A client of mine, a large MNC, made a job offer to a senior candidate I’d presented. They liked her very much and  were eager to get her on board, as is true with any good hire.

The provisional  offer went through the HR team in China, They sent her an email with the package numbers, and advised that the email was to be considered a formal offer. Would she now accept, as they were in a hurry to close it.

She quickly acknowledged receipt of the email as a helpful first step, in principle was still interested, and asked when she could read the actual offer letter to look at the clauses and details beyond the numbers (she would have to move from one country to another, one consideration of many) before accepting.

HR responded that the offer letter was indeed forthcoming, but was she on board or not? She replied that she wanted to read the offer letter.  I should add that I was cc’d on the correspondence,  and asked my client if there was anyone in Comp & Benefits who could help. I was told HR had ownership of the process.

The contract was emailed to her a few days later.

She read it carefully, and had a few questions, (par for the course). Her first question was why there was someone else’s name and address on her offer letter. Things went downhill from there..

It was a boilerplate contract, contained some outdated clauses and was hurried through, that much was obvious. She red-penned it with about six questions and also asked if they could send the corporate policy info, which had been previously discussed with the hiring manager.

HR  replied as regarded the contractual questions: ‘The contract cannot be changed or amended in any way whatsoever, and will require we check with General Counsel”. Normal with legal contracts, but implicit was  ‘just sign it’ and don’t expect any changes.

As mentioned above, it was a senior hire,  she was no pushover–which wasprecisely what the hiring manager and others- ahd wanted in this role.

The HR  person (it was one person in Shanghai) could not explain any compensation/benefit questions, (insurance coverage, prorated/ sign-on bonuses dates, removal coverage) and the offer letter had been signed by an unknown person.

The hiring manager, in the meantime, was on holiday with limited email access, made herself scarce, and assumed it was a done deal. I pleaded with HR to have someone else help, but we were at a standstill.  After a week with  little progress, the candidate withdrew her candidacy, claiming it was not a good fit. She was savvy enough to see their internal communication as a warning sign, and may well have made the right decision to not accept the job. The job was never filled, as there was not enough alignment, no surprise.

It takes a village to get someone on board, not the hiring manager nor HR, but a group within the company, everyone has their share to bring people on board. My mistake was not to have gone to the senior management and shouted louder. Theirs was simple ineptitude, and not enough internal cooperation.

Everyone she interviewed with should have been able to help close the deal. But there was no communication nor sense of urgency; it was considered a function of HR. But HR’s job today is not getting someone on board, nor answering every question. It is rather to support the hiring manager in hiring.

Peter Allen from Agoda correctly summed it up this way*:

  • Managers, not HR, should do the hard work of managing people–hiring, evaluating, rewarding and disciplining employees-and managers should be evaluated on their results.
  • Employees, not HR, should ‘manage up’ and take responsibility for solving problems directly with their managers.

That’s more than ample.


*Link: Toward a new HR Philosophy