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Untold stories by “headhunters”: Last-minute disappearance of candidates due to… “parent’s disapproval.”


Posted by Ngoc Thuy Nguyen

about 1 year ago

Each job comes with its own specific risks, but for a headhunter, their risk comes with the golden opportunity to temporarily shift their focus from “filling the gap” to understanding their customers better.

An experienced headhunter’s riveting story

Headhunting first made its way into the Vietnam market in 2003 or 2004.

Ms. Thanh Huong, a professional headhunter with 13 years of experience, recalls her first years on the job, when she was perceived by most as an employment agent, and the difference between the services provided by traditional employment agencies and executive search firms was unnoticed.

“In the past, traditional employment agencies charge their candidates, not their corporate customers, as it was commonly thought that candidates need the job, and not the other way around. However, in the case of an executive search, it is the company that pays to have the talent. The support we provide for candidates is also different, as it covers the entire period before and after they are employed. Fortunately, headhunting has grown in popularity over the years, so public awareness and perception of what we do has improved,” said Ms. Huong.

For professional headhunters like Ms. Huong, going to work could be compared to an emotional roller-coaster. In the morning one could be pleased to receive a candidate’s acceptance of a job offer, only to find in the afternoon that the candidate has changed their mind. “The experience is nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster. It still comes as a shock when a candidate has accepted a job offer, but subsequently disappear without a warning.”

Ms. Huong experienced such a case with one female candidate. She (the candidate) accepted the company’s job offer, and was initially excited about the opportunity, actively asking about the job description, challenges, benefits and incentives, etc. However, she did not show up on the first day, and could not be contacted at all. It took days before Ms. Huong could reach her, and was given a rather surprising answer: Her mom did not approve of it.

As explained by the candidate, she was working in a governmental organization up to that point, which offers job security, as opposed to an “unstable” position in a private or foreign company. Despite her persuasion, the mother was not swayed. The candidate therefore turned down the job in fear of disappointing her mother and her sick grandparent.

From a headhunter’s perspective, the candidate’s behaviour displayed a complete lack of professionalism. The company and headhunter should be informed of any and all changes, regardless of their cause. The incident badly affected both the company and the recruiter. “Normally, each cycle of the recruitment process lasts for one to two months, sometimes up to three to four months, and the agency receives their payment only after the candidate has started working. Should the candidate reject the offer, all the efforts made can be said to have gone to waste," said Ms. Huong.

“Cracking the code of candidates’ rejection”: The art of recruitment

It is, in fact, not that uncommon for candidates to accept a job offer only to reject it later on. Ms Ngoc Lan, Regional Director of Navigos Search, has herself faced such a situation multiple times.

Headhunting focuses on candidates for top-level positions, whose outstanding capabilities have secured them many offers, and Navigos Search is not their only choice. The final decision depends on their priority at a specific time.

“There are many factors involved in the decision to change one’s job: salary, promotion prospects, leadership, the company’s vision, the contribution they can make, time allowed for family, etc. At different points in life, the decision is influenced by different factors, and it is important to understand the candidate’s needs. If what the agency and the company provide is not aligned with these needs, it is only natural that they choose another company,” said Ms. Lan.

According to Ms. Lan, an increasing number of rejects will motivate the headhunter to make a better effort to understand their candidates, not only at that point but also in the future, thereby providing them with a more suitable offer.

Ms. Lan affirms, “We don’t always recommend that candidates go with our suggestion. What truly matters is the candidate’s choice, not what the headhunters wants the candidate to do.”

A new perspective on headhunting – helping candidates discover their full potential, not “poaching” at any price.

According to Mr. Le Minh Dung, in charge of Navigos Search’s recruitment in the areas of petroleum, energy and heavy industries, a headhunter doesn’t simply take risks, but also does their best to understand and support candidates in discovering and realizing their potentials.

Mr. Dung talked about one of his candidates, a capable, ambitious change agent, who was unconfident about his English after a long period without practice. Mr. Dung helped the candidate come up with an action plan, and after a month of constant effort, the candidate was employed for a top-level position in one of the biggest companies in Vietnam. The success not only inspired confidence in the candidate himself, but also customer’s reliability in Navigos’ services.

“When faced with rejection, not every headhunter has the ability to see the candidate’s potential, and to encourage them to change for the better.”

When facing unprofessional behaviors from candidates, the first step is to fully understand why. Sympathy and understanding are required of a consultant, whose task is to help candidates through their tough times.

When a candidate is determined to reject the job offer, it is important that the headhunter respect this decision, and under no circumstances should a headhunter resort to “poaching”.

“Both the companies and candidates are our customers, and we aim to do everything in our power to maximize both parties’ benefits. It is our duty to support the development of both parties, eventually bridging the gap between them to allow for better planning. Should we ever try to “poach” employees from other companies to work for our customers, we will lose our customers’ trust, and therefore our opportunity for growth,” said Mr. Dung.

Source: Café F (