Why Candidates Are Rejecting Your Offer (and What to Do About It)

As an organization, you spend a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort to bring a candidate all the way to the offer stage of the hiring process. The very last thing you want to happen is to make an offer to your top pick . . . and then that person rejects your offer.

But it happens. In fact, in this current candidates’ market, it’s happening more frequently.

So this begs two very important questions:

  1. Exactly why are candidates rejecting your offer of employment?
  2. What can you do to stop it from happening in the future?

Reasons for rejection

One of the problems with this continuing trend is that you as the hiring manager already work for the company. As a result, you probably think it’s a good place to work. (After all, you work there.) So there’s some bias involved. Why wouldn’t somebody want to work for the organization for which YOU have chosen to work? As a result, it’s more difficult to put yourself in the shoes of the candidate and troubleshoot what might become a troubling situation.

So let’s tackle the first question listed above. Exactly why are candidates rejecting your offer of employment? There are four main reasons:

#1—The compensation is too low.

The hard reality is that it is a candidates’ market. The best candidates want to be compensated well to make a move, and they want that compensation to be reflected in the initial offer.

#2—They received a counter-offer.

If we’re talking about a top candidate here (and let’s assume we are), then that candidate is probably considered valuable by their current employer. That means said employer wants to keep the candidate as an employee and is prepared to do whatever is necessary to do so.

#3—They received another offer.

If it wasn’t a counter-offer, than another organization made an offer. Once again, if this is a top candidate, then there’s a good chance they’re being courted by multiple companies. The other offer could very well have come from one of your main competitors.

#4—The hiring process was too long.

You’re branding yourself as an organization to candidates during the hiring process. If that process is long, drawn-out, and bloated, then that’s not going to make a positive impression on those candidates. This also contributes to the rejection of an offer, especially if it’s in combination with the other three reasons listed above.

Numbers to know

Okay, now that we know why candidates are rejecting your offers, what can be done to prevent it from happening? There are quite a few things, actually, but let’s start before you even make the offer. There are four numbers you must know before extending it:

#1—The salary you can afford to pay

This means what you have budgeted for the position. If you don’t know what you can afford to pay, how do you expect to make an accurate or compelling offer?

#2—The current market value for the position

Your recruiter (if you’re working with one) should be able to provide this information for you. After all, they “work in the trenches” day in and day out and are up-to-date with all of the current industry trends, including compensation for the positions in which they’re placing candidates.

#3—The current level of compensation for all short-list candidates

This is the second number that your recruiter can provide for you. They’ve presented these candidates to you for consideration, so they’re more than likely in possession of this information.

#4—The exact level of compensation needed to guarantee acceptance of the offer

This is perhaps the most important number, since to ensure acceptance of the offer, you must know this number prior to making the offer. If you don’t, then you’re “rolling the dice.”

Let’s say you know these four numbers, so you’re ready to make the offer. Then what?

Steps to ensure success

With that in mind, below are five things that companies MUST do when extending an offer of employment:

#1—Communicate well.

Candidates want feedback throughout the entire process, especially the offer stage. If you don’t communicate and provide timely feedback, by the time the offer stage rolls around, they may have already “checked out.”

 #2—Set expectations.

Let the candidate know what is going to happen and what they can expect. This will put them more at ease, and as a result, they’ll be able to concentrate more on what your company has to offer.

#3—Follow through and follow up.

Do what you say you’re going to do . . . when you say you’re going to do it. This is the best way to build trust. The more a candidate trusts you, the more likely they’ll be to accept your offer of employment.

#4—Address the candidate’s primary motivation.

What is the number-one reason they want to change jobs? If you don’t address that reason, then you sharply reduce the likelihood that they’re going to accept your offer.

#5—Be consistent with what you’re offering.

The candidate should have a fairly good idea of what the offer is going to contain. If you plan to surprise them with anything, make sure that it’s a pleasant surprise.

How a Search Consultant can help

There’s one more thing that an organization can do to ensure acceptance of the offer. If the company is working with a search consultant to fill the position, the hiring manager should let the recruiter who presented the candidate make the formal offer.

This is because the candidate has been working with the recruiter throughout the entire process. Consequently, they expect the recruiter to be the one who formally makes the offer. In this fashion, it’s much like a real estate transaction. The buyer doesn’t make an offer to the seller directly. Instead, they work through an agent.

I’ve seen hiring managers attempt to bypass the recruiter on a number of occasions. More than once, the candidate was put off and rejected the offer, leaving company officials to wonder what happened. It’s an unfortunate situation, but also one that’s completely avoidable.

Identifying and recruiting top talent is difficult enough, but successfully hiring that talent presents even more challenges. Make sure that you’re approaching the offer stage of the process in the correct fashion, or your organization could miss out on the best candidates in the market.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of organizations. If this is something you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.