The Top Reasons Candidates Are Declining Your Job Offers (And How to Change That)

Few experiences are more disappointing than having a top-choice job candidate decline your offer. But, too often, hiring managers’ expectations are out of sync with the job market. Candidates control the market, so they can afford to be selective. And if you’re not aware of how you measure up, you risk losing out. Our job is to help you assess your position and create realistic expectations about the candidates you’ll attract. We identify the best talent available within the parameters of your search, and we only recommend those we think are a fit. For instance, we won’t refer someone whose current salary is double what you’re offering. That’s a waste of your time and theirs. We prioritize transparency and efficiency, because we share your goal of maximizing acceptance rates. It’s helpful to see your company and your offer through a candidate’s eyes. Then you can understand why they would opt for another opportunity and what you can do to make your organization more attractive. Here are the top factors that influence candidates’ decisions:

1. Culture

Culture is a chief concern for young professionals. People spend more time with their colleagues than they do with their families, so they want to know they’ll be happy in their work environments. If a candidate doesn’t feel chemistry with the hiring team or with their potential co-workers, they will not be excited about working for your company. The office atmosphere plays a role as well. Thanks to the Bay Area’s wealth of tech companies that break out all the bells and whistles in their offices, people have come to expect a vibrant work environment. In-house ping-pong tournaments, bring-your-dog-to-work policies, and office wine clubs are the norm in young candidates’ minds. They might be turned off by companies that stick to the old “put your head down, do your work, and get out as quickly as possible” vibe.  

2. Growth opportunities

People want jobs they can grow into. If the position’s scope is too narrow, they’ll look for a more dynamic offer. Find out your candidates’ long-term goals. They may be interviewing for an accounting position but hope to move into finance. Perhaps they’re interested in cultivating new skills rather than only leveraging their existing abilities. Once you know what they hope to gain, you can highlight growth opportunities at your company. You may even expand the scope of the job for the right candidate.

3. Location

Candidates often interview for jobs with tough commutes because they think they can handle the slog through traffic or the two hours a day on public transportation. But after making the trip for a few in-person interviews, many have second thoughts. They pursue openings closer to home because the commute isn’t feasible in the long term. There’s not a lot you can do to persuade people on this point, though you can offer travel compensation to make the commute more attractive or work from home days.

4. Negative press

Even when an interview goes well, candidates look for red flags. If your company’s Glassdoor profile is riddled with criticism, there’s a good chance they’ll decline your offer. Monitor what former employees post online about your company, and address negative reviews during candidate interviews. People take their peers’ recommendations seriously, and a bad reputation could deter talented individuals from working with you.

5. Better offers

Your company might guarantee a generous salary, benefit, and perks but so does everyone else. Differentiate your organization through a strong culture, efficient onboarding, and skills development trainings. If you consistently miss out on top candidates, look at how other companies treat interviewees. Do they treat them to a nice meal? Take them out for drinks? Invite them to a team event? A little wining and dining goes a long way toward making candidates feel valued.

6. Lack of progress within the company

Just because a company was popular years ago does not mean people are clamoring to work there today. Older organizations tend to be less innovative than startups, and people gravitate toward well-funded businesses that post double-digit growth. Many of the sharpest, most sought-after candidates will pursue the hot, exciting companies. But improving your culture, enhancing internal programs, and creating attractive offers will help you recruit bright and capable people nonetheless.

7. Inefficient hiring

Candidates often turn down jobs because the company didn’t have its act together during hiring. They might have been enthusiastic about the organization but got spooked after not hearing from them for weeks or months. Radio silence reflects poorly on your culture. Candidates will wonder whether that lack of communication is endemic to your organization, and they’ll feel more confident signing with a more responsive company. Even if you’re wooing another candidate, you need to keep your number-two person warm. Update them on the process and assure them they’re still being considered. If you let months pass before touching base, it’s unlikely that they will want to work with you.

8. Compensation

Millennials in particular value culture and work-life integration over money, but compensation still matters. Sometimes a position is a great fit, but the salary represents a step down from a candidate’s current pay rate. In other cases, they may feel the equity offered doesn’t match the scope of the job. Unrealistic expectations can also derail negotiations. For instance, a candidate might be set on a 30% pay increase, but the company refuses to go higher than 15%. It’s a great offer, but the candidate still rejects it because they’re hung up on the higher number. However, companies sometimes misrepresent what they’re willing to pay. We’ve had clients tell us they’re willing to pay X and then backpedal when it comes time to negotiate the candidate’s salary. This casts the company in a negative, even deceitful, light. If the compensation changes during the hiring process, communicate that as early as possible to maintain the candidate’s trust.

Don’t Forget to Listen and Learn

If we can offer two pieces of advice to hiring managers, they would be to listen to your recruiter and learn from your mistakes. Your recruiter is on your team; they’re as invested as you are in getting a “yes” from your number-one candidates. The advice they offer is based on years of experience and is for your benefit, so heed what they say. When a candidate turns you down, ask for feedback. Find out whether you could have done something better, and integrate that information into your processes. A lot of companies say, “This is the way we do it, and we’re not changing.” But those are famous last words. The businesses that thrive long-term are those that constantly look for ways to improve. Don’t let stubbornness keep your company from attracting great people and achieving great things.

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