Who pays when a candidate quits early?

We had toasted his new job only 7 weeks before when I got the call. Things were not going well, and he was going to leave. The honeymoon had lasted a record short 48 hours, and things had gone downhill from there.

He described a horrible on-boarding process. Nobody was interested in helping him get installed. Everyone was stuck in their old ways, bickering, putting in their hours and then going home. There was zero camaraderie, and nobody gave a shit. He was spending more time in meetings about product features than actually in the code. There had been such a high turnover of developers, that the code was a mess and making even small changes required an oversized effort. He had inherited more technical debt than Greece, and he wanted out.

I begged for him to stay. Maybe he was being over-dramatic. There is often some “buyers remorse” in a new job once the honeymoon period is over. But he wasn’t having it. He quit the next day.

Things don’t always work out the way one hopes, and that is certainly true in recruiting. Sometimes, despite thorough interviewing, vetting, and the best of intentions, candidates don’t make it past the 90 days. The question is, who is to blame when something like this happens?

As expected, I got an email the next day. “XXXX quit today. Please send a check for XXXXX”. In this case, I had assumed all the risk and was bearing the brunt.

Many people will always say “the recruiter should take the risk” and to that I answer “SCREW YOU!”. Did I advise you to have an on-boarding process as exciting as that of the DMV? Was it my idea to have an offsite at Applebees?

Bottom line is that the risk of a poor fit needs to be shared between the recruiter and the employer.

Ok, now that the ranting is over, here are a few ways to make for a happy recruiter/client relationship even when shit hits the fan:

  • Have an extremely thorough interview process: a strong process is your main defense against a bad hire. Don’t hesitate to go all out. Do a back channel reference check without the candidate or recruiter knowing. The onus is on you to make the right decision, so go ahead and be picky.
  • The risk gets shifted over the 90 days: if the candidate leaves before 30 days, then you get all the money back. Between 30 and 60, less so, and so on and so forth.
  • If you insist on having a full 90 day guarantee, then offer something better than a refund: allow the recruiter to replace the candidate or re-credit for another search. This provides the recruiter with cash flow peace of mind.
  • Build trust over time: once the recruiter sees that your company is not a revolving door, then you will be able to negotiate for a full 90 day refund. There is risk on both sides, don’t forget.

There will always be recruiters who will work for a full 90 day refund. Just like there will always be 4 dollar sushi, 3 dollar umbrellas, and 300 dollar cruises (looking at you, Carnival).

Do you want to entrust one of your company’s most important functions to them?


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