November 30, 2022

There’s Nothing Wrong With Being Someone’s 2nd Option


Episode Highlights

Subscribe to the Talent Insights podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, (recommended for Android users), Amazon Music, or Spotify. Watch us on YouTube—and don’t forget to rate us!

“’If you ain’t first, you’re last.’” -Ricky Bobby

Talladega Nights is a classic. Love that movie. But it’s a comedy. You’re not supposed to take it seriously.

Yet coming in 2nd carries a stigma. Even in hiring. Companies don’t like being a job seeker’s 2nd choice. Job seekers don’t like being a company’s 2nd choice.

We’ve seen bruised egos cause companies to pull offers and job seekers to decline then. Yet everyone is fully aware: there’s a LOT of great companies and job seekers out there.

Jeff Smith and James Hornick discuss why everyone needs to take a breath in Episode 55 of The 10 Minute Talent Rant, “There’s Nothing Wrong With Being Someone’s 2nd Option.”

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space, maybe even pitch a solution or two. Before we dig in, all of our content can be found at

This week’s topic, episode 55 “There’s nothing wrong with being someone’s second place.” 55. We’re getting up there. You know, it’s funny cause I wrote some copy to kinda do an intro promo for this whole thing and I was getting- I was getting real life in movies confused because I think it was Dale Earnhardt that said, second place is the first loser.

Whereas Ricky Bobby said, if you’re not first or last. You realize that one was probably influenced by the other. I actually thought it was the same quote all this time, anyways. But yeah, that’s what we want to talk about today is being someone’s second option is there’s- it’s not always a bad thing. It can be an okay thing.

It can turn out okay, but it’s also not worth something worth getting upset about. And we want to talk about this, I guess, from two different perspectives, so. Yeah. And by this we mean you literally can’t be first at everything. It’s impossible. And if you’re thinking about that through the lens of the candidate, you know, being the candidate force you to think about it that way.

And then conversely, everything that happens and if somebody hasn’t been first at something earlier in their career or in their sporting arena or anything, it can be applicable to anything, it does not make them taint in goods. So the main point is second place candidates are first place candidates in a lot of other places.

Yeah. A lot of this has to do with ego. So that’s kind of the thing we need to kind of address first off. So it’s kind of the- it’s the underlying thing on both sides of this for both job seekers and for hiring leaders and companies making decisions. We all have egos. They make us make dumb decisions.

They make us react poorly. Like feeling insulted that a company picked you second or that a job seeker is still interviewing at some other organization and didn’t take your offer right away. I get- my own story is I graduated college right after, right before the dot com crash, market was still good.

Yeah. Yeah, I know. Like five years ago. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I just, this young looking face- I have the Zoom filter to make myself look nice and clear. So anyways. Yeah man, those offers are so easy to get. I thought it was a layup. I was killing every single one out all these amazing companies that like best example, I got an offer from Career Builder, which I thankfully declined.

Yeah, it turns out then like the dot come crash happens and you realize like yeah, it’s because everyone was getting these offers dummy. Like you’re in a sales guy, they’re hiring a million of you. It wasn’t because you were amazing. So that was my- you breathe oxygen and walked and you know, talk. Yeah, that was my wake up call.

Yeah. Anyways. So there’s two examples here. Example one, you’ve got this company that makes an offer, right? Good offer. But a candidate still wants to interview, he wants to look at other places. So the company freaks out, pulls the offer because you only want to work with people who really, really want to work for them.

What a little bullshit. Example two, the flip side. When a company makes an offer to someone and they decline. Then they make an offer to another job seeker who’s turned off because they didn’t get that job the first time, or they weren’t the first in line. So I think we want to dig into those two ideas specifically.

And you’re going to kind of run through the company perspective, so have at it. Yeah. So there’s kind of two points to the company thing. And the first thing I want to talk about is the old offer pull. So offers made, candidate keeps interviewing, offer gets pulled. We actually had an argument about this internally.

Not everyone was agreeing on this, and because they realized there’s actually a lot of factors in play that a lot of it comes down to- it comes down to transparency and empathy really on both sides. So if you’re the company and you’re being really upfront about your process and your timeframes, and the candidate is also telling you from the start they’re evaluating multiple other places,

and they’re telling you kind of where things are during that process and they want to see things through and you still pull an offer after you make it just because they’re first one, I mean, that is petty. Yes. I mean it’s straight up petty. If they told you there was no gotchas here, there was nothing that changed from the get go.

They said this is what they were they’re about, what they’re doing and that they wanted to see these things through, it’s a stressful situation for them, right? They’re trying to make a major life choice. They’ve told you where they and now you feel spurned because they wanted more time. But the flip side of that I understand because that’s not every situation.

Okay. So there are those times or those last minute gotchas where there wasn’t that transparency. Mm-hmm. Where they weren’t being upfront with you about this and all of a sudden it’s at last minute, “Oh, I had something come up. You’re not going to believe this, but someone called me the other day and thanks for the offer, but I have to see this new thing through” because we’ve all heard that. You know they’re shopping your offer.

You know? You do have a business need. You need to get this position filled. You can’t put these things on hold just for one person. But again, it takes some level of just understanding like what level of transparency there’s been. Are you falling into the trap of like ego driven overreaction, or are you making a responsible decision because you know you’re getting played here?

There is a difference. Yeah. There’s a ton of EQ involved here. Mm-hmm. I would argue that a lot of it is, and we’ve mentioned it in other rants, if you don’t have the gut reaction to something and know when things are happen- like you might not have the highest EQ on anything. So the number two is every company hiring manager, like I’ve heard it so many times, like they all want the needle in the haystack, right?

Every single one. You can’t always be a prospect or a candidate’s first choice. Just as it doesn’t work one way, life doesn’t work the other way. So I see candidates value rise all the time just because they have another offer. Mm-hmm. Sometimes specifically because they have another offer. It turns on fomo, which is a natural human reaction and

it almost always kind of works at the disadvantage of the company, the covetor in this sense. So just because a candidate has a ton of activity, it doesn’t necessarily make them a perfect fit for you. They may only fit like 50% of the key requirements, but just because the shiny object is coveted by somebody else, it makes them like you can’t miss out.

It ensures a bidding war. The price points go up and then all you’re looking at is just a situation where you’re hiring one of the three other folks that are on your short list because you missed out on the first person. So the real thing is, does the role actually require the needle?

I’d argue if you think about that and you really dig into it, you’re going to come to the conclusion that multiple people fit your need. So like you don’t need a rockstar. You don’t need a unicorn. You need a data analyst, right? So if a candidate doesn’t get a competing offer, this is the worst case scenario, I hear customers worry that there must be something wrong with them.

It gets back to the tainted goods thing. Like wtf. Literally. Yeah. We’ve talked at length about hiring teams inability to assess candidates on criteria alone and not like these like existential forces. It’s an overarching problem that affects like the output, productivity, bottom line, et cetera. And it’s coming from a place that has no basis in data driven, you know?

Yeah, yeah- decisions. Let’s flip this on it’s head now. Let’s talk about from the other side, the candidate perspective. Revisiting what we kind of said at the beginning of this. When a company makes an offer to someone and they decline, then they make an offer to another job seeker who’s turned off because they didn’t get the first time.

Why is this silly? I mean, again, not everyone’s going to love you. In fact, you actually might have to sell yourself as a candidate, especially in this market. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad fit for the role or you couldn’t excel in it. We’ve asked cut candidates or companies to get over themselves.

Like it kind of has to work both ways, right? The individual has to think of that as well. So if you look at it the other way, what if you were the second choice of a job that fits all of your interests? Comp, you like the people, work responsibilities, and then you get an offer from another company that doesn’t have all those bells and whistles, but you’re their number one by a mile.

But if the firm, if the ladder came back to you and said they missed out on their number one, you’d seriously not entertain that discussion? If the answer is no, then you should rethink that choice. So there’s this misconception that second, third, fourth place, you know that they’re not always sold on you. Like you’re an individual contributor that fills 95% of the requirements, stop overthinking things.

I promise once you’re in and you do what you do and you flex what you can do, everything more than often falls into place. The flip side of this is also just how people react to bad news in general. I mean, Jeff, you and I help any recruiter in the world has had someone go from excited about a company one minute thinking they killed the interview to a profanity laden meltdown by how off the company is for not picking up.

Like, I’ve had people who were like- it’s happened so many times. Some people are off their meds. It’s just in some peoples, that’s just how they react poorly to things, but- right. We’ve seen lots of people who have joined companies that second time around, loved it, but only because they only had that chance to do so because they didn’t have some kind of negative meltdown because they actually did just take it for what it was, wasn’t a big deal,

reacted positively left as friends temporarily, and then were able to have a good career somewhere at that same company later down the road. We get into more high EQ stuff, right? All right, so the takeaways are very simple. Look, both sides admit that there’s equal amounts of each other out there. There’s great companies.

You’re not the only one. There’s great candidates. You’re not the only one. Please don’t hold grudges. Secondly, put the shoe on the other foot. If you’re a company and someone who isn’t jumping at your offer, like haven’t you kind of been in that position before? Again, just human interaction. If you’re a job seeker and you didn’t get the first offer, haven’t you ever had to make a tough decision between multiple solid people?

Usually the answer is yes. Last one. Maybe, just maybe you didn’t crush it. Maybe you didn’t sell your company as well as you thought you did. Maybe you didn’t do as well in the interview and impress people as well as you thought you did. Happens all the time. Yeah. We touched on this like in the last rant, but when you, the candidate community, ask for transparent feedback, everyone wants to hear it.

Everyone wants this radical candor. Everyone wants to know what’s going on. Be prepared that some of it’s not going to be what you want to hear. Some of it’s not what you like. Look in the mirror. You asked for it, you got it. But most of it, not just some of it, most of it. And we are short on clock. That’s a wrap for this week.

Thanks everyone again for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insight series, which is always available for replay on, as well as YouTube, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and Amazon. Jeff, thanks again as always. Everyone out there, see you soon.

Episode 90
The 10 Minute Talent Rant, Episode 90 “Gen Z’s 12% Unemployment, Explained” It came as a shock to pretty much everyone that the...

Episode 89
“Recruiting Is Not The Goal. Hiring Is.” – The 10 Minute Talent Rant is LIVE What do you call recruiting that doesn’t result...

Our Shows

Our Latest Blog