This is why you shouldn’t blindly trust a candidate saying ‘yes’ to a job offer

Let an embarrassing week for a New York City mayor be a case study in not prematurely announcing a hire.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office triumphantly announced that his city had poached Miami superintendent Alberto Carvalho to become New York City’s next school chancellor. In a press release, Mayor de Blasio said that he had found “the best person to lead the nation’s largest school system into the future.” Twenty-four hours later, Carvalho would dramatically back out of the job during a public meeting broadcasted live on television Thursday.

NYC mayor loses candidate after announcing his hire

During an emergency school board meeting packed with board members, students, and supporters the day after de Blasio’s statement, Carvalho had a public change of heart, citing the children of Miami as his reason.

“I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement and a pact I have with the children of Miami,” Carvalho said to cheers in the room.

According to de Blasio and to Carvalho’s own account, Carvalho had verbally accepted the New York City job a week prior. Mayor de Blasio said that he was “very surprised” by Carvalho’s last-minute snub since Carvalho had been on board when they talked on the phone as late as Wednesday night. “He told me repeatedly this was his dream job,” de Blasio told reporters Thursday.

“He said yes over a week ago, he authorized the story being given to Politico,” Mayor de Blasio explained. “He negotiated terms and conditions in detail with Dean [Fuleihan], affirmed his plans many times over with for how we would go through an announcement.”

How you should announce a new hire

But in the end, this verbal enthusiasm ended up not amounting to enough. For companies and employees watching this debacle unfold in real-time, there are takeaways to learn even if we are not working on a national stage.

It’s a lesson in curbing your enthusiasm. “Until the first day of employment, it’s a negotiation,” human resources expert Amy Polefrone, CEO of the HR Strategy Group, told Ladders. 

She advises companies to publicly announce a hire as close to the start date as possible: “I would recommend probably within a month to announce, ‘Yes, someone is starting, we’ve made a selection.’ ”

For positions not in this kind of visibility, Polefrone recommends “not making public announcements until the first day.”

How to handle a change of heart or rejection

If you’re an employee in Carvalho’s position, who is having second thoughts, Polefrone advises you to proactively raise your concerns and be discreet about your withdrawal: “The longer the interview courtship goes on, obviously, the more serious the employer thinks you are. There can be so many hurt feelings if you back out. It just has to be done quickly. Help people understand why sooner rather than later.”

If you, like Mayor de Blasio, have just been publicly spurned by your top candidate in the eleventh hour of hiring, put the rejection in perspective.

“For the employer, I think it’s important not to take these things so personally. These things do happen. Candidates do rescind an offer and it’s most likely not about the employer, it’s more about the employee’s particular situation,” Polefrone said. “If the person is not ready to make the change, it’s good that they’re not going to come work for you, because then they are not going to be fully engaged or committed to helping lead that organization.”

Maybe Mayor de Blasio’s Press Secretary, Eric Phillips, should take this advice to heart: