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Table of Contents

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You’ve tirelessly sourced, interviewed, and offered the job to your ideal candidate, but then the worst happens — they decline! What do you do now? Why would they decline your offer? How do you respond? Keep reading to learn all you need to know about a declined offer.

What Is a Declined Offer by a Candidate?

After extending a job offer, you often give the candidate time to think it over and get back to you. In that time frame, you’re celebrating the win of hiring a quality candidate, but it doesn’t always work out. When they respond to your offer with a “no,” that’s a declined offer.

Reasons a Candidate Would Decline an Offer

Why would a candidate decline what you believe to be a great job? Let’s look at a few reasons why a candidate would choose to decline an offer.

1. Compensation and Benefits

At the end of the day, a good compensation and benefits package goes a long way. Candidates often review the offer and total rewards package provided by your organization and realize it’s not what they were expecting, and they decline the offer. Perhaps the pay is below market rate or lower than what they believe they are worth. Maybe the benefits you’re providing don’t fit their current needs. As a candidate evaluates the role, often one of the main reasons they decline a job offer is due to the compensation and benefits.

2. Not a Cultural Fit

Candidates are consistently doing research on the companies they are applying to. If they find the culture isn’t what they are looking for, a denial is sure to come, even if they wait until they receive an office job offer. A candidate might not withdraw due to the extra work involved if they’re not going to get the job. Maybe something in the offer struck a chord with them, or perhaps they read reviews online that referenced your culture and they don’t see it as a fit. Whatever the reason, fitting into a culture is important. Without that, a candidate would be prompted to decline the offer.

3. Difficult Hiring Process

No matter how efficient you feel your hiring process may be, it doesn’t make it true. Difficult hiring processes are common reasons for candidates to decline offers. It’s difficult at times to maintain the current recruiting pipeline and sometimes that means candidates take too long in the process when they should have moved along much faster. Some may go without effective communication until you are able to reach out to them. Either way, if your hiring process exhausted the candidate, expect them to decline the offer. Candidates want to feel empowered, excited and encouraged to work for your organization through the recruiting process. If this is missing, they may decline your offer.

4. Lack of Flexibility

In today’s market, flexibility is key, not just in relation to work-life balance, but in hybrid working environments or flexible working hours. Before the pandemic, these items may have been a “benefit” or a “perk” rather than a common job offer, but that’s a thing of the past. Today, expect a declined offer if you’re requesting a candidate to sit in an office all day with no flexibility when your competitor up the road offers hybrid or remote, flexible work. 44% of candidates would take a 10% pay cut to work from home. If your organization is not meeting this flexibility need, your declined offer is absolutely justified.

How To Respond to a Declined Offer

Now that you know the potential reasons a candidate may decline an offer, let’s look at what to do when they do.

Step 1: Be Respectful

While your pride may be hurt as you are reeling from all the time spent finding and interviewing this candidate, put that aside to be polite and respectful. Let the candidate get through their planned speech if you’re speaking on the phone, or put your emotions aside to read their email decline. Lashing out will ruin the relationship with the candidate which may already be tarnished due to some of the reasons above.

Step 2: Request Details

After the offer is declined, professionally ask them if they would share their reasons why. Actively listen to what they are saying and take notes to evaluate your next step. If this interaction is via email, reach out right away with your response to avoid keeping them in limbo any longer than they need to be. If the candidate isn’t comfortable sharing their reasons for the declined offer, respect their decision and end the dialogue with well wishes for their future. If they gave you some insight into why they are not accepting, take it and move on to the next step.

Step 3: Evaluate a Counter

Now that you know the “why” behind the declined offer, roll up your sleeves and see if there is anything you can do to save this quality candidate. This may require some back and forth with hiring managers or executives if you’re evaluating compensation or benefits, but be sure to do this in a timely manner. The candidate already has one foot out the door, if not two. Take into account the reasons for the counter. If you can salvage this, present your counter to the candidate and allow time to process the offer.

Step 4: Politely Accept

Whether they accept the countered offer or decline the offer again, politely accept their response. Thank them for their time considering the counter and show appreciation for the insight they provided to improve your process in the future. If they accept your new offer, you’re off to the races with your new employee!

Step 5: Move Forward

If the candidate declined all your counter attempts, it’s time to consult your pipeline and bring in a new candidate to interview or evaluate previous candidates that need a second look. If that second place candidate might make a good employee, reach out. If the previous candidate accepted your offer, move forward to make them an official employee. Be sure to do this efficiently to prove to them they made the right choice to go with your organization.

Tips for Getting Candidates to Accept Job Offers

A declined offer may feel unavoidable with all the competition out there and it’s bound to happen. While that may be true, let’s look at a few tips to set you up for an accepted offer instead.

Tip #1: Believe in the Organization

It starts with you. Candidates are just as much interviewing you as you are them. Make sure you portray your emotions around why you enjoy working for the company and why they would too. Talk about the benefits the company can provide and also the role itself. Sell them on why they should work in this role for your company. Stay focused, but stay genuine about the reasons they should accept a job with your company.

Tip #2: Communicate

No matter what, communicate. If a candidate has already interviewed and you’re determining next steps, let them know. You don’t have to bombard them with emails or phone calls during the hiring process, but keep them in the loop on where you are with them internally. You’re not only showing them they are a value to you, but showing the culture of your organization at the same time. Most candidates are looking for those open doors of communication!

Tip #3: Set Clear Expectations

After communication, always set the expectations every time. When you’re informing the candidate about the current stage of their hiring process, let them know what to expect. Inform them that while you’re still interviewing candidates, you expect to have a decision on next steps by the end of the week. Then follow through with that expectation. Don’t over promise and under deliver here. Set expectations that are simple for you to stay on top of throughout the process. Every candidate appreciates communication and transparency along the way.

Tip #4: Make a Competitive Offer

Even with all of the above steps, if you don’t come in with a competitive offer, an accepted offer may be out of reach. Do your market research and ensure, if possible, you’re coming in at or above other potential offers candidates are receiving. Whether your organization focuses on the perks and benefits with a variable pay scale or you pay employees above market, be sure the total package presented is a competitive offer!

Hire reliable workers faster

Find more qualified candidates, streamline your internal hiring processes, and improve your candidate experience with Eddy Hire.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Declined Offers

Typically pay discussions happen during the interview process. If a candidate receives an offer lower than the pay they requested, yes, that leads to declined offers. If pay wasn’t discussed in the interview process and the offer is under market value, a candidate may not even evaluate the rest of the offer before declining
It depends on how you decline the offer. If you’re professional, there should be no burned bridges.
Almost half(https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/28/half-of-job-seekers-rejected-a-job-offer-after-an-interviewheres-why.html) of job seekers reject a job offer. Do all you can not to be in that half!

Shalie has over 4 years of experience working in a variety of HR positions and organizations including: working as an HR department “of one”, working with a start-up based in Europe, to working in a fully established robust USA based HR department. Shalie has experience in multiple states and countries with all aspects of the HR spectrum. She has a passion to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the HR profession!

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