There is one universal truth of talent management - hiring is hard. It takes time, effort, and resources and even then there is no guarantee that your new hire will live up to your expectations. What makes modern hiring even harder, though, is the increasing trend of candidates turning down your job offer. As frustrating as this is for hiring managers, it's a product of one of the tightest labour markets in the last 5 decades and that fact that competitors are also trying to attract the same people. But if those great candidates are saying no thanks to your contracts, there are a few tactics you can try to improve your luck with your next hiring attempt.
Why are candidates not accepting your offers?
If you're a hiring manager and you're getting a number of rejected offers there are two questions to ask yourself. First, why is this happening? And second, what can you do to fix it? Let's tackle the first question first. Below we'll explore some of the more common reasons candidates opt to pass:
- Misalignment on salary and benefits: The big, obvious one is, of course, about dollars. Many job posting don't include a salary range and in some cases, the topic isn't even broached till the contract is extended. If candidate expectations do not match the offer at the end of the long winding road of interview call backs, they will feel like their time was wasted or that the company wasn't playing fair. Even worse, sometimes salary numbers change DURING the interview process. For example, one of our associates just had an interview for a communications specialist role at a law school. In early discussions, the number offered had been around $75,000. After 3-4 interviews, it became $63,000. Needless to say, a huge red flag was raised about the company's honesty and the candidate walked.
- Better offer elsewhere: Ever heard the adage job searching is like having a full time job? It's getting more and more true. These days, candidates are sending out an average of 2-5 resumes a day. If it's a good candidate, guess what happens? Active job-seekers often find themselves speaking to 2-3 companies at once, at a minimum. If those interviews all go well, they might be offered a variety of different contracts. Is yours the best package compensation and culture-wise? If not, you won’t get the candidate.
- Counter-offer at current company: In tight labor markets, often recruiters try to poach a candidate who has an existing job. On the one hand, this is good because you pull a valuable resource away from a potential competitor and you don't have to spend as much time training your new hire. But when you make the offer and the candidate is considering it, at some point he/she has to go to their current company and say “I think I’m out.” If they’re a valuable employee, you better believe the existing company will make a counter. If the counter is better and the employee is generally happy and familiar with processes and people around them, they'll likely take the counter over gambling on the unknown.
- Glassdoor reviews: Privacy is dead and we're living in an age where you can review absolutely everything with a few clicks. If you think there is any chance your employees aren't going to leave online reviews describing their experiences at your company, then you're in for a surprise. If those reviews are good, awesome! But if they aren't, they send a clear red flag to candidates. While it’s smart for candidates to ignore the very good and very bad reviews, focusing instead on reviews that discuss both pros and cons, some organizations have a smattering of negative reviews they try to ignore. Be aware, your candidates probably aren't.
- Generally poor candidate experience: Candidate experience is a huge game-changer these days, and the best candidate experiences are often being driven by the more nimble startups. As lumbering larger companies try to do their candidate experience better, sometimes they fumble the ball. A bad candidate experience sends red flags to a potential employee. You don't want your candidates walking away thinking, “If they treat me this way as a candidate who they are theoretically trying to impress, how will they treat me as an employee?"
- You took too long: Ah, time to hire. A metric that will always be embraced in the recruiting world because, well, A+ Players don’t stay on the open market long. This can become the epitome of "you snooze, you lose." In a competitive job market, if you need 5 interviews over multiple weeks or even months to base your hiring decision on, you run the risk of exhausting your candidates to the point where they might drop out of your process and accept an offer elsewhere with a speedier turn around.
- No sell on the culture: Culture matters. A lot. People don't want to work somewhere they won't be appreciated or engaged. Hiring managers tend to stumble in two ways when it comes to culture. First, you might not be communicating it as clearly, or as soon, as you should be. Like salary and benefits, culture is a real consideration these days when taking a job. Second, candidates can see your culture. Cue the gasps! Every time you bring a candidate into your office for an interview, they are exposed to your culture (or lack of it in some cases). If all they see are grey walks and employees with their heads down not talking to each other, what decision do you think they'll make about your offer?
- Perceptions of management: If you are hiring for your own team, be aware that you are not the only one making judgments in the interview. One example of this is of a recent grad who was in this exact situation a year ago. He had two offers for marketing roles; one was with a construction company and one was with a travel company. In both cases, the hiring manager would have been his boss. The construction company interviewer was pretty mean and somewhat disengaged. The travel boss was not. He got both offers and went with the latter.
How can you get more candidates to accept?
When you examine the reasons candidates aren't saying yes, you quickly realize the changes you can make to ensure that the problems don't happen to you. Some of the larger overarching tactics you can put into play to improve your hiring success are:
Communicate better: Most studies about poor candidate experience all come back to the same place. Candidates want to be communicated with. They want to know where they stand and they want it to be frequent. What can you learn from this? Over-communicating is better than under-communicating. Use apps, text, Skype, or rely on good old fashioned email but don't keep your stellar candidates waiting.
- Streamline your process: Do you need all those steps or all those voices weighing in on a candidate? Anything you can do to streamline, and thus speed up, your process will give you an edge when it comes to catching the right candidates before they land somewhere else.
- Research your competitors: Do you know who you're up against? Most hiring managers have a sense of their competition on a company level but not necessary on a candidate one. If you want to outshine the competition, you need to figure out what they're offering and whether you can (or want to) match it.
- Create a culture message: Highlight your culture and employee engagement or satisfaction. Show candidates what the culture is really like when they visit. Take it even further and have a culture video ready to expose candidates to daily life, corporate events, social activities and more.
- Get a referral hook: Did your candidate come from an internal referral? Then use it! If the candidate has worked with a current employee of yours in the past, send that employee to explain the culture, the benefits, the perks, and all the pros of working there. The words of a current employee on their same level will have more weight than those of a stranger, even if you built up a great rapport in the interview.
- Respect a candidate’s time: If there is one take away from this blog, it's this point. Channel Aretha and R-E-S-P-E-C-T every candidate you interview. Be particularly careful about their time. After all, do you like when people waste yours? Treat candidates as the valuable resource they are, not as nameless resumes who should wait gratefully by the phone till you call.
Getting turned down is never fun but in this tight labour market, it's an increasing fact of life. Even if you do everything right, you might find there are some factors you simply can't compete on and that's ok. Even company's that aren't Google or Amazon win great talent and you can too. Take a look at your own processes and think about your interview approach from the candidate's perspective. When you design your talent acquisition process with candidate's in mind, you might just find that instead of the dreaded "no" you hate, the candidate of your dreams says a loud and ringing "yes".