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Why are candidates rejecting your job offers?

Written by Byron Fitzgerald on April 24, 2019

We’ve all been there. You’ve got your longlist; spent a long time deliberating over your favourites – whittled it down to a shortlist; you’ve interviewed them, made up your mind, and extended an offer. Silence. Why isn’t the candidate accepting immediately? After some time, why did they reject your offer?! Here, we shed some light on why this happens, and how to avoid it.

1.      Vague feedback/no feedback.

If you give your candidates very brief, non-constructive feedback during the process, they won’t know how they’re doing, but more importantly – they will feel like you’re not interested, and/or that you don’t care.

Some companies actually don’t provide any feedback to unsuccessful candidates at all! Whilst this may seem like a time saving exercise, you are running a serious risk of these people spreading bad word-of-mouth to the market – this can spread like wildfire so do not cut corners!

Give constructive, detailed feedback to your candidates. If you don’t want to spend a long time doing this, then don’t interview so many.

2.      Your process is too long.

Imagine as though you were a candidate. Your position has just been made redundant by the corporate office – you have 1 month to find a new job. You have 3 processes ongoing and they’re all looking good. 2 days before you’re out the door (with no wage!) and one of the processes has extended an offer; the other two say there are up to 4 weeks left in the process. Providing no massive differences in opportunity, you are always going to pick the one that moves first. Urgency pays. Don’t get left behind.

3.      Your process is too short.

On the flip side, imagine as though you have had two phone calls with hiring managers, and have been extended an offer, and have been told you need to make your decision quickly or it will go to another candidate. Left bewildered and confused (you haven’t been to their office, you haven’t met any of their staff, no 60, 90, 180-day plans…not much at all!), you decide this opportunity isn’t for you. People are unlikely to make decisions as important as a career change, if they feel rushed.

4.      Not getting the offer right, first time.

Low-balling candidates and negotiating up is a thing of the past. Firstly, it takes time, during which your competition may act quicker and you’ll lose out; but secondly, low-balling a candidate will make them feel undervalued, underwhelmed, and likely to exit the process swiftly (as opposed to negotiating a higher number). Get it right, first time.

5.      No (or unclear) future.

(Most) People want progression. If your position offers progression, be sure to outline exactly how this would work, and what targets must be met to achieve particular promotions/progression opportunities. If these do exist, and you haven’t included them in the job description/offer letter, or conversations with the candidates, they are not going to know – they aren’t mind readers. On the flip side, if your position has no future, don’t lie about it – the candidate will eventually figure out that you have been dishonest and reject the job (or quit within a few weeks which is a very expensive mistake to make).

6.      Empty culture (or is it?).

The 9-5 life is over, people choose companies now, not jobs. Many jobs require out of hours working, flexible working, and we are seeing much more social integration/involvement in the day-to-day activities of companies as it is becoming more apparent that communication and employee-engagement are more sought after than ever. Cubicles are being swapped for open plan offices, and al-fresco dining is being replaced by group Meditation classes. In 2019, culture is king.

If a candidate doesn’t get a sense of your culture, they will assume it is weak. You might have the best culture ever, but if all of the candidate’s interactions with the company are serious interview-style conversations in locked away boardrooms, then they will have no idea about your culture, which may very well be the piece of the puzzle that swings their decision your way.

Be proud of your culture – show it off in your process.

7.      Lots of other offers.

There isn’t much that can be done about this one. Your best move is to try and understand as much as possible about the other offers as you can. Using a well-respected recruiter will serve you well in this scenario. Good recruiters are very relationship focused, and will be able to shed light on how your offer compares to the candidate’s other offers. With this information, you will at least know how competitive you are being, rather than guessing.

8.      The work has no greater meaning.

People used to work for a living. Now, people work for a purpose. There has been a collective move away from the ‘rat race’ – people don’t just want to come to work a pay slip anymore, they want to feel a sense of shared purpose, and meaning.

So, focus on your WHY. What difference does your company make? What is your shared mission? What does this position contribute to the overall mission? Make these clear, and communicate them directly with your candidate(s). A strong focus on your WHY is a big pull for candidates. If you don’t have a compelling ‘WHY,’ then maybe this should be a topic for discussion at your next board meeting…

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How can you improve your chances of getting a ‘yes’ from your ideal candidate?

1.      Hire a good recruiter.

We are obviously biased. We are a recruitment company, and we want more clients. But seriously, the amount of times we have heard from clients that their process broke down because their internal recruitment team wasn’t up to the task, or because their external recruiter was poor, is HIGH.

A good recruiter is invaluable. They know their market inside-out, and they know A LOT of strong candidates in that marketplace. They can give you a quick, well-rounded overview of the candidate pool, with relevant insights in to each candidate (including their history, motivations, decision-making governance (around previous career moves, for example), appetite for this particular role, how serious they are in general about making a move, sensitivity to salary variances, and much more).

What’s more, is that a good recruiter is your ambassador; your mascot. If you have a genuinely compelling position, then a good recruiter will welcome the assignment with both arms, because they know that they are going to be able to ‘sell’ the position to the candidate at some stage. Good recruiters are excellent salespeople – this could make the difference between your company landing that superstar candidate, or your competitor.

2.      Work on your branding.

Remember what we said about culture? Your culture is the catalyst to your brand. If you get your culture right, your brand will be strong. If people love working for your company, other people will find out.

How do you improve your brand? Listen to your stakeholders. This includes your employees (culture!), your customers, shareholders, suppliers, etc.. Pay attention to this – if people feel like they can identify with your brand, they are more likely to join your company.

3.      Formalise your ‘why.’

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – people want to work for a purpose. Why does your company exist? Why does this position exist? Why would people come to work for your company? Nail the answers to these questions, and ensure they align with the candidates’ motivations, and the rest will take care of itself. You are far less likely to get a ‘no’ from your desired candidate if these key questions are addressed.

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