Updated: Jun 16
There is little more acutely irritating than going through a recruitment process with the ‘perfect candidate’ only to have the candidate reject your offer at the 11th hour.
There are many reasons why a candidate may reject an employment offer and being conscious of these can seriously improve your hiring efforts. The good news is that almost always the warning signs are there from the very start of the process. You just need to look out for them...
Now, to pre-qualify, I’m not saying that the following points will definitely result in an offer rejection; simply that they are risk factors that should be explored and qualified further at the outset of the process.
1: The candidate has no ‘professional reason’ for changing employer
There are many reasons to change employer; some personal, some professional. However, the risk of a rejection from a candidate is significantly lower if your opportunity resolves a professional issue that the candidate perceives in their current situation.
Let’s say they have no opportunity for promotion in their current role, and they can achieve this with you; you have a solution to a professional problem.
On the other hand, if the candidate believes they deserve more money for the work they do, or they have to move for family reasons, fine, but understand that any solution to those issues that do not require a change of employer will be favourable. If their current employer offers them more money when they hand in their notice, or they allow them to work flexibly to suit family circumstances, the candidate will almost certainly reject your offer.
As early in the process as possible you need a clear understanding of the candidate’s reason(s) for leaving their current employer. It’s easy to focus on the candidates skills and experiences, but if they cannot explain why they are considering a move, you have a clear red flag.
2: There’s no urgency in their communication
This one is pretty obvious, but often overlooked. If you are in direct contact with a candidate and they take a long time to respond to your emails, or they rarely answer your calls, it's another big red flag. People who are genuinely interested in your opportunity will respond at reasonable, regular and predictable intervals. They are engaged in the process and keen to progress. It’s the 21st Century. Short of incapacity, it does not take anyone 3 days to respond to an email for any reason other than they are not interested in doing so. Don’t buy the ‘I’ve been busy at work’ or ‘my cat got run over...’ long tales.
If you are working with the candidate via a recruiter, the same is true. Judge it on how responsive your recruiter is. If it takes the recruiter 3 days to get the answers you need to your questions, guess what? It’s taking them that amount of time to get the answers from the candidate. A good recruiter will let you know quickly that the candidate is not as responsive as they should be. Less experienced recruiters however, may be in the wishful thinking mode. This wastes your time.
3: They have never previously changed employer
This is controversial and please understand, I am not saying that loyalty is in any way anything other than a very noble character trait. I am specifically talking about candidates who are with their first employer, having worked with that company, and progressed with that company for a number of years.
Changing jobs can be stressful and it's takes some getting used to. People who have had the experience of resigning, negotiating their salary etc. are better placed to do so again. Never be put off by candidates who have never moved, but understand that they will need some extra guidance and support if they are to bite the bullet and leave their current employer.
4: They are overly focused on the financial package
It is clear that the financial package on offer is of real importance in the recruitment process. People, in my experience, seldom change employers for a lower remuneration package (though some wise owls do!). However, it is relatively easy to spot candidates who are preoccupied by the remuneration package on offer. You’ll spot this in the questions they have for you. At interview, if the candidate takes their opportunity to ask questions and more than 1 of these is about the salary and benefits package, you have a red flag. Perfectly reasonable to enquire further into these details at offer stage, but beforehand it betrays the wrong focus on the part of the candidate.
On a related point, if the candidate is asking about annual salary reviews at the offer stage, they are more than likely less than satisfied with the offer on the table. This is usually the case with people who feel they cannot negotiate the offer in hand and it's a rejection waiting to happen. Address it head on. You have been warned!
5: Your working conditions don’t match what they are used to
Put simply, if you are interviewing someone who has worked for 10 years on a 9-5 Mon-Fri work week, and you want them to work every second weekend with no additional holidays, the risk of them rejecting your offer is increased. You must qualify with them early in the process that this is the way you work and that they AND THEIR FAMILY! Are happy with this.
6: The role involves a relocation
It goes without saying that any role that involves a relocation carries significantly more risk than a role that does not. Changing jobs can be one of the most stressful things people do. Add to this finding a new home and finding a good school for the kids and you have a situation that is overwhelming for many people. You must be in close contact with your candidate under these circumstances and ensure that they and their family get all the support they need to make the move. Needless to say, wherever possible, try to secure candidates who do not require a relocation in the first instance. Once you’ve exhausted these options move further afield, but be conscious of the pitfalls.
7: Your recruiter doesn’t know enough about the candidate.
If you are working with a real recruiter, they will know the candidates they introduce to you inside-out, and will be able to address any concerns you have in relation to the preceding warning signs. If, on the other hand, the recruiter cannot tell you anything beyond that which you can read for yourself in the candidates’ CV, you have a red flag.
Your recruiter is not there to simply send you CVs. They must be helping you every way possible to secure the best people for your roles. Test them on this. The good ones won’t mind!
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