What to Do When a Candidate Declines Your Offer

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Making a job offer to an outstanding candidate can be likened to flirting with your biggest crush. Sometimes, you just get turned down – no matter what you bring to the table – often without warning and without any apparent reason. It can also occasionally result in getting slapped across the face, both figuratively and literally, but preferably only figuratively, especially when it comes to being turned down by candidates.

But rather than crawl into a corner and sob your little-broken heart out, it’s time to listen to your friend’s, albeit cliché, consoling advice: there’s plenty of fish in the sea. We all, unfortunately, face rejection at one point or another in our lives whether that’s by a crush, our classmates, or potential employers, but being rejected by a candidate who applied for a job at your company is a different kind of special. It just doesn’t make sense: why reject an offer for a job they clearly wanted?

Many factors contribute to a candidate declining an offer, but they don’t have to spell disaster. In fact, they can help you fine-tune your efforts and pave the way to a more successful hiring process.

1. Examine Your Hiring Process

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You might be doing everything by the book and offering some of the coolest perks in town like catered lunch and sleep pods, but you could be turning interviewees off without even realizing it.

Begin by taking a look at candidate experience, which is undoubtedly crucial to recruitment success. Are people coming in to interview with you and leaving with a bad taste in their mouth? Do you arrive at the interview room 15 minutes late because you got “caught up” with other, “more important” things? Do you ask inappropriate and borderline illegal questions? Do you not provide candidates with sufficient information? Do you end the interview with “don’t call us, we’ll call you”? Then you might have a problem – in fact, you might be the problem. Even though only 11% of respondents to a 2015 Recruitment & Employment Confederation survey described their candidate experience as “bad”, a negative experience has the power to chase away good candidates and, most importantly, damage your brand.

You should also look at how you’re hiring. If you’re focusing your recruitment efforts on one channel – let’s say online job boards – then you’re obviously missing out on a potentially perfect candidate elsewhere. Job seekers don’t look for jobs in one place and one place only, so it’s a good idea to diversify your avenues of hiring, and social media networks and employee referrals are great sources of hires.

2. Reassess the Original Offer

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It’s an unwritten rule: companies are meant to be the ones who turn down candidates, not the other way round. And yet it happens – a lot. In fact, Hcareers reports that between 35% and 50% of all job offers are rejected.

Forty percent of candidates who declined an offer did so in favor of another offer they received from elsewhere, according to CareerBuilder, with 32% saying that the compensation and benefits that they were offered in the first job offer were not in line with their expectations. To avoid this, you might want to consider reassessing your original offer and even make a counteroffer– something that only 13% of companies do.

If you found the perfect candidate but they turn your offer down because of a lower salary than they expected, it might seem like a dead-end to you if your company simply cannot afford to raise the dollar amount. But, that’s completely untrue. If a bigger salary is out of the question, you could perhaps try to entice them by increasing the compensation in other ways – for example, you could sweeten the deal by offering them flex time, free gym membership, company discounts, free lunch, or all of the above. The options are endless, and all these awesome benefits and perks (and more) can not only make your first-choice candidate reconsider but also attract more top talent down the road.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

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Sometimes, candidates will decline your offer in favor of another offer that better fits their needs, whether that’s a shorter and less stressful commute or more flexible hours. It makes complete sense that they will choose what’s better for them – after all, you would, too, in their shoes – so don’t take it personally.

But, if you miss out on your first-choice candidate, don’t be discouraged from approaching the second best. The longer you wait, the more opportunities you’ll miss out on, and the other capable candidates you overlooked will end up getting poached by someone else, i.e.: your competitors.

4. Be Patient, Grasshopper

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Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same can be said about finding the perfect candidate to fill the role you’re advertising. No matter what you do, you’re not going to find the candidate overnight. Believing you will is simply naïve. Patience is a virtue and one that is essential in a company’s hiring process.

If a candidate declines your offer, so be it; it was clearly not meant to be. They may have received an offer with a competing company that they thought was better, but somewhere out there is a candidate who will find your offer perfect. Therefore, there’s no need to panic that you’ll never fill the position because you will – it might just take a little longer. After all, they say that good things come to those who wait, and it is true.

Has a candidate ever declined an offer you made? How did you handle things? Tell us in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share this article with fellow professionals who may find it useful in their recruiting efforts!