Candidate Replacement: How to Do It Right? CNA IT Case Study

Volodymyr Bilyk
28 April 2021

Candidate replacement is one of the most challenging aspects of modern recruitment. One moment your candidate is on their way towards accepting the job offer, and then they get snatched by the counteroffer.

That’s a common scenario. What’s the best strategy to overcome this challenge? Find a replacement candidate. 

A couple of months ago, we had a case that involved finding a replacement candidate at the last moment. 

In our previous articles, we have talked about the importance of candidate retention and having a backup candidate. In this article, we are going to showcase how to secure a candidate replacement without disrupting the recruitment process.

The Context: Finding Team Lead Candidates in Fintech

Candidate Replacement - How To Do It Right?

The client’s company was operating in the fintech sector with a focus on consumer-level solutions. They were gearing up a new project and needed a well-rounded specialist for the tech lead position. 

  • The position requirements weren’t complex. The tech stack was demanding but well-represented within our talent pool. So it wasn’t much of a hassle to find matching candidates.
  • The challenge was at the experience level of the candidates. The position required a seasoned professional with lots of experience managing all sorts of teams.

The thing with such candidates is that they are primarily passive in their job search. 

Thankfully, the company had a solid compensation package, an established team, and well-defined workflows – all that helped persuade candidates to apply and stay engaged throughout the recruitment process.  

Overall, we’ve rounded up three top candidates with near-total matches for the position requirements. 

  • One of them went all the way through every screening and interview and got a job offer.

That’s where things got interesting.

It ain’t over until it is over, or why the backup plan matters?

Jumping to conclusions before the fact is one of the most common recruitment mistakes in IT companies. As such, it is one of the reasons why the candidate replacement might be needed at all.

It is easy to understand why. After a long and winding recruitment process, with numerous screenings and interviews – it seems like sending a job offer is the end of the line, and the job is done.

Well, that’s not how it works.

  • The thing is – sending a job offer is just that. 
  • In a way, a job offer is almost like a stock option – one can buy it, but it is not like he is obliged to do so. 

Technically, it seems obvious that if the company sends a job offer, the candidate almost certainly will accept it. 

Usually, that’s the way it goes. But not always. 

    • The recruitment cycle concludes when the candidate puts pen to paper and officially accepts the job offer. (Mostly, we have a case study about retaining candidates during the onboarding process – you can read it right here).
    • That’s why CNA International IT maintains a candidate replacement guarantee up until the conclusion of the probation period. 
  • Until then, it is not over. 

Because of that, it is essential to have a plan B, a backup candidate to save the day if the other candidate falls through.

So what happened next? Well, the candidate passed on the offer.

What can go wrong while the candidate considers the job offer? Spoiler: Counteroffer

Candidate Replacement - How To Do It Right?

The candidate can decline a job offer for a variety of reasons. It might be as simple as having second thoughts regarding switching jobs, or it can be due to overwhelming circumstances like global events (pandemic, etc.). 

But more often than not – the reason why a seeming surefire hire declines a job offer is a counteroffer. That’s what happened in our case.

  • The thing is – other companies also have recruiters looking for high-profile specialists. 
  • Furthermore, it is not like the candidate’s current employer will let him go without a fight. 

That’s what happened. Here’s how it went down:

  • Our top candidate got a job offer and announced his departure.
  • The current employer went all guns blazing to keep the employee in the company by matching an offer with something even bigger and better.

And somehow – they managed to pull it off. 

  • The candidate called in and said that he was passing on the offer and explained his reasoning.
  • Extensive back and forth allowed to reconstruct the course of events, but the candidate was adamant about his decision.

So what are you going to do when your top candidate falls through? 

Why does candidate replacement matter?

Candidate Replacement - How To Do It Right?

Here’s what the dedicated recruiter Anna Mishuk has to say about it:

  • Things are going lightning fast in IT recruitment. One moment it seems like the job is done, and when something goes wrong, and you are back at square one. 
  • Because of that, it is critical to have a diverse selection of candidates at hand. Even though the client usually moves forward with one particular candidate, it is crucial to maintain communication with the other top candidates if something goes wrong. 
  • For the most part, this kind of communication works for your networking. But sometimes, it can save the day. That’s exactly what happened. 

The story goes. 

  • The candidate got an offer. His current employer made a counteroffer that was too good to refuse. 
  • If we declined the other top candidates right at the moment of the client sending a job offer to his top choice – that would have been a problem. 

But it wasn’t because we stayed in touch with the other candidates and right after the bad news came – we’ve made a swift follow-up to find out whether we need to restart the recruitment process from scratch or there is a chance to go on from the last checkpoint.

How to persuade the candidate to reapply?

Candidate Replacement - How To Do It Right?

The thing with candidate replacement is that no one likes to be number 2. 

Because of that, terms like “backup candidate” or “replacement candidate” don’t reflect the reality of the situation. There is no standby mode in recruitment – you’re either in the mix or not. It is just an informal term to describe the makeshift approach.

In reality, securing a replacement candidate is the matter of persuading the candidate to reapply after pulling a stop.

How to do it right? That’s where the employer’s value proposition makes a difference.

  • It is essential to remind the candidate of the pros of applying for the position.

In our case – it was twofold.

  • Reiteration of the uniqueness of the project compared with the candidate’s current employment.
  • Pointing out how critical the vacant position is to the success of the project. 
  • Emphasizing the superior compensation package with a massive focus on career development.

The aftermath

We’ve managed to persuade the candidate to reapply. Because of that, the recruitment process remained intact after the counteroffer disruption. The candidate replacement maneuver worked and there was no need to start from scratch, which would have ramped up the recruitment costs

After going through the remaining interview stages, the new candidate received a job offer and most crucially accepted it. He is still working for the company and is one of the top performers. 

If you need to fill your recruitment needs or looking for a recruitment solution – our consultants can help you out.


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