don’t let candidates get cold feet: why new expectations call for new talent strategies

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The U.S. unemployment rate continues to hover around historical lows, which means top candidates on the job market enjoy a glut of opportunity. For companies that would hire them, however, the picture is just the opposite. At the same time, the latest research from Randstad reveals that new candidate behaviors are exacerbating these talent pain points — and companies need to adjust to avoid losing out on their most valuable asset.

The top-line takeaways?

  • There's an alarming uptick in the number of “cold-feet candidates” — candidates who accept a job offer, only to change their minds and back out at the last minute. This behavior is particularly prevalent among younger workers, a fact that should be troubling to employers on multiple levels, as we’ll discuss shortly.

  • Employers can counteract this trend by providing more learning and development opportunities, as well as by investing in more robust preboarding processes to keep talent engaged during the transition between offer acceptance and start date. Companies that focus on these two areas will gain an edge going forward.

To unpack our findings and bring you actionable insights, let's dive into Randstad's survey in greater detail. What should be top of mind for organizational leaders in 2019 and beyond? You’re about to find out.

when and why candidates get cold feet

have you ever accepted a job offer and then changed your mind before the start date?

Randstad’s research suggests that cold-feet candidates are no longer exceptions to the rule the way they once were. Interestingly, it’s a shift in behavior that correlates directly with age. By far, younger candidates are more likely than their older counterparts to change their minds after accepting job offers: 34 percent of Gen Z employees report having done so, compared to only 13 percent of baby boomers. And that fact should be doubly troubling for employers.


For one, members of Gen Z constitute the youngest and least experienced workers on the job market. It stands to reason, then, that in their brief professional tenures, they've interviewed for and accepted far fewer jobs than all other cohorts of our increasingly intergenerational workforce. And yet, in that short timeframe, more than one-third of Gen Z workers have already reversed course on a job decision — for employers, a truly frightening proposition.

Secondly, Gen Z is the workforce of tomorrow: 61 million digital natives are arriving at offices and worksites near you soon. Always "on," privileging immediate action over strategic thinking, they bring a litany of new expectations and behaviors to the workplace. Forward-thinking companies will need to make adjustments accordingly.

Furthermore, while every hiring manager knows that making a bad hire can wreak havoc internally, the consequences when a new hire doesn’t show up on the first day can be just as bad. Suddenly, you have to restart the hiring process, having already spent valuable time and resources to make a hire who just didn't show up.

But the good news is that companies aren't powerless when it comes to handling these increasingly prevalent cold-feel candidates. Indeed, there are concrete steps you can take right now to ensure your most valuable talent not only shows up, but sticks around for the long haul, too.

preboarding and robust training are talent best practices of tomorrow

Why are new hires not showing up? To help answer that question, exit interviews are one obvious place to start. And yet, according to Randstad's research, nearly half (45%) of employees have never participated in exit interviews. That's a troubling stat — as well as an easy fix for companies struggling to understand where exactly they’re coming up short from a talent perspective.

Of course, exit interviews are backward-looking. As such, they're only as valuable as the feedback loops they're connected to and the actions they inspire. And that's where "preboarding" comes in: It's a more direct and preemptive approach, a way for companies to intervene and avoid the nightmare of cold-feet candidates.

What does preboarding look like in practice?

Preboarding can take any number of forms, depending on your goals. For instance, one popular approach at many companies today is to use surveys in order to solicit feedback on the hiring process itself. That way, they can engage employees who are waiting in the wings, while gaining insights to make organizational improvements.

By establishing this vital communication pipeline, moreover, you can also share information that will help prepare your new hire for success from day one. For example, a simple checklist of things to know — and things your newest hire should bring with them on their first day of work — is obviously helpful.

Whatever approach you take, preboarding is a great way to educate new employees on relevant topics — or even connect them to others in the organization in advance of their first day. That can reduce any anxiety new hires might have about meeting so many new faces, while ensuring that the new opportunity remains top of mind.

Given the upside, it's surprising to see that almost a third (30%) of organizations today don’t have formal preboarding processes in place. From an industry standpoint, companies in the finance and account and manufacturing and logistics sectors are particularly behind the ball. For these companies, of course, that’s a strategic opportunity as well — and those that adjust course to bolster their talent acquisition processes will likely see improvements fast.

Finally, offering additional training and learning opportunities may be another way for companies to improve perception among new hires and keep negative talent outcomes  at bay. It's also an area where Randstad's survey identified a clear disconnect. Namely, while 70 percent of managers report that their companies always or very often invest in employee development, fewer than half (47%) of employees report the same. This fundamental misalignment suggests that enhanced communication around training and learning opportunities may be just as important as those opportunities themselves. Otherwise, a whole lot of L&D spending is being thrown away.

key takeaways

Attraction, engagement and retention have long been viewed as the three pillars of an effective talent strategy, but new employee behaviors — and new threats like those presented by cold-feet candidates — call for new approaches. With a historically competitive job market and the most in-demand talent often available on the job market for as few as 10 days, companies can't afford to be complacent. To get ahead in 2019 and beyond, forward-looking companies should focus on preboarding and enhanced training opportunities to move the needle with candidates — and see progress on the talent metrics that matter to their bottom lines.


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