Trial Ballooning a Job Offer: A Lesson in Stupidity…

In search, one is focused on ONE GOAL, to find the best talent available in America in the shortest possible time frame. Hold that thought… for just a moment.

Recently I was engaged in a search assignment (did I mention a VERY difficult search assignment? ~ didn’t think so). After weeks and weeks of working very diligently to find Mr. or Ms. Wonderful we had the perfect candidate. Great fit, right location, ideal background and – a highly motivated candidate. So far so good. Right? I thought so too. Out of nowhere, the HR lead called me and asked me to “float the candidate a trial balloon (offer)” – “a what?” You heard me. “Just give them a call and tell them we are thinking about making them an offer.” And (he went on to say) “and if we do it it might look like this”…. think about it? If we do? Might look like this? Are you kidding me? Not a good plan. It’s either yes or no. PERIOD.

When it comes to emotionally engaging a candidate to evaluate a new opportunity, involving their family and their valuable time and resources to consider joining a company, the (very) last thing I want to do is play games with my candidate. C’mon! It’s sort of like:

A. You either want to make an offer


B. You don’t

It’s not that hard people. Really! I decided to pass on the games he wanted to play as it was NOT genuine and would have forced this candidate to take another look at the company in a whole different light. The hiring manager went ballistic at this brilliant idea and we passed on the silly little game he wanted to play – made the offer and closed the search.

Trial balloons and What ifs don’t work in search. Either get serious or get out. Sorry (not really).

About the author


Tim Tolan

Tim Tolan is the Senior Partner of the Healthcare IT and Services Practice of Sanford Rose Associates. He has conducted searches for CEOs, presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents of business development, product development and sales. Tim is also the co-author of "The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition – Finding Talent Your Competitors Overlook," available on Amazon.

1 Comment

  • Tim,

    Great post… Unfortunately this happens quite often. Someone within the organization making the offer doesn’t realize the emotional impact something like this will have on a candidate who is considering a life changing decision.

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