The word reject

Why are candidates turning down your job offers? 

On paper the candidate was perfect. Their salary expectations were in budget. They impressed everyone who interviewed them. You all agreed they would be an excellent hire… 

 …but they turned you down. 

 So what went wrong? Well, let’s start by analysing that first paragraph: every statement there is about a candidate fitting into your predefined criteria for a successful hire. Track record, performance, cost. Could it be that you were hiring in a bubble and didn’t stop to assess how your candidates were feeling during their interview process?  

Feedback tells you that you should have closed the barn doors, but it won’t bring the horse back 

Was the candidate engaged or just going through the motions? Did they seem excited about the opportunity with the questions they were asking and the physical and mental energy they displayed? And most importantly, did you actually ask them how they were feeling about the process, the role, the interview? Feedback doesn’t just have to be done at the end of the process. Sure that’s a good way to learn how to adapt for the next time, but if you want to keep a process on track and keep a great candidate engaged, then real-time feedback, in the moment and truly interactive, is the best way to keep everyone going in the same direction and flex as and when required. 

Decisions are made using a mix of emotional, logical, intangible, and aspirational drivers 

It’s useful to breakdown all the possible factors that could affect the positive outcome when moving towards offering a candidate, and the earlier in the interview process you discuss them, the more time you will have to adjust them. Broadly speaking, you can break these criteria into 4 main categories: 

  •  Emotional 

Did you have your most engaging and inspiring employees involved in the interview process? Have you sold the company culture and values fully? Do you know what kind of values and culture the candidate is looking for? What context were they leaving their last job under (positive but needed a new challenge, depressed, resignation, frustration with a boss, boredom with workload, stagnant career progression etc?) and are you able to offer solutions to these?  

Make sure you constantly check any online reviews about your company and try to address any negativity around your reputation. The candidate will certainly be aware and without context or clarity, it could plant seeds of doubt in their mind when push comes to shove. 

  • Logical 

Is the salary range attractive enough? Does the job title reflect the role expectations? Can the candidate comfortably do the commute, and what flexibility might they request to make it easier? Are your benefits competitive enough and do you know which ones in particular would appeal to this candidate most? What other options do they have at the moment, and at what stages and how do they feel about them? Have they thought about how they would deal with a counteroffer from their current employer? 

  • Intangible 

These are often the ones that will catch you out and can’t be avoided, but you can try to understand them and if they are deal breakers now then you may be able to secure the candidate at a future date if the conversations end on a positive note. For example, has there been a change in their personal situation, like a bereavement, relationship breakdown, pending house move, medical emergency, pregnancy etc? Often these are questions you can’t directly answer, but you can look out for warning signs like sudden radio silence or a drop in energy or enthusiasm, or a longer than expected delay once you have made the offer. 

  • Aspirational 

Have you talked through career progression in this role and what expectations/criteria would need to be achieved first? When are pay reviews and appraisals? Is the candidate ambitious to develop or are they looking for stability? Do they want to take risks or work in a secure and steady environment? Do they seem excited? If not, why not? 

Positive and regular communication is the key 

In summary, communication is critical to understand where both parties are. Communicate throughout the interview process, giving a clear explanation of – and sticking to – timetables around decision making and next steps. Remember, this is someone you want to choose you over all other options, so it’s not just about money and titles, it’s about putting your best side across in interviews so they actually want to work for you as people, on an emotional and aspirational level. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions and understand live feedback. After all, without that real-time feedback you are just guessing and assuming, and that’s when you open the door to surprises and potential disappointment. 

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