Here’s What You Can Learn When a Top Candidate Rejects Your Offer

You think you’ve found the perfect candidate to fill an open role at your organization. After reviewing their resume, conducting rounds of interviews with your recruiter, hiring manager and company leadership, you’ve made an offer. You’ve even checked the candidate’s references and completed salary negations with the person. Everything looks like it’s going well and that the candidate is about to accept the offer…that is, until they don’t.

You’re surprised and disappointed by the rejection. While the candidate gives a valid reason as to why he/she can’t accept the role at your company, you’re still upset. But instead of letting it get to you and your human resources organization, you have to bounce back and learn from the experience so that you can grow as a business.

“Making an offer to a candidate, only to have it rejected, is always difficult.” says Simone Mazzeo, program manager of talent attraction for MRINetwork. “This is especially the case if you don’t have a second applicant who can fill the role. Instead of placing all the blame on the candidate that rejected your offer, use the experience as a powerful learning tool. You and your firm need to carefully analyze what happened so you can avoid such a fate in the future.”

Here are some tips to help you move forward after a top candidate rejects your offer:

Revisit your interviewing process as a firm. 

If a candidate rejects your offer, it might be because they did not have a good experience during the interview process. Maybe one of the interviewers failed to impress or didn’t adequately answer the candidate’s concerns. Or it could be that the interview process was extremely grueling and left a bad taste in the person’s mouth. Then, when it came time to think through the offer, they simply didn’t feel comfortable accepting.

To help, you should assemble company leadership to determine how you handle job interviews. That way you, recruiters and hiring managers are on the same page when it comes to language you use when meeting candidates, the types of questions you ask, and, maybe most importantly, the way you describe the company in order to woo top talent.

“Get together with key stakeholders during your interview process,” says Mazzeo. “This is absolutely critical if you want to make offers to top talent and have them accept. You need to come across as a united front and inspire people to want to join your firm. That means you must hold their interest. Are you asking them what their interest level is in each step of the process? Otherwise, you’ll lose out on people who can help your business succeed.”

Determine if you have an employer branding issue.

A lack of compelling employer branding or a sense of the brand experience is another reason a top candidate might reject your offer. For instance, a candidate may not feel excited about what your organization has to offer them. Maybe during the interview process, they didn’t see the potential for career growth. Or the company felt antiquated and not a good fit for their personality. If your organization feels stale, unappealing or otherwise not exciting, then it’s likely a candidate will simply reject your offer without a second thought.

To address this, you need to ensure the company has a solid social media presence, consistent media coverage, and the company website and marketing materials are updated. This will provide the “wow factor” for prospective candidates from the very beginning, enabling the organization to inspire interviewees with specific examples of a strong company culture, growth opportunities, and a highly professional interview process.

Signs that a candidate will reject your offer:

1. The candidate is obsessed with compensation from the very beginning of the process.
2. The candidate is not jumping on next steps in the process quickly.
3. The candidate only has canned questions to ask during interviews.
4. The candidate doesn’t seem enthusiastic about the final offer and takes too long to come back to you with an answer.

“You want to make an offer to the best candidate,” says Mazzeo. “That begins with the first interview. Ensure you are uncovering the candidate’s reasons for wanting to evaluate this position, what their must haves and nice to haves are in their next position. Look out for some of these warning signs throughout the interview process and make sure your hiring team is talking constantly and giving feedback to one another. Not only will this weed out weaker candidates, it’ll also help you face less rejections from seemingly strong contenders.”

In sum, while a rejected job offer can throw a damper on a critical position you need to fill, there are several actions you and other on the hiring team can take to lessen the chances of this happening. By bolstering your interviewing process and employer branding initiatives, as well as simply looking out for red flags, you’ll make offers to stronger candidates who won’t leave you scrambling to fill open roles at your organization.