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Top 5 Reasons Why Candidates Reject Job Offers

If you’ve been in HR for any length of time, this has undoubtedly happened to you. You identify a very strong candidate—one everyone thinks is the perfect match. They seem interested. You present a competitive job offer and they turn you down, leaving you to wonder why  candidates reject job offers that they first pursued?  

It’s a question that employers are asking more frequently these days. According to a Glassdoor study of more than 800,000 site users, candidates are declining more than 17% of job offers—a number that’s steadily rising. In especially competitive industries, like technology and business services, the numbers are even higher.

This begs the question: what are candidates’ reasons to decline a job offer—and, how can employers turn this around? 

1. A Disappointing Compensation Package

One very common reason to decline a job offer is that the starting salary didn’t meet the candidate’s expectations. Perhaps the employer wasn’t clear upfront. Or perhaps after learning more about the job responsibilities, the candidate felt the compensation felt short.

One way to prevent this is to perform ongoing market research and ensure your compensation packages are competitive. For example, salaries are up by an average of 4.6% in 2023—are you keeping pace?

Another is to practice pay transparency, starting with the job post. Be transparent about employee benefits, too. At the least, candidates want the assurance of quality health insurance (some may decline job offer due to medical reasons if the health plan seems skimpy), plus thoughtful voluntary options.

On many fronts, but especially this one, setting clear expectations saves time and disappointment in the long run.   

2. A Negative Candidate Experience

According to one recruiter’s survey, nearly 60% of job seekers have declined jobs due to poor experiences with the hiring process. Sometimes, the process seems too slow and disorganized. Or there are communication gaps. Sometimes, interviewers come off as disinterested or even rude.

Fortunately, improving the candidate experience is easily remedied. For starters, streamline your application process. Communicate every step of the way. Make sure that everyone interacting with candidates has polished interview skills and offer training, if needed or requested. 

3. Lackluster Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance tops every candidate’s wish list right now. In fact, a good percentage of job hunters will only consider remote or hybrid positions.

When discussing your company’s approach to work-life balance, be sure to explain exactly what that looks like for your organization. Flexible schedules? Unlimited PTO?  And if you don’t offer remote or hybrid options, be clear about that, too. It won’t become a reason to decline a job offer if candidates know it before they apply.   

4. “The Job’s Not What I Expected”

As candidates move through the application process, their impression of the job can continually change, just as your assessment of the candidates evolve. After all, that’s the point!

Unfortunately, sometimes candidates start the interview process with high expectations that don’t hold up under scrutiny. For example, they may feel that the job post—or even job title—doesn’t match the actual job responsibilities discussed during their interviews.

Or, they may find that the career growth opportunities that they thought would be part of the deal are not so clearcut. These are valid personal reasons to decline a job offer—and sometimes, it’s unavoidable. However, open communication—and an understanding of what candidates need to know as soon as possible—can help prevent this from happening. 

5. A Cultural Mismatch

To an outsider, a company’s culture may be hard to pin down. It may sound like one thing online, but feel very different when a candidate comes in to interview. If your company prides itself on its warm, employee-centric culture, try to assess if it comes across that way from the outside looking in.

This goes back to the idea of the candidate experience. If a candidate isn’t comfortable or the workplace “vibe” seems off to them in some way, chances are, they’re going to decline a job offer that might otherwise seem perfect. And ultimately, that’s in your best interest, too, because it’s not a good fit.

At the end of the day, there are numerous reasons why candidates reject job offers. Sometimes, it works out to your benefit, too. Learn how recruitment marketing strategies can help you attract the right candidates the first time around—and how Namely can help.  

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