Why Candidates Turn Down Jobs

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By Jas Singh

Perhaps the most frustrating part of any hiring manager’s job is when a candidate decides to drop out at the eleventh hour. Or even worse, I’ve even heard of candidates who have decided not to turn up to work even after accepting a job!

Hiring managers are understandably frustrated – often even outright angry. What a waste of time? Why did he or she lead me along? Even after I took them to that fancy restaurant to seal the deal? (How am I going to explain that expense to my boss now?!).

Although very common, candidates turning down job offers can often be prevented in the majority of cases. Here are a few ways how:

1) Have a great hiring process

As a hiring manager, your hiring process is a reflection of you. Just like master salesman know that people don’t just buy the product but also how the sales experience is conducted, the best hiring managers do everything they can to make sure they create the best impression possible.

Be decisive. Move quickly and efficiently. Let candidates know exactly what to expect and don’t have unnecessary steps. Have a thorough process that shows the candidate you are genuinely interested in them and that differentiates you from the rest of the noisy job market.

The better your process, the better the impression.

2) Qualify hard, qualify early

Moving jobs is a big decision so unless the opportunity is right for the candidate it is unlikely they will just “make a move”. Hiring managers should qualify a candidates current situation very early on in the process and only proceed with candidates past a certain point if there is a strong interest in the role. Often through all the interviewing, checking skills and experience hiring managers forget to ask the most important question: “Do you really want this job?”.

It’s an understandable conundrum as often highly skilled candidates are difficult to source and often not actively looking. Sometimes the idea is to get them through the door then “sell” them on the opportunity.

Rarely does that work, especially for high achievers who often have precise career goals and timelines. My advice to clients is to have one “speculative” meeting maximum – a first interview where the candidate can learn more – beyond this point only those who are seriously interested should be considered.

3) Cover the counter-offer early

In some industries counter-offers are virtually a given. Investment banks for example are renowned for locking up employees in rooms, having high-pressure day-long meetings, and doubling salaries to prevent employees accepting job elsewhere. And despite the well known statistics that between 70-80% people who resign still end up taking another job within 12 months, counter-offers still work.

The only way to cover the counter offer is to address it early. Rather than not mentioning unless it comes up, hiring managers should address this as part of the overall assessment process – and get some commitment from the candidate.

Nowadays on every search I work on there is a counter-offer section that is part of the overall assessment process. Both myself and the clients I work for ensure that we spend a few minutes on this critical area. It gets the candidate to think about this early on and often means they are fully prepared for what they will do.

In fact some of the best hiring managers I work for actually coach selected candidates through the resignation process rather than just make an offer and wait for the signed return.

4) Continuosly ask for more commitment

The hiring process is like any other successful transaction – you are trying to make sure the candidate is fully satisfied with everything by the time it comes to make a decision. And as any successful sales person will tell you, asking a buyer to make a “big decision” just at the end is a recipe for disaster.

Hiring managers need to make sure they are consistently asking candidates how interested they are in the opportunity and if they have any questions. This allows anything that needs to be addressed to be re-visited or covered. Also, by consistently asking for more commitment from candidates throughout the process it solidifies the candidates interest in the role and the company. If done properly, by the end the only candidates who are left in the process will be the ones who really want the job.

5) Realise closing is the natural outcome of any successful sale

When I first entered the hiring industry I was eager to get my message out there and read book after book on selling. However, ironically the best sales advice I was ever given was by a guy called Craig Wortmann who is a successful entrepreneur and also a professor at The University Chicago. Craig used to be the number 2 salesman at IBM and after that worked for Dean Witter before finally becoming a serial entrepreneur.

After examining all the various types of sales methodologies and conducting loads of research on top of his 20 year experience as a salesman Craig discovered the following fact about successful sales “closing”:

“Closing is the natural outcome of a successful sale”

In other words despite what all the corporate mantra says, successful closing is automatic. Sure you can fudge together a one-off forced sale. But for sustained success, if it is a genuine opportunity and you manage the sales process well, the close is easy.

The same is very true of the hiring process. As hard as it may sound (trust me it took me a while to accept) candidates dropping out at the last minute usually means something is wrong with the hiring process. Hiring managers need to use it as an opportunity to go back and re-examine their own approach – so they can build a more robust process that can prevent this happening again.

Conclusion

Candidate rejection is painful.

Although frustrating and often time wasting, hiring managers need to realise candidates may change their minds. They need to ensure they develop a robust hiring process that can minimize the chance of this happening.

How will you prevent candidates turning down your next job?

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