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April 01, 2004
Deal Busters
by David Granholm, Owner/President

In a previous life, I managed the Human Resources function. Something that drove me nuts, when I was an HR Manager, was having my offer of employment rejected due to a "deal buster" that could have been addressed by the recruiter during the very first phone conversation with the candidate. After my investment of time and energy with the candidate, it was excruciating to have the deal go south at the last minute. It was a sure bet that my "relationship" with the 3rd party recruiter involved was heading south too. Only rarely were the last minute issues not something that a good qualifying interview would have caught.

Was this the HR Manager’s fault, or the Recruiter’s fault? If we get into the blame game, nobody wins... especially not the 3rd party contingency recruiter who only gets paid after a successful placement. It is mandatory that recruiters ADD VALUE, otherwise we are redundant. There are plenty of ways to do this, and a key way is to make sure that the deal busters are addressed early in the qualifying process.

To really add value in this area of deal busters, we must go far beyond the core qualifying questions. Sure, we need to know if the salary, benefits, and location are acceptable to the candidate. We need to know about relocations needs, vacation expectations, normal work hours, and travel expectations. These are things that all professional recruiters understand. But in my experience, many deal busters seem to creep out of the woodwork just when the offer is being put together. Let’s review a few that I have personally run into.

  1. Salary

    Hey, didn’t we already address this one? If you haven’t asked enough details, you have the classic deal buster on your hands. There are a variety of questions that need to be explored with both the job seeker and the employer. Not just the salary range, but the realistic salary that will be offered. Understand the bonus history, where in the range this candidate would fall, typical increase percentages, and the date of the next review. The recruiter needs to know the absolute minimum the candidate would accept. If the employer will not pay this much, the deal is off; find another candidate. There are sins galore that can be committed when dealing with salary questions but the one I’ve experience the most is the candidate with a rock-bottom minimum acceptable salary that is higher than what the employer will pay. Only thing is... they were sort-of keeping it to themselves. Know the number, because that’s what you are paid for.

  2. The trailing spouse cannot find employment in your city.

    We are a nation of two-income families and the trailing spouse questions are critical to explore. If the trailing spouse has an unusual or industry specific profession, the recruiter needs to know all about it.

  3. The job title is unacceptable.

    I’ve seen job title issues come up on numerous occasions. Although occasionally an "easy fix" deal buster, this one should never come up at the last minute. But since it does, deal with it early. Associate, partner, leader, advisor, coordinator, specialist, etc. I have seen the word "advisor" used in place of the term "supervisor". Would that be acceptable to your candidate? Although some candidates couldn’t care less, to others it is a very big deal and your job to know about it.

  4. Relocation benefits.

    If relocation is to be involved, get summary details on the benefits early on and review them with the candidate. What do you mean they won’t pay to ship my cat?

  5. Job Description doesn’t fit the actual job duties.

    Job descriptions are often written in flowery language or with words and sentence structure that leaves you wondering. Have you ever read a government job description? A better approach is for the recruiter to obtain a description of a "typical day" or "typical week" for this job. Find out from the hiring manager what this person needs to do to be successful. Review this with the candidate instead of the written job description.

  6. Reporting structure.

    The candidate who "has always" reported to the Plant Manager may be unwilling to report to the Operations Manager. It‘s your job to ask!!

  7. Promotion opportunity.

    This is a classic question where the HR Manager will give the recruiter and the candidate the "company line" answer. You are only limited by how high you want to climb. Don’t you believe it. Get specifics. Ask who in the organization has been promoted, how long they were with the company, how long they were in their position, what relocation was required. (Yes, there are plenty of companies that have unwritten rules that require relocation in order to get promoted.) The most impossible question to answer is "average time to promotion" so just be factual with the candidate and give them real-life examples of others who have been promoted.

When I worked as an HR Manager, I really did expect the 3rd party recruiter to have all of these deal busters cleared up early in the process. Realistic or not, it was a matter of redundancy for me. If the outside recruiter was not exploring all these issues, then I had to take care of them. In my mind, that made one of us redundant. Today, as a professional recruiter, one of the most valuable things I offer my clients is the assurance that the deal busters have been addressed.

  About the Author
David Granholm, Owner/President of USA Professional Staffing
David Granholm is the owner/president of USA Professional Staffing, an executive recruiting firm specializing in middle-management placements in manufacturing and distribution. He holds a BA & MA in Management, Human Relations, and Organizational Behavior. David lives with his wife and two sons in Evansville, Indiana and can be reached at 812-962-4878 or

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