The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

May 30, 2013

Why Candidates Decline Job Offers

With the economic recovery crawling slowly, the concept of declined job offers can be hard to understand. Believe it or not, many professionals – including those in the New York City area, a region afflicted by sluggish job creation and high unemployment, relative to much of the nation – are routinely rejecting concrete employment opportunities. As a result, a considerable portion of employers is losing qualified candidates to turndowns on a regular basis. In 2012, CareerBuilder found that 56 percent of hiring managers suffered a candidate turndown over the course of a one-year study.  Niche job board Hcareers cites a related statistic; between 35 and 50 percent of offers are met with rejection.

To an employer, a rejected job offer brings confusion, frustration and possibly insult.  Hiring managers might assume that a shaky economy will increase the candidate’s propensity toward accepting offers, and subsequently feel surprised by the turndown.  Accordingly, the loss of a talented, high-potential candidate is discouraging following significant recruitment and assessment efforts.  Simultaneously, the offer rejection could be taken with offense; leaving the employer to question why someone has turned down the opportunity to work with his or her great organization.

Regardless of an employer’s reaction, repeated offer turndowns are never a good sign for a business. In addition to costing time, money and talent, candidates’ rejections signify deeply rooted problems with the company’s hiring process and employer brand. If candidate turndowns have become a theme within your company, examine the following possible causes and suggestions for repair:

1. Too Fast
When employers make an offer too quickly, they risk neglecting key questions regarding professional, cultural or financial fit, potentially causing poor candidate selection. In addition, hasty decision-making might imply desperation on the employer’s part, leading the candidate to believe that the role’s vacancy is due to undesirability.  While taking too long to make a decision is certainly not recommended, as discussed below, offer must not be made without ensuring that both parties have acquired all relevant and necessary information about one another. 

2. Too Slow
On the other hand, waiting too long to make the offer can also result in the candidate’s rejection.  A desirable and motivated candidate will not suspend his or her job search in anticipation of your final decision. After three weeks, he or she may have already received other offers and selected another opportunity. Alternatively, a slow and inefficient hiring process might be perceived as poor candidate experience, prompting abandonment and, possibly, the acceptance of a different offer.  Though internal collaboration cannot be rushed, it should be assessed for improvement if necessary.  In addition, the candidate should be provided with an honest timeline for the hiring process.

3. Below-Market Compensation
When an offer’s compensation is out of line with what the market will pay for comparable positions, a turndown should not come as a surprise.  Larger companies with payroll flexibility should reexamine their budgets to remain competitive and desirable to candidates.  Any uncertainty regarding salary can be reconciled with resources like  Meanwhile, it’s not always feasible for some companies, especially small firms or startups, to offer salaries that truly align with market rates.  Monster recommends shifting emphasis to lifestyle benefits, such as flexible work hours or the option to telecommute, or offering other financial incentives like stock options or sign-on bonuses, if possible.

4. Not Selling the Opportunity
Failure to enthuse the candidate presents another risk for offer turndown. Just as the candidate needs to sell his or herself during the interview process, the employer needs to promote the opportunity in a positive and compelling way.  Otherwise, the candidate will have very limited motivation to accept an offer. The hiring manager, Human Resources representative or other applicable employee must persuasively educate the candidate about why working with the particular organization is special and rewarding.  Additionally, the job opportunity should be tied to the candidate’s professional background and interests to best present the role as a strong match.

5. Counteroffer
The counteroffer is always a viable threat when making an offer to an employed candidate.  If the candidate is really only interested in a higher salary – rather than the opportunity itself – he or she will be more likely to accept a pay raise from his or her present employer.  To avoid losing a talented professional to a counteroffer, don’t make offers to candidates who seem overly focused on salary.  Make sure that the candidate possesses a genuine interest in the opportunity with interview questions about his or her desire to work for the organization and long-term career objectives.

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