3 Reasons Candidates Aren’t Accepting Your Job Offers

By Maren Hogan

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You’ve done it! You’ve found the incredible candidate who you believe is going to be your next, great hire. And, you’re ready to make an offer. Oh, happy day!

You pick up the phone and dial them up, but that passive candidate is at work, of course, so you leave a message...and follow it up with an email...and wait. 

And nothing? No response? Or worse, a big fat “no”? What happened? How did the perfect candidate elude your grasp?

Candidates Rejecting Job Offers

In the haste to gain a competitive edge by hiring the best and brightest, sometimes recruiters and hiring managers forget that candidates are choosy too. Especially in today’s economic climate, where we’ve added 2 million or so jobs every year for the last three years. Wages are up and the economy is stronger than it’s been in ages. Candidates - especially the great ones - have options.

And, aside from the above reasons, candidates are people and they make decisions the same way anyone else does. So put on your empathy pants, we’re going to explore the three reasons candidates aren’t accepting your offer:

1. You took too long

Newsflash, while you and your hiring managers are trying to “schedule 15 to go over the candidates,” your candidate has a family, bills to pay, a life to live...and other job offers on the table. Internal collaboration is important but you will lose out on top talent if you make them wait forever.

The average length of time between the interview and the job offer is 2-4 weeks. I once had a candidate go two months in search of a job, until he finally took a low-paying, low-benefits job that was distinctive in only ONE way: they offered him the gig. He took it and after three days on the job, he got two calls, one from his dream company.

But it was too little, too late. He had already committed to the other job and his personal ethics wouldn’t let him quit. He was incredibly frustrated and when his dream company came back around two years later, he turned them down (as he had climbed the ladder of the other job very quickly and was now invaluable, and being compensated thusly).

If meeting face to face takes too long, try video screening and interviewing, or implement an ATS that allows hiring manager notes to be entered on the back end.

2. They’re only in it for the money

I recently had an employee come to me and ask me to match an offer he had received on the job market. I knew I couldn’t compete from a salary OR benefits perspective, but like I always brag, I felt our opportunities, work environment and flexibility would win out. They didn’t and not because I didn’t come up with a compelling counter-offer, but because he was always going to take the other job anyway. 

It had nothing to do with his job here or there, he needed more money, so my counter-offer was a waste of time. A recent survey showed that money matters most to 49% of employees. If your candidate has been offered a counter-offer at their current job, keep their number in your back pocket. They’ll be back.

3. You didn’t sell it to them

Selling a job is what we do. It’s how we get candidates to say yes. However, sometimes we forget to sell to THAT particular candidate.

A positive candidate experience with an employer made 23.8% of candidates more likely to increase their relationship with the brand. I once had a candidate refuse a job that was paying well, and perfect for her skills. I didn’t understand it then but I ran into her about six months later and asked what was up? She told me it was a collusion of things that irritated her and convinced her she would not be happy at the company.

First, she had asked the recruiter to email and not call, they called. Second, the recruiter had confidentially mentioned she was not the first choice, which is dumb. And finally, when she went in in a modest shorts suit, she was told by her future manager it was an “interesting choice.” All this from a company that said right on the website it values “free thinking.” 

Just as personalization is making its way into marketing, so too must it be considered in recruiting. You’re asking someone to change their entire life. If you or your company is unwilling to bend (even on short suits and modes of communication) you’re going to be out of top talent. 

Obviously, these aren’t the only reasons a candidate will say no. Below-market compensation, another offer in a company they prefer and poor employer brand spring to mind. But if you’re wondering about why a candidate has refused your carefully crafted job offer, simply put yourself in their shoes.


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