Backup candidate is a reflection of the nature of the recruiter’s work – being everchanging and needing a failsafe option. Things are always happening too fast, with a slight tendency of veering on falling apart. 

In the recruitment process context, the everchanging state of things usually manifests itself through candidates dropping off at the last moment for one reason or another. 

Because of that, having a backup candidate to fall back on is quite a good idea and a reasonable approach. Even though it is more of a makeshift approach. 

However, there are numerous misconceptions regarding this topic. In this article, we are going to sort things out.

Who are Backup Candidates?

Who are Backup Candidates

First and foremost, the backup candidate is an informal term. It describes one of the precautionary measures recruiters take to assure the recruitment process’s consistency and efficiency regardless of circumstances. 

  • The backup candidate is a type of candidate the recruiters retain despite proceeding with the top candidate. 
  • But how? For the most part, the recruiter stays in touch with the candidate regardless of outcome – that’s networking in action.
  • The goal is to have a candidate at hand and avoid restarting the whole recruitment process because of one candidate declining an offer.

The thing is, it is about making the most out of “rounding up the usual suspects.” 

Naturally, the further the recruitment process goes, the fewer candidates are in the mix. More and more candidates receive declines. In the end, there is only one top candidate who gets a job offer. 

That’s where backup candidates come in handy.

What qualifies a backup candidate?

  • There are no fixed qualifiers for backup candidate or candidate replacement, except for matching expertise and remuneration expectations according to the position requirements.  
  • Sometimes, the replacement candidate comes from recruiter’s on-hand contacts. Usually, these are the candidates that were in the mix for the vacant position.
  • The reasons why these candidates are not the top choices may vary. It can be something related to work experience, technology expertise, other skills, or salary expectations.
  • At the recruitment process’s latter stages, the candidates are usually close enough. Thus the priority depends on the client’s impression of the candidates.

Backup candidate vs. Replacement Candidate: What’s the difference?

One of the biggest challenges of explaining what backup candidates are is that it is often mistaken with the replacement candidates. 

There is a difference.

  • The backup candidate is an informal term for the candidates kept in the recruitment process on standby if the candidate who received a job offer falls through and declines an offer. 
    • Due to fast pace of the recruitment process at the job offer stage (the common consideration time for job offers is around three to five days) – there is no visible hold-up for the candidate.
    • Because of that, backup candidates are more or less the recruiter’s means of persevering in the event of a top candidate falling through.
  • The replacement candidate is a type of recruitment guarantee written down in the contract under specific terms. It means that if the hired candidate fails to succeed during the probation period, the recruitment agency will provide a replacement.
    • The terms of replacement may vary due to contract, position, and industry specifics. 

Either way, there is a difference in the timeframe. 

  • Backup candidates are part of the initial recruitment cycle. It extends the continuity by swift recalibration.
  • In contrast, a replacement candidate is an entirely new recruitment cycle based on the previous recruitment cycle. 

Now let’s explain why having a backup candidate is a winning strategy.

Why backup candidates is a viable recruitment approach?

backup candidates viable business practice

The main reason why backup candidates are a viable recruitment technique is that it is a cost-effective failsafe function that eventually pays off. 

Here’s why? It is never a good thing to have only one option. 

The thing is – there are too many things going on with the candidates during the recruitment process that is beyond the recruiter’s control. As such, there is always a risk.  

What happens when the candidate falls off, and you don’t have any backup?

Here’s a brief breakdown: 

  • The top candidate gets an offer; everyone else gets a decline. However, the top candidate declines an offer. Other candidates had moved on.
  • The recruitment process restarts from the ground up;
  • Starting the process anew means additional recruitment costs – monetary, time investments, operational costs;
  • Besides, there are productivity losses on the company side. The more vacant position remains open – the worse it can get. 
  • The candidates don’t stay still after they receive a decline. They move on, and chances are by the time you are restarting the recruiting operation – most of them are unavailable. 

In contrast, maintaining backup candidates is one of the vital components of cost-effective recruitment and an effective hiring process as it allows to keep things going without significant readjustments.

Here’s what happens when there are backup candidates at hand:

  • The top candidate declines a job offer. An attempt to change his mind goes nowhere.
  • Upon receiving the news, instead of starting the recruitment cycle all over again, the recruiters can shrug it off with a backup candidate, as there are still a couple of them hot off the final feedback. 
  • How? Employee value proposition plays an integral part in persuading the candidate to reapply.
  • As a result, the continuity of the recruitment process remains intact.

Here’s what’s important. Keeping a backup candidate requires solid candidate retention skills. It is critical to keep the candidate in the loop regarding the proceedings. You can read more about it here.

Now let’s take a look at possible reasons for candidates to fall through.

What can go wrong with the candidate?

why is it important to have back-up candidates

For the lack of a better word, the recruitment process is often fragile. There are many factors beyond the recruiter’s and company’s control. 

Especially at the latter stages of the cycle, right at the point of deciding on the right man for the position and sending a job offer.

Here are a few of the most common:

  • The candidate can receive a counteroffer from their current workplace or the other company they are applying to. The chances are that their offering is more attractive money- or benefits-wise;
    • There is little room for maneuver in case of counteroffer negotiation. Even if you can match the counteroffer, it might end a waste of time because the candidate had already made up his mind.
  • The job offer is not what the candidate was expecting.
    • But for some reason, the candidate soured on the job opportunity and took a pass. Sure, there is a chance to get things back on track. But it is hard to pull off.
    • Important to note that this one is a broader problem that deserves a separate article.
  • Then, there can be external circumstances that may take out the candidate at the last moment. Unfortunately, during a pandemic, it is a much more common thing.

In conclusion

Here’s why you need to keep backup candidates in the mix. It is a little thing, but it can seriously help you if the opportunity arises. 

If your company requires recruitment services or needs consulting regarding the HR process or Employer Branding – our consultants can help you.

Author: Taisiia Mliuzan