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Why would a top candidate join you over your competitors?

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

How to get candidates to accept your offer and reject your candidates.

This is a question I ask all of my clients early in our relationship:

“You’ve made an offer to a candidate, and they also have two other offers on the table. Why would they choose to accept your offer?”

Almost always, the answer I get to this question is: “Money!”. Totally understandable. Gallup reports year after year that employers consistently overestimate the importance of money in career change decisions, with 89% believing it to be the number one reason why employees leave. In fact, only 13% of employees state money as the main driver.

So, if 87% of candidates list factors other than money as the main reason why they want to leave their current employer, why then would the majority use money as the primary criteria for selecting between competing job offers? Answer: they wouldn’t. They don’t.

It is wrong to believe that you can’t hire the best candidates if you don’t offer the highest salary. If this were the case, all the best .NET Developers would move to London and work with Credit Suisse. They don’t.

Money is the easy answer. It is psychologically protective (as usually the hiring manager doesn’t control the budget) and requires no further investigation or introspection. It is what it is.

In reality, you don’t have to be the best payer to attract the best people. From a money point of view, you just need to be at the races. If other elements are done correctly, candidates WILL reject financially better offers to join your team.

Candidates' choose employers for convenience

Let’s face it, convenience plays a major part in decision making. It’s more convenient to buy a house than to build a house; to order take out rather than cook from scratch. And it’s more convenient to work with a company in your own town than to work for one 70 miles away. For this reason alone, candidates frequently reject more lucrative offers in favour of a more convenient one.

What does this mean for you? Try to hire candodates from your local market where possible. Where impossible, offer flexibility in the working arrangements to make the ‘long distance relationship’ sustainable and productive.

Candidates do of course relocate for jobs and commit to massive commutes. But you can bet that they will reject you in favour of an option where neither of those things are necessary.

Candidates' choose employers for the perceived environment

You know the cliché: “people don’t leave their employer; they leave their boss”. Everyone wants to work in a strong and positive work environment, and just as you vet your candidates for fit and competence, your candidates are vetting you for culture and environment.

This means they’ll check your online presence and reviews (your website, LinkedIn, Glassdoor etc.), they may even reach out to current and former employees to get a feel. What would your former employees say about you anyway?

If you’re not aware of how your team appears externally as an employer, you need to become aware and where possible try to own the narrative. The best candidates are aware. And it is highly likely that some have rejected you in the past because they didn’t like what they found.

Try also to be as open, honest and clear as possible about the work environment during the hiring process. List all the positives you can think of to share, and be open with the challenges. If you can’t think of any positives, perhaps you should be the one looking for a new role!

Candidates' choose employers because of the hiring process

A good process is one that is efficient and effective. In hiring, a process that is not efficient is never effective. Time kills everything.

Yes, the 2nd law of thermodynamics applies to hiring as much as to anything else. So you’ve attracted some top candidates to apply to your opening. Now what? If the process is laboured, unstructured, cumbersome and unresponsive your chances of actually hiring one of these candidates is virtually zero.

Your hiring process speaks volumes about your company overall. Make sure it is efficient so that it can be effective. If you don’t get on top of this, candidates will accept other offers over yours and you’ll be left with the C-players that nobody else is making offers to. Make sure you are aware of and avoiding the common hiring mistakes that hold you back.

Candidates' choose employers based on rapport at interview

People tend to go where they feel most welcome. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: “People don’t remember what you said. They remember how you made them feel.”

Even with an efficient hiring process in place, many companies just suck at interviews. The set-up is all wrong. The tone and the format, poor. There is absolutely no point in discovering that you love a particular candidate, if the process that gets you there causes the candidate to dislike you.

Candidates are coached to be courteous, respectful and engaging with everyone they meet at interview. From the reception staff to the CEO.

The same has to be true on the other side. Select your hiring team carefully and make sure everyone who engages with the candidates treats them as they would hope to be treated themselves.

You’d be amazed how many times I’ve heard a candidate, upon rejecting a move state: “I just didn’t get a good feeling from them”


There are of course countless other reasons why a candidate may choose your offer over another: fairness of contract terms, progression, personal referrals, positive news and so on. Almost all of these things cost nothing and are entirely in your control. You can also usually spot the candidates who are likely to reject you and save a lot of time in your hiring process.

If you want to attract and retain a higher calibre of candidate to your business, think less about competitors offering more money, and more about what you can do to level the playing field. The results will astound you and can transform your business.

And yes, some candidates DO select employers based on solely on money.

My advice: avoid these candidates. They will only leave you as soon as someone else offers them more!

If you know that you need to get better results from your hiring efforts, but you're not sure where to start, why not get a Free Recruitment Process Health Check form Elemental, and start hiring a higher calibre of candidate.

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