No thanks: Why candidates decline a job offer

By Robert Half on 12th December 2018

The average recruitment process for UK companies lasts 27.59 days, according to HR directors. This number has been steadily increasing over the last five years, owing to the number of stages in the recruitment process, the volume of CVs received and the lack of qualified candidates.

This timeframe is in stark contrast to candidate expectation, which is to be interviewed and hired in a matter of days. In fact, 58% of candidates in our research admitted they accepted their second-choice job offer because the hiring process of their ideal role took too long. A candidate's aim is to secure and start a new role as quickly as possible. Since both candidate and company are moving at two vastly different speeds, only employers who recognise and act on this can hope to hire their first-choice candidates.

Based on research and candidate/client interactions, these are the pinpointed reasons that a candidate might decline a job offer and what can be done to buck the trend.

Reasons candidates decline job offers

1. Lengthy hiring processes

During the job offer process, it’s highly likely that candidates are looking to start a new opportunity imminently. Although yours might be their first-choice role, it’s unlikely that they’ll risk holding out for you and decline a job offer if someone else makes an offer first.

It’s no secret that the hiring market is candidate-led and has been for some time. They are receiving multiple offers from businesses looking to secure qualified talent—a long hiring process puts you right at the back of the queue. Similarly, a poor onboarding process can lead to low retention rates, with 54% of businesses reporting that they’ve lost employees during the probation period alone.

Related: Find out why Time to Hire is increasingly a factor in attracting and securing top talent.

2. Lack of good feedback

Waiting to hear back from an interview can be a daunting time for a candidate. It’s not uncommon for them to accept a second or third-choice role due to a faster response rate or helpful interview follow-up. In fact, 65% of businesses in the UK believe finance candidates are less willing to wait for a job offer than they were 12 months ago.

The trend of 'Ghosting' may be one of the reasons candidates decline job offers, a term that means the communication process between client and candidate has gone cold or stopped suddenly. 12% of office workers have been guilty of professional ghosting when applying for a job, with responses from our research showing that the application process was too long or the company were too slow in their response.

The ability to give good feedback is also crucial if you’ve chosen to work with a recruitment company. They will use it to sort and source future candidates and consistent communicate with the candidate to update them and to avoid declining a job offer.

3. Remuneration negotiation

New research shows that 32% of businesses rely on a competitive salary offering to attract new candidates and 33% leverage rewards and benefits.

Benefit and salary negotiations can draw out your recruitment process, so it’s important to ensure that your initial offering is attractive enough before you begin. Excessive haggling and negotiation can leave a bitter taste in a candidate’s mouth and serves to make your offer look uncompetitive compared to the others they’re getting.

4. Candidates didn’t get a sense of company culture

Professionals aren’t just accepting a role, they’re also opting to join a company culture. When they have positive relationships with their teammates, they’re 2.7 times more likely to be happy in a job.

By not sharing the company mission or describing the personality traits of an ‘ideal teammate’, you’re missing the opportunity to paint a picture of the unique dynamic that sets you apart from competing businesses.

5. No opportunity for progression

Because career goals are never static, one of the most attractive aspects of a new role are the growth prospects on offer within the company. According to research by Gallup, the highest-quality candidates will use interviews to assess the level of opportunity on offer and base an acceptance on this.

Failure to ask interview questions designed to reveal your candidate’s favoured career path and not explaining how your business can offer progression along the same trajectory is an oversight that can cost you a first-choice candidate. If opportunities to progress are not clear from application or interview, it stands a good enough reason for candidates to decline a job offer.

6. The work doesn’t offer a valuable experience

When asked what drives happiness at work, the top-ranking responses from employees were gaining a sense of accomplishment and undertaking interesting, meaningful work. Daily tasks which are too complex or too easy will fail to satisfy an employee, and may cause them to drop off before the end of probation (if they accept the job at all).

It’s helpful to advertise the aspects of the job which offer the opportunity to lead or participate in key projects, the ability for professionals to set targets and goals, and to take ownership of their own tasks.

How to attract top performing candidates

• Work with a recruiter

Professional recruiters, like the team at Robert Half, have honed finding, interviewing and hiring top talent down to a fine art. They know what to look for in a candidate CV, so can reduce the time it takes to filter and shortlist interviewees. They have a large network of professionals (some of whom may not have applied for your role) and are practiced in finding a great long-term fit.

Of all the UK businesses surveyed by Robert Half, 28% admitted to employing staffing experts to remedy a poor hiring decision they’d previously made themselves.

Don't let your business miss out on top talent! If our reasons listed confirm why candidates decline your job offers, submit a vacancy today and let our expert consultants clarify the best way forward for your recruitment strategy. 

• Improve your employer branding

Good employer branding can give you the edge over competing companies in the hiring market, regardless of your company size. UK businesses say that their two preferred methods for attracting candidates are the promotion of company culture (42%) and communicating brand values (42%).

You can improve your branding by investing time into the cultivation and maintenance of your company culture, creating competitive and attractive remuneration packages and encouraging in-house brand advocacy.

• Re-evaluate your expectations

One of the biggest roadblocks in the hiring process is a lack of qualified candidates—40% of the CFOs recently surveyed said that they found it significantly challenging. This is particularly true when hiring for roles in finance management (30%), financial planning and analysis (29%) and accounting (28%). You may find that you can shorten your own process by hiring for cultural fit rather than ticking off a list of technical skill requirements.

Research for the Robert Half Salary Guide showed that many UK businesses are investing in employee upskilling, training and development in the coming year to account for the digital transformation of their workplace. They are also opting to hire and train junior candidates. This is also a highly desirable career benefit for professionals, and may put you ahead of competing companies.

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