HR Headaches: Candidates Aren’t Accepting My Job Offers

Whether candidates are ghosting or rejecting your job offers, you’re not alone. In 2020, Glassdoor reported that 1 in 6 offers was rejected on average. In some industries, that rate was considerably higher.

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Here's what you need to know about what to do when candidates aren't accepting your job offers:

  • You're not alone in your struggle to get candidates to accept job offers. The job market is in the job seeker's favor at this point.
  • There's a lot of competition for candidates and companies are getting creative in their recruiting efforts. Some even offer swag bags.
  • You need to seriously consider moving to a fully remote or hybrid remote/office work environment. Candidates are demanding it.

Do you often find yourself struggling to understand why offers aren’t being accepted in a talent market gone completely haywire? Some candidates vanish off the face of the earth after what you considered a successful interview process. They haven’t gone so far as to block your calls and messages, but they might as well have, considering their complete lack of response. Others are taking an endless amount of time to decide whether or not to accept your offer. These applicants are probably waiting to see if another, better offer comes through. Some politely decline your offer of employment, even though you were confident they were highly interested and motivated to join your company.

Whether you’re being ghosted or rejected, you’re not alone. In 2020 Glassdoor reported on average, 1 in 6 offers was rejected. In some industries, that rate was considerably higher – with marketing and PR associates rejecting up to 40% or more of offers. These numbers were pre-COVID metrics. The pandemic has upended the job market, with many workers rethinking their commitment to work at all. The great resignation, the return to on-site employment (or not), and the tight labor market are putting the squeeze on businesses of every size.

Why are candidates rejecting your offers?

Statistics are trickling in from across the country on rejection rates. Still, you don’t need the details to understand it’s a seller’s market. There are more jobs than willing applicants: businesses are competing for skilled and unskilled talent. They’re happy to lower their candidate expectations and train someone with potential if only they could get them on the payroll.

Some companies are even sending swag packages with offer letters in an attempt to entice acceptance. They believe the goodie bag may tip the scales in their favor for applicants who have multiple offers. You may not be willing to go that far, but you still need to get people in seats.

Beyond challenging market conditions, there are some reasons your offers aren’t being accepted – and some ways you can improve your metrics.

Candidates are accepting another offer

Almost 40% of candidates in a recent survey admitted they rejected a job because they received another offer. For businesses competing for talent, you may be able to hedge your bets before they say no when you make an offer.

Your typical offer phone call or letter outlines the basics –the offer, pay rate, and when you’d like them to start. In today’s market, add a bit more. Include that you know they may be getting offers from other organizations, and if they receive a better offer, you’re happy to negotiate further to get them on your team. Some candidates will take advantage of this to score a higher starting rate. Others may be beyond your price point. But some may be closer than you think to getting them on board.

Demand for remote work

Another survey found that 35% of applicants declined a job offer that would require them to work full-time on-site.

Fully remote or hybrid work is a must-have for skilled candidates post-pandemic. They saw it worked for their company and it worked for them. Getting people back to their cubicles 9 to 5 Monday through Friday simply isn’t going to happen en masse.

If you can offer remote – either part-time or fully, do so. The same survey found almost 75% of candidates admitted remote work figured prominently in their decision to accept or reject an offer. Whether you scrambled to go remote on a moment’s notice at the beginning of the outbreak or eased into it over time, there’s no going back. If you want to maintain headcount – count them remotely.

Candidate experience

If you’re getting rejected more than accepted, you might consider poor candidate experience is the problem in the process. CareerPlug revealed that 58% of applicants declined an offer because they had a poor experience with the company during the hiring process. That’s more than half the people an organization interviewed. Some of the reasons these job seekers cited as poor include:

  • Salary and benefits didn’t meet expectations: 19% – To avoid this problem, publish or communicate starting salary and benefits information before scheduling an interview. Don’t waste your time or theirs if you’re not in their range.
  • Role and responsibilities were different than expected: 17% – Be honest about the job, the duties, and the expectations. Avoid the temptation to sugar-coat some of the downsides of the work to make a quick hire. If you succumb, you’ll find they quit just as quickly when the job is not what they expected
  • Interview process was slow and disorganized: 10% – Applicants are looking for a reason to move on to the next company. Your interview process has to be swift and seamless in today’s tight market. If you’re lagging behind when it comes to scheduling or making an offer, or if your entire process is bogged down with chaos, they’re not saying yes.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

The rise of CSR in business is being driven by demand from consumers as well as workers. In a Jobvite survey, 42% of applicants said they would reject a job offer if the company lacked diversity or didn’t have clear goals for improving diversity in their hiring practices.

For Gen Z workers, in particular, CSR is a must-have for any employer they consider. Make sure to promote your existing diverse culture and your efforts to grow and expand your workforce.

In addition to attracting top talent, CSR boosts your brand in the marketplace.

Don’t take no for an answer from top candidates

The chances that your offer will be rejected are high, but don’t let that deter you. Whenever you make an offer, keep the door open for the applicant to change their mind. Include language in your job offer that lets the candidate know you’re willing to go the extra mile to get them on staff.

If candidates ghost you …

If you don’t get a response from a candidate, your first instinct may be to put them on your ‘never hire’ list and be done, but you might want to offer them an option. In your second (or third) offer, let the candidate know this is the last offer you’ll make at this time – that you’re assuming they’ve taken another position. Add that you wish them well and hope that if it doesn’t work out with the other company, they’ll contact you because you’ll have a slot waiting for them if they’re interested.

If they’ve accepted a similar job offer …

Do the same –wish them well and let them know you’ll still be interested in them if it doesn’t work out. Remember, over 16% of new hires quit their job between the first week and third month on the job.

If you can keep the door open for them to reconsider you, you may be able to get them on the payroll before you’ve even started scheduling a new round of interviews.

If candidates received a better offer …

When you make your offer, make sure to leave the door open for negotiation. If they let you know they got a higher offer or better benefits, ask for a day or two to come up with a counter-offer.

Before you say ‘no’ out of hand, consider how much you’ve invested in recruiting this candidate so far, and how much it will cost you to restart the process. You don’t want to get into a bidding war, but you probably don’t want to lose out on a great candidate for a few dollars.

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Those who’ve left

Don’t forget to actively recruit any employees you’ve lost recently with the same tactics. They may be having buyer’s remorse about jumping ship. If you can offer them a way back to their comfort zone and their old desk, it’s definitely worth a phone call.

The battle for talent isn’t going anywhere

The talent war shows no sign of slowing down in the near future. For recruiters and hiring authorities, rejected offers don’t have to be the end of the process. They may be an opportunity to change your strategies or offer tactics to score talent.

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