for life. Or just before the probation period is over. Ring that deal bell. But keep your head down on your way back to your desk. No one believes in that hand shake they’re offering you.

Scenario 7

You’re top biller. You’ve guided an able and well versed candidate through an interview process at your best client. They’re senior and will effectively become a client themselves once they sign on the dotted line. They’ve had 6 interview so far. They’ve smashed every one. They realised after the second the MD’s an old university friend who’s asked them for one final ‘box ticking exercise’… drinks with the team.

Obviously, if any deal is going through it’s this one, right? 

Yes? No? Hard to tell?

I Have No Idea

Hard to tell, but probably not. If there’s a stage someone can fudge up, it’s ‘drinks with the team’. Uni was a long time ago for this person, and after enough alcohol, all manner of sins come out. I’d suggest going along to make sure it comes in, but that might jeopardise your relationship too. Back to the job boards with you.

I know, I know. You’re welcome. 


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