Why Candidates Turn Down Job Offers and What To Do About It...

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It’s been a long day, you’ve just completed the final round of interviews for a critical new hire within the company.  Having discussed the candidates in detail (for what feels like several times now!), you’re in agreement about whom to make the offer to. So with the decision made, it’s time to give them the good news. You email saying how pleased you are to extend an offer of employment and look forward to their acceptance. 

Except they don’t accept. Actually they decline your offer. Why? What’s happened?

When someone decides to decline an offer, the first thing to know is that they probably didn’t take this decision lightly. The chances are they probably spoke to many people close to them, then spent time weighing up the pros and cons, did some more thinking, slept on it and then when they did let you know, felt very guilty about it.

Unfortunately though for you, a declined offer means you have to either go back to the drawing board and start all over again, or move to the second or third candidate on the list who can still do the job, but was not your first choice. If only your preferred candidate had accepted!

Here are some top tips on how to avoid candidates turning down your offer in the first place (no matter how politely they do it!)

1. UNDERSTAND EVERY CANDIDATE’S KEY MOTIVATORS

Do not immediately assume that by key motivators, I'm referring to salary expectations here.  Understanding a candidate’s current salary package (where you are legally able to ask this information), and what their salary expectations are, is a vital part of any recruitment process.  In my experience, however, this only forms part of the reason why a candidate might choose to accept a new role or not.

Be genuinely interested in each person you engage with throughout the entire interview process, and try to ascertain what other factors or motivators will make them more or less likely to accept your role: company culture; career progression; innovative technology; managing specific clients; travelling (or reducing it in some instances); big company vs startup; ability to work remotely; being part of a team; family commitments; etc..  The list of these potential factors is endless and can change throughout a recruitment process as well.  

Once you have identified the top motivators for your best candidates, make sure these align with the values and culture of the company and the role you are hiring.  If they are aligned, keep checking in with them throughout each step of the interview process to ensure they continue to be so. Not only are you building stronger rapport and relationships with them, but you are also increasing your chances of them leaning towards your company when it comes to the final stages. 

2. TREAT THEM WITH THE SAME RESPECT YOU WOULD YOUR CUSTOMERS

Give them an amazing customer service.  A person’s decision about whether to accept a job is as much about their experience of the recruitment process and the people they meet, as it is the opportunity itself. 

Thankfully, the old school style of interviewing, where candidates just sit there being grilled for an hour by a stern-looking panel, allowing just 5 minutes at the end for questions, is becoming a thing of the past. If someone is trying to decide between two offers, both similar in terms of the actual job, it then comes down to which one ‘felt’ right, effectively their ‘good gut feeling’.

It's getting the basics right as well - be kind and welcoming when they arrive, be on time, (please don't cancel last minute unless it's a real emergency!), ask your questions in a friendly way and encourage two-way discussion. The more you create a relaxed environment, the more you will see the ‘real’ person, and they will walk away feeling more connected to you and the company having had a good experience. Think of it more as a conversation than an interview, and you will find yourself feeling more comfortable too, which can only be a good thing.  

3. BE SURE YOU WILL GET A YES BEFORE YOU ASK FOR ONE

One of the things I insist on with my candidates is to contact me as soon as possible after their interview so we can discuss their "first blush" feedback, impressions, and any questions they feel they did not get round to asking. It helps candidates decide on whether this is something they are genuinely interested in and if they were to be offered if there is anything that would stop them from accepting. 

At this point, you need to address two “awkward” questions to help ensure that you choose your chosen candidate: 

  1. Assuming we get the salary compensation right, is there any reason why you would not accept this role?  
  2. If you accepted this role, is there anything that your current employer could offer you that would mean you accept their counter-offer?

Whilst it can be uncomfortable asking these questions, the answers (or sometimes just their reactions to them) will give you the best indication yet of whether you will close them successfully. 

Finally, if a candidate does decline your offer, ask them why. Ideally, ask if you can speak to them directly to try and understand what it was that made them decide not to accept. Encourage them to be completely honest with you and that although you are disappointed, it would really help you with how you handle the process next time. Sometimes, the reasons are outside of your control, but if they are not, wouldn’t it be useful to know so that you can further refine your recruitment processes for next time?

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

808 Talent is a Recruitment, Consulting, and Coaching company serving the global Sports Media Technology community in finding, retaining and nurturing the very best talent across the industry. For an informal chat about your recruitment processes, critical hiring needs, or your next career move, please contact Ben Swanton at ben@808talent.com