Hiring no-shows and our moral compass

This article first appeared in DNA India on November 9th, 2017.

Hiring no-shows are rampant in India and seem to be a peculiarly Indian problem. I haven’t come across it in other countries that I have worked in or heard about.

For the few who might not know what I am talking about, hiring no-shows are those individuals who, having accepted a job offer from Company A, turn down the offer for a competing offer and let Company A know very near the time of joining that they would not be coming in after all.

This causes an enormous loss to Company A since they now have to restart the hiring process.

I have had this happen a couple of times to be very recently. The first time, the gentleman in question emailed me on the day of joining expressing his inability to take up my offer, although he had actually accepted it earlier.

In the second instance, the potential employee was kind enough to email me about a week before his joining date informing me that he had no wish to move from his current city of residence.

So, why does this happen?

Given the fact that in India, two-three month notice periods are ubiquitous, employees use the first offer they get to put in their papers. However, during the notice period, they continue to search for better opportunities, brandishing the offer that they have already accepted as a bargaining chip with other companies to get high salaries.

So rampant is this phenomenon that a couple of years ago, a start-up created a job portal catering exclusively to people who had put in their papers and were on their notice periods, in effect encouraging such behaviour.

My experience with this portal was underwhelming, to say the least, with people basically looking to bump up their salaries from competing offers.

While legally there is nothing wrong in doing that, I find it ethically repugnant.

Yesterday, I had an individual send me his resume with the additional information that since he was on his notice period, he could join my company quickly.

I politely declined to interview him after ascertaining that he had accepted another offer but am wondering how many other companies do that?

Moreover, why is it that this phenomenon isn’t observed in Japan or Germany or the US? Is there something wrong with our moral compass as Indians?

Organisations are coming up with innovative ideas in ensuring that their hiring no-show percentages go down.

One of the most interesting ideas that I heard of was for an organisation gifting someone who has accepted an offer a cup, or a t-shirt or some such company memorabilia.

The idea behind this was that people who had accepted a gift from someone often find it difficult to turn them down. This bit of psychological insight apparently worked very well for this company.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an unwritten code from organisations that they wouldn’t hire employees who had already accepted offers from other companies? Such a code could potentially save organisations millions in hiring costs.

Sadly though, I know that it is just wishful thinking on my part.