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What to Do When a Candidate Declines Your Offer

In Interviews — by Erin Engstrom


When a candidate makes it through your applicant tracking system, interviews well, and fits your corporate culture, hiring them might seem like a no-brainer. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes, they turn your offer down. This scenario has become increasingly common as the economy improves and candidates gain more power on the job market.

So what should you do when a candidate declines for another employer? Scrambling for a plan B may not be the solution. But you should always examine where your hiring process could be stronger. And whatever you do, don’t take it as a personal affront.

Examine Your Hiring Process

If candidates are repeatedly rejecting your offers, you’ve got to take a closer look at how you’re hiring. How are you sourcing candidates? Are you relying too heavily on LinkedIn, external recruiters or job boards? Just like it’s great to diversify your workforce, it’s great to diversify your candidate sources.

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When someone comes into interview, what kind of candidate experience are they getting? According to a 2014 survey by the TalentBoard, only 38 percent of candidates received information in advance of their interview. Even if the interview seems to go well, a lack of information doesn’t leave a good taste in a candidate’s mouth. Keep in mind that candidates are interviewing you every bit as much as you’re interviewing them. Things like tardiness, vague answers and apathetic staff could all be hurting their experience.

Also take a look at your time to fill. A thorough hiring process is great. But add too many steps and it could be that by the time you’ve finally gotten around to extending the offer, the candidate has already been snapped up. Despite the fact that we’re in a candidate-driven market, it’s taking companies longer to fill positions than it has since the turn of the millennium.

Hit the Ground Running — Or Don’t

In a 2014 survey conducted by Beyond, 55 percent of job seekers felt they weren’t getting job offers because they were competing with too many qualified candidates. Granted, their impression may differ from yours. But the number of job seekers still outweighs the number of job openings. As of July 2015, the ratio was 1.4 to 1. Chances are you rejected a few good candidates on your way to arriving at your top choice. Your first step is contacting some of those good-but-not-quite candidates before they too obtain other offers. Time is often of the essence for companies who want to get the best candidates on their side.

Then again, maybe the best move is to wait. If the rest of the candidates just aren’t grabbing you and your company can afford to leave the position open, there’s no use trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Consider holding out for the next incredible candidate. Sacrificing quality for the sake of efficiency is never the right move. Beware, however, of the pitfalls of holding out for your purple squirrel – you may be waiting in vain.

Don’t Take it Personally

Candidates reject job offers for a number of reasons. According to a 2014 Staffing & Recruiting Pulse Survey from CareerBuilder, the biggest reason candidates reject offers is because they took another offer. It’s difficult to be on the rejection side of a job offer, but the reality is that job offers are like any other business transaction.

Maybe the other opportunity offered a shorter commute, higher pay or better benefits. Maybe the candidate had a pre-existing relationship with the company through a previous position or someone they knew. Regardless, when a candidate turns you down, it’s not a reflection on the caliber of your company. And the good news is that since candidates decline offers only about 10 percent of the time, chances are you won’t run into this situation too often. In most cases, it’s best for companies to simply take their lumps and move on.

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