3 Reasons a Candidate Might Turn Down a Job Offer

Feb 28, 2022

Picture this: A company is in need of an exceptional employee to lead their growing team. They recruit one of the top candidates in their market, and that candidate impresses them during the interview process. The candidate has expressed great interest in the opportunity and this company is at the top of their list of contenders. The hiring manager offers the candidate the job - and the candidate turns them down.

This scenario might sound all too familiar to some hiring managers, and it’s a frustrating situation to be in. What went wrong? Why did the candidate say no, and what can a company learn from the experience that will help them successfully land the next candidate they pursue? Here are three reasons a candidate might turn down a job offer:

#1: The Company’s Offer Came in Too Late - and Too Low

One of the top reasons for turning down a job offer is poor communication during the hiring process. Not only should hiring managers be checking in frequently with candidates throughout the interview process, they should also be sure to create and stick to a timeline. A candidate needs to know when to expect an update on their status, and if an interviewer says they will produce a written offer on Thursday, they must produce a written offer on Thursday, and it needs to match the verbal offer the candidate was told to expect. Waiting a week between calls, missing a deadline for an offer, and having a written offer that doesn’t match the verbal offer are all huge red flags to candidates and can make them more likely to reject an offer. In addition, candidates in today’s market are being pursued by multiple companies - many of whom are keeping promises and sticking to a timeline.

In addition, companies should be aware that in this market, wages are inflated due to high demand and reduced supply, so they should come out with their best offer on the table. Candidates know when they’re being low-balled, and they also know their value in the market, so they won’t settle for less. Don’t risk losing a top-tier hire by negotiating over a few thousand dollars.

#2: The Company’s Benefit Package Isn’t Up to Par

Candidates’ needs and requirements have changed with regard to their workplace benefits in recent years. Ten years ago, candidates commonly asked, “Does the company have health insurance?” Now, they’re asking different questions: “What is covered under their plan? How much does it cost?” They are looking for more details than ever before, and companies should make sure their health plans provide more than just the bare minimum for their employees and that they communicate the details of their plan to candidates during the verbal and written offer stage. As always, candidates are also looking for strong 401k plans.

Especially over the last two years, the number-one request has been for remote or flex work options. Keeping a company’s benefits package up to date and reflective of what today’s workers want and need is a simple and effective way of improving the odds that a candidate will accept an offer if it’s extended.

#3: The Company Didn’t “Sell” the Opportunity

The truth is, in this market, the candidate is in the driver’s seat – and they know it. It’s obviously important to verify a candidate’s ability to perform the job well, but managers shouldn’t forget that the hiring process is a two-way street, and they also need to sell the opportunity to the candidate. Outside of the nuts and bolts of the employment offer (such as compensation and benefits), what can an employee at this company look forward to? Is there a collaborative team environment, room for advancement, or opportunities for continued education and professional development? Are employees’ families a valued part of the company?

If possible, let the candidate engage with different managers from different parts of the company during the interview process. This way, they can get a full-picture sense of what the company is like, and they can also leave the interview with a feeling that the entire company is excited to have them come on board. Create momentum and make the candidate really want the job and feel desired - otherwise, managers run the risk of losing candidates to counteroffers or turndowns based simply on a lack of excitement about the opportunity.

Spending a significant amount of time and money on the recruitment and interview process only to have a candidate reject a job offer is a huge disappointment for any company. The best way to minimize the risk of a turndown is by communicating well, delivering a strong job offer, making sure the company’s benefits package is up to date, and keeping the candidate excited to join the team.

*Thank you to consultants Jerry Wilkins (EVP), Meredith Love (EVP), and Jeremy Carver (VP) for contributing their industry expertise to this important topic.

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