When there are more job seekers looking for work than jobs available (think: the Great Recession) it’s rare for candidates to turn down a job offer. In a labor market favoring employers, candidates have to take what they can get. But in a tight labor market like today, where candidates have the luxury of being a bit more discriminating, it’s not uncommon for job seekers to turn down opportunities that don’t fit their criteria to a T.
While this is undoubtedly frustrating for recruiters, there’s no need to despair. Candidates rejecting job offers is rarely out of your hands entirely. There are often changes you can make to increase the acceptance rate — the key is to understand why candidates are rejecting your offers.
We chatted with a few hiring experts to learn the most common reasons candidates turn job offers down — and what recruiters can do to prevent them.
They Found Better Salary & Benefits Elsewhere
There’s no beating around the bush — salary and benefits are two of the top things that candidates look for in the job search, so if a different company can offer a better salary and more robust benefits package, it will be highly attractive to candidates. The best way to pre-empt this is to make sure that you’re transparent about salary from the get-go, says Alex Benjamin, agency recruiter and owner of Recruiter Written.
“This means reconfirming salary expectations during prep and debrief calls as well as keeping abreast of the other opportunities the candidate [is] interviewing for. If the candidate’s compensation expectations change, the minute this change occurs, it is imperative to go back to the hiring team and give them an update to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Benjamin says. “It is better to turn away [a] candidate early rather than go through the entire process just to run into salary issues in the end.”
It’s also worth digging into what the candidate values the most — if they’re primarily leaving their company to look for one with a better culture, for example, salary may only play a secondary or tertiary role in their decision.
“Candidates don’t always pick the best paying position — they often go for the best fit. Understand motivation and where salary fits into the equation,” Benjamin adds.
If you really want to make your offers more competitive, there are a handful of benefits that are low-cost and relatively easy to implement.
“It's not always all about money — workplace culture and [other factors] do matter. Unlimited vacations, flexible working hours, many team retreat trips other than just [an] annual company trip are some cool perks we offer," says Ha Pham of TINYpulse, an employee engagement platform.
However, if candidates rejecting offers for salary-related reasons seems to be a recurring theme, it may be time to evaluate whether or not your offers are actually up to par. Exploring salaries on Glassdoor and turning to resources like Randstad will help you determine whether or not you’re offering market-rate pay.
They Had a Poor Candidate Experience
Sure, being late to an interview or a delay in responding to a candidate might be a rare thing for you, but the candidate you drop the ball on doesn’t know that. If you don’t take care to make the first impression a good one, it could also be your last. Lengthy interview processes are a particularly common candidate complaint.
“Perhaps they’re put through the wringer of endless interviews with various ‘decision makers’... Or, perhaps they have a reasonable number of interviews, but then the employer ghosts them for weeks and suddenly an offer pops up out of nowhere. Either way, long interview processes never leave a good impression,” says Jackie Ducci, CEO and founder of Ducci & Associates. “In fact, they often cause candidates to worry that the firm is inefficient in their processes, indecisive in their decision-making, etc., and this turns them off from the company completely. They may also feel put off if they don’t feel that the company is excited about hiring them.”
To avoid this, Ducci recommends that employers streamline their processes as much as possible. “Have a clear idea of what the ‘ideal candidate’ looks like before starting the search, and be ready to pull the trigger if/when that person surfaces” — even if they’re the first candidate.
“Also, be respectful of the candidate’s time. If they need to meet five people during the interview stage, consolidate those five meetings into group interviews and/or schedule short conversations with each person back-to-back on one or two interview dates,” Ducci continues.
And of course, it’s paramount that the interviews themselves are cordial and professional.
“Remember, from the moment your candidate steps in the door[…] to the moment you, the interviewer, say goodbye, they’re interviewing you just as much as you’re interviewing them,” says Denise Dudley, author of Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted.“Examine every single aspect of your company’s interviewing experience, and make sure everything spells ‘great place to work.’” This includes sharing information on the culture, making sure the candidate knows how to get to the office, having the receptionist warmly greet everyone who walks in the door, etc.
Your Company Has Earned a Bad Reputation
If you’re familiar with Glassdoor, you probably already know that today’s candidates are increasingly researching companies online before they accept a job offer. A 2017 study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor found that a full 83 percent of job seekers are likely to research company reviews and ratings if deciding on where to apply for a job. In addition, a new study revealed that job sites like Glassdoor outweigh word of mouth, social media and even careers pages as the preferred research channel.
"Job seekers are definitely researching your company before or after applying, which is why brand reputation is so important. Bad news has wings. If there are bad reviews from your previous or current employees online, it can be a red flag to candidates,” Pham says.
Rather than being afraid of or angry about negative reviews, though, you should view them as a gift. After all, feedback helps you identify the areas your company needs to work on. See if you can find any common patterns among unhappy employees, then get together with your leadership and HR teams to brainstorm ways you might be able to address these areas. Not only will this help with your online reputation — employee satisfaction is also correlated with improved financial performance.
Very few (if any) companies will ever reach a 100 percent acceptance rate — no matter how buttoned-up your company is, candidates will turn offers down due to personal obligations and practical reasons. But don’t think that you as a recruiter have no sway in tipping the scales. Taking a few small steps to address some of candidates’ most common hang-ups can have a powerful effect.