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7 Reasons Candidates Don’t Accept Job Offers

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

Hiring staff is meant to be easy.

Think of all the ways that the hiring process is depicted in popular culture. We constantly see characters in TV shows and movies looking for jobs. We see them hoping beyond hope they will get a job. We see them interviewing; waiting for the phone call; their dejection if they fail and their elation if they succeed.

All of this tends to paint an imagine of a hiring culture where the business owner has all the cards. There’s no end of candidates available; all you have to do, as a business owner, is throw an advert online and thousands of desperate candidates will soon be stampeding your way. That’s how you’d think it is, anyway.

The reality – as anyone with any experience of hiring staff knows – is very different indeed. If you do manage to sift through the endless piles of job applications and find a decent candidate, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily accept the job. You can make an offer, only to find yourself turned down. This isn’t how you’d thought it would be when hiring staff, but it does happen.

If it begins to happen more often than you’re comfortable with, then it might be worth investigating what might be happening. Some of the reasons will be down to your company; some are purely circumstantial. Still, it can give you an idea of what you can put right, and what you might just need to put down to bad luck.

REASON #1 – They Have A Better Offer

The single most likely reason that your job offers are being rejected is that the person has a better offer.

There’s not much you can do about this. If you really think they are the right person for the role, then you could always examine your finances and see if you can offer more money in exchange. However, this can launch you into a bidding war – so you need to be very sure the person in question is worth going to bat for. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time making bids and receiving counter bids, but never actually get to the point of being able to hire someone

It’s always worth checking to see if the package you’re offering in the first instance is comparable with what’s being offered by other companies. If you’re trying to hire well-qualified staff for a pittance, then the chances are you’re going to receive a lot of rejections – and anyone you do hire who fits the bill may leave fairly quickly, when they realize there are better chances out there. You don’t have to beat your competition, but you do need to be competitive, thinking along the same lines as everyone else.

REASON #2 – Their Circumstances Have Changed

People don’t interview for a job with the idea in their mind that they will take the job if offered. Often, they are being speculative; they are seeing what’s out there, potentially even looking for another offer they can take to their current employer in an effort to negotiate a raise. While this is annoying, it’s not that different to you choosing to interview multiple people for the same role – it makes sense to keep options open wherever possible.

If their circumstances have changed and they can no longer take the role, then there is little that you can do to encourage them otherwise. Move on to other candidates.

REASON #3 – Your Industry

While some industries have more people than they have jobs, others are suffering the opposite problem. Technology and engineering tend to have far more jobs available than qualified candidates to take those jobs. If your business operates in these industries, then you could find yourself with more permanent placement roles than you can adequately fill.

To an extent, if this is the case, then there isn’t much you can do. To bring more people into these industries is going to take a huge sea change of attitudes, right down to encouraging young people to look into career options they might not have otherwise considered. One thing to remember is that if you do have good staff, then it makes sense to negotiate long contracts so that you can hang on to them for as long as possible. A qualified, diligent worker in an industry that is undersubscribed is worth their weight in gold. Well, perhaps not literally – but they’re valuable, so keep hold of them!

REASON #4 – They Didn’t Like You

Okay, so now it’s time to bite into the nitty gritty – the thing everyone fears when someone turns down a job offer. There’s a chance they didn’t like you or your company, and this alone has turned them away from accepting an offer.

Considering this is a blow to your self-esteem, there’s no doubt about that. Most of us would like to think we’re likeable; that our business is exciting and interesting; that anyone would want to work with or for us. However, the simple truth is that you can’t be sure that’s the case.

It’s also difficult to get feedback on this one, because few people in your life are going to be willing to give you a straight answer. If you ask existing staff if they liked you when they first met you, they’re going to be diplomatic – no one is going to risk annoying or upsetting the boss. Former staff can’t even be called to consult on the matter, as they might be bearing a grudge, or be unwilling to burn a bridge with a company they might someday want to return to.

All you can do is work on appearing personable, friendly, and professional whenever you conduct interviews. It also makes sense to present a good face of the company to a potential employee; give the office a quick tidy, make sure the environment looks like somewhere that you’d want to work if you didn’t own the company. Your hiring practices might be good, but if you’re not making the prospect of working for you sound as good, then you might find job offers being refused more than you’d like.

REASON #5 – You Make Unreasonable Demands Of Your Staff

Reputation matters. In the internet age, reputation matters more than ever before. It’s fair to conclude that, before anyone accepts a job with your company, they will do some research beforehand. They will want to see what you’re like to work for, what the company viability is, what employees think about working with you – and there’s plenty of online sources that let them do just that.

If you’re not a great boss, then there’s a chance that word will have spread online. If you gain such a reputation, it can be incredibly difficult to shift – but it also might mean that you need to evaluate what you request from workers. If there is a consistent opinion being spread that you’re too hard on your workers and demand too much from them, then the truth is, it might be worth listening to. Only by challenging your reputation and making genuine changes are you going to be able to bring on board the staff that you need.

REASON #6: The Job Isn’t What They Thought It Would Be

A job interview is when a person learns more about the role they are being recruited for. The amount of information people have when applying for a job isn’t a lot, so there’s a chance they don’t have a full idea of what’s expected. At interview, they might learn there’s aspects to the job they don’t think they would enjoy or don’t feel they are qualified for – so they reject any offers.

It makes sense to be as thorough as you can when it comes to advertising a role. Give a complete overview of all duties, working hours, remuneration on offer, and any bonuses. If you take to time to do this then, yes, it takes longer to compile your job adverts – but it guarantees anyone who interviews already knows exactly what you’re expecting. A little more time spent creating your adverts means that you’re going to waste less time in the future, interviewing people who might ultimately decide the job isn’t for them.

REASON #7 – There’s No Reason

It’s easy to look at a rejected job offer as something terrible; a sign you need to do something different; that your company has got a lot of work to do to be attractive to applicants. But sometimes, there isn’t a specific reason. Someone could be rejecting a job offer because they just have a bad feeling, or some other reason that they just can’t quite seem to put their finger on. So unless the problem becomes chronic, don’t worry too much about having a job offer rejected. People will make decisions for their own reasons, so chalk it up to experience and move on.

Finding staff isn’t easy, but hopefully you should now have a few strategies in mind to understand why job offers might be being refused. Change where you need to – if you feel you need to – and fingers crossed, the perfect new recruit will follow along quickly.

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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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