Has this ever happened to you? It’s frustrating…and costly. After countless hours of sourcing, screening, and interviewing you identify the right candidate and make the offer only to have the candidate decline. You try to negotiate but realize the opportunity is lost and you must start the entire process again. Painful as it may be, declined offers are a great opportunity to learn and improve. To do this, study every instance when an offer is declined. It is a normal tendency to place blame on the candidate and not recognize the opportunity to improve your internal process.

While there are numerous reasons why offers are rejected the vast majority fit in one of the following categories. In order to help you and your team prevent a declined offer we have listed a few questions for the candidate or your team under each reason that you can use to improve. 

1. The candidate accepted a competitive offer from another company

Most active candidates will have several companies they are pursuing. Early on, passive candidates are less likely to have multiple offers but once they see that the grass is greener they look at other lawns too. Often time your pursuit of a passive candidate can spark them into active status so they can make sure that they make an informed decision before looking at just one option to change.  Losing a candidate to a competitive offer is not always about compensation. More often than not, it is related to one of the other reasons listed below.

 Questions to the Candidate:

  • Who are we up against?
  • What other opportunities do you have at the offer stage?
  • How do we stack up against your other options?

2. The candidate accepted a counter-offer from their current employer

In our previous blog post we discussed counter-offers and reasons why candidates should never accept them. But we know that it does happen. If you have a great passive candidate you should assume that your number one competitor is the incumbent. Your best course of action is to uncover the reasons why the candidate would consider a change, highlight them with every interaction, and position your opportunity as the solution to the issues. 

Questions to the Candidate:

  • What would you change in your current role if you could?
  • Has your current employer lived up to all your expectations?
  • What will you do if presented with a counter-offer?

3. Mixed Messages – Your internal team members were not aligned

Candidates become confused and concerned when the interviewers may not seem like they are all aware of the candidate’s role or potential position. Many candidates turn down offers when they perceive that one of the interviewers does not want them on their team or views them as a threat. Candidates question why members of a different department interview them without an explanation.  Another source of confusion arises when an interviewer is introduced at the last minute when the candidate thought they were through with the process. 

Questions to the Candidate:

  • How has the interview process been so far?
  • Have all the people you have met with presented you with a clear picture of what our expectations for this role are?
  • Do you have any questions about anyone you have met with so far?

4. They candidate did not feel a ‘culture fit’ with the opportunity

Candidates want to fit into a culture where they feel comfortable. If their future supervisor or an interviewer does not make them feel welcome in the interview process the candidate will be turned off. Culture can also be experienced when the candidate meets his or her potential teammates. Candidates often assume that the people the meet briefly in an interview are the best and brightest of the company and as such, they exude the culture. If the candidate feels uncomfortable during this phase the chances of an accepted offer are greatly diminished.

Questions to the Candidate:

  • What is your ideal work environment?
  • Tell me how you think you would fit within our culture?
  • How have we treated you so far?

5. The compensation package was not what was expected

Salary, benefits, commission, bonus potential, and other perks are all huge factors when it comes to a candidate’s decision. Many employers will attempt to meet the candidate’s minimum expectations. While this tactic can work you should be aware that your competition might be offering at the higher end of the candidate’s range. Some employers also try to justify offering a lower range when a recruitment fee may be involved. If this practice resonates with you then you should reconsider your sourcing options. 

Questions to ask the Candidate:

  • Are you comfortable with the published salary range?
  • If you were to make a change, what would it take to get you to move?
  • Are there any specific benefits that are important to you?

6. You failed to pre-close the candidate at every step of the interview process

Let’s face it, talent acquisition is sales – you are selling a candidate on coming to work for your company. Every time you get an offer turned down you lost a sale. All sales professionals are taught to pre-close or trial-close at every engagement with the prospect. You should employ the same tactic when dealing with candidates.

Questions to ask the Candidate:

  • Has anything changed with your search since we last met?
  • Compensation aside, is there any reason why you would not accept an offer of employment should we present one to you?
  • If I can present you with an offer of X, would you accept?

7. The candidate experience turned them off

Sometimes it is the process itself that turns the candidate away. Simple things like being on time, sticking to the schedule, and timely feedback can be the difference between landing your top candidate or turning them away. From the start, you should set the candidate’s expectations with regard to the process, who they will meet with, how long it will take, and any additional requirements like references, assessments, or ride-alongs. If your process is too long, candidates will lose interest and become distracted. Remember, time kills all deals. Another aspect of the process that many companies ignore is the application itself. With most companies using online tools to track applicants, candidates can become frustrated and abandon the process before they even get started. Think about it like this, have you ever tried to buy something online and abandoned your cart because the merchant made you jump through hurdles?

Questions to ask your Team:

  • How long does it take to get a candidate through our process?
  • What can we do to provide a better candidate journey?
  • Do we make our employment candidates feel great even if we do not offer them?

8. Your corporate reputation has put you at risk to attract the best talent

With the advent of employment rating sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Google you cannot underestimate your corporate reputation in the local and national marketplace. If you have some recent negative reviews like a high rate of turnover, address it in the interview process. Get ahead of the bad news and address the real issues like how you are top grading your team and adding talent with great attitudes to elevate performance.

Questions to ask your Team:

  • What is our industry reputation?
  • How can we overcome our turnover rate / underperforming stock price / etc..?
  • What is our best corporate attribute?

9. The presentation of the offer was underwhelming

The most important decision you can make for your business is a hiring decision. When you make one it should be a big deal. If you aren’t excited about the offer, the candidate will not be either. Many companies do not have a protocol or process for offer presentation. Some companies delegate this process to one person that may not have even met the candidate in the interview process. At a minimum, the verbal offer should come from the candidate’s new supervisor or the departmental leader to express the importance of the role before sending the candidate to complete the onboarding process.

Questions to ask your Team:

  • Do we make offers a big deal?
  • Does this offer have what it takes to close the candidate?
  • Do we expect to win with this offer?

As an organization you should track your offer acceptance rate (OAR) and study every instance when an offer is declined. Anytime you have an offer turned down you should thoroughly review your entire process with every member of your team: recruiters, screeners, interviewers, receptionist to see what went wrong. You should also ask the candidate for feedback on what you could have done to close the deal. Lastly, ask yourself, “Why are our offers being rejected and what are we going to do to prevent losing talent in 2018?”