From Offer to Outperformance
John Cassidy

From Offer to Outperformance

The “great resignation” and an upsurge in candidates “ghosting” or not turning up on day one of the new job has caused HR professionals and hiring managers to think harder about retaining and securing top talent.  One of the benefits of working with an external recruiter is that candidates know that failing to engage, turn up for interviews or start the job is likely to undermine their chances of being in a search for the next big appointment.  However, we have also been advising clients that they need to work harder at getting new recruits comfortable with the move they are making as well as accelerating them to peak performance.

We’ve taken a fresh approach to some well-established theories about motivation and performance to build a model which signposts the route from appointment to what Maslow described as “self-actualization” and the desire to “become everything that one is capable of becoming.”  We are attracted to this approach because it takes a fundamentally positive, rather than deficit, view of human development as well as suggesting that peak performance is not a narrow, technical obsession.  What also interests us is that Maslow’s well-known theory about the hierarchy of needs can be inverted to find stress points in a candidate’s journey from appointment to first day in a new role.

Needs, Change and Routes to Success

The hierarchy of needs suggests that before self-actualization a number of other needs have to be fulfilled.  These work from the core physiological needs essential to survival such as food and water, through safety requirements, which includes psychological as well as physical safety, to more complex levels of belonging and self-esteem.  There are too many occasions when people get off to a bad start and companies miss out on optimal performance simply because the basic needs aren’t being met.

Another model we use when discussing this with candidates and clients is based on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stage grief model and has become known widely as “The Change Curve” when used to describe responses to significant change in businesses or for employees.  Changing jobs is regularly listed among the most significant causes of emotional upheaval in life and wise companies pay a lot of attention to ensuring that new recruits are handled carefully on arrival.  Our contention is that the period before somebody arrives in their new job is equally important and is vital if a professional is to make an immediate impact as well as enjoying long-lasting success.

We make no apologies for focusing on the thinking of Maslow and Kübler-Ross even though their theories emerged several decades ago.  We wholly accept that there has been an enormous amount of important, insightful research since then and recommend specific reading where appropriate.   However, we are often talking with generalists who are looking for concepts that offer a broad framework where action relevant to their business can be placed.

From Panic to Performance

We have also created a model by inverting the hierarchy of needs to suggest how to take candidates from offer and acceptance to their first day in the job.  We see the job offer as a moment of self-actualization where the job-seeker realizes their ambition of being selected as the very best candidate after going through an intense round of interviews.  They gain the esteem of colleagues, friends and family by talking about their success and receive congratulations, recognition and credibility.

For some individuals these moments may be the very best that securing a new job brings.  Psychologists have explored many reasons why success can lead to feelings of emptiness, lack of structure or even guilt and a type of failure. It is a slippery slope after the glow of a recruiter’s phone call and the formal offer letter have been received, signed and a new commitment awaits.

Trailing back down the hierarchy of needs, there is a moment that the reality of a pending dislocation from your current work community hits home.  A sense of belonging and social involvement with work colleagues that may have been years in the making and brought comfort, support and enjoyment is now slipping away.  Colleagues may congratulate the person who is leaving while saying how much they will miss them or worry for them in the new environment.

As the new job holder goes further along this path there may be concerns about leaving the familiarity and security of a place where they are psychologically well-attuned to the politics and sensitivities of working life.  These feelings can be exacerbated if there is any bad news about the new company’s market success or a scandal affecting senior management – an area we have touched on in previous blogs.  The sense of psychological and physical change begins to reflect the anxieties noted by “The Change Curve” as disruption gnaws against the very human desire for certainty, structure and control.

As the tension mounts the individual can find the most basic of human needs disrupted as anxiety is expressed through over or under-eating and the physical effects of nervousness become overwhelming.  Throughout these stages the individual becomes more vulnerable to a counter-offer from their existing employer which restores the status quo and adds some esteem through more money or a promotion.  Even, if the existing employer doesn’t act a contact in another company or a job closer to home may come up and seem a more attractive solution for the person in turmoil.

Act Soon and Act Well

Our advice to companies is that the induction of a new job-holder and the race to get them to peak performance starts during the interview process where reassurances about culture, expectations and prospects can be given.  But the real point of departure is when the job offer is made and those promises have to be manifested by action.  As a recruiter we spend a lot of time nurturing prospects throughout the selection and appointment process but the company has to take direct responsibility for making the emotional connection with its new employee.

In addition to ensuring that the person actually starts the job there is every reason to believe that handling the pre-job weeks well can ease the onboarding period and any early reservations somebody has about a new job.  A significant number of starters leave their role within three months and this is an enormous waste of time, effort and money for all concerned.  Building a path from appointment to arrival is the best guarantee that it becomes a runway for exceptional talent to achieve take off.

Companies and candidates who are interested in learning more and discussing practical actions to recruit talented finance professionals and accelerate their progress to peak performance should contact us at

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay