3 Reasons Candidates Decline Job Offers & How to Prevent Them

May 1, 2024

Recruiting and interviewing candidates is a time-consuming and expensive process for hiring managers. When they’ve made a decision and extended an offer to their preferred candidate, they obviously hope that the candidate enthusiastically accepts! However, that’s not always what happens.

Why might a candidate say no to a job offer when they’ve expressed interest in and interviewed with a company, sometimes going through multiple interview phases before the offer is extended? They’ve invested time and effort, too — so what went wrong?

Below, three of Kimmel & Associates’ executive recruiters offer their perspectives on why candidates might decline an offer, and how hiring managers can help prevent that from happening.

The Hiring Process Drags On (or Feels Rushed)

According to Market Leader Colby McCoy, time management is the most important factor in the hiring process. “The longer the process takes from introductory meeting to offer, the less likely it is that both parties will come together,” he says. Market Leader Wes Snoddy adds that no matter how interested a candidate is at the beginning of a hiring process, “by the sixth interview, they’ve mentally moved on.” Momentum is important in building and sustaining a candidate’s interest in and excitement about a job opportunity, so keeping the hiring process as streamlined as possible, including all the decision makers in the first or second interview, and keeping lines of communication open are all critical parts of making a successful hire.

On the other hand, it is important that hiring managers put enough time and effort into developing the candidate’s interest before delivering an offer. For example, if a hiring manager is so impressed with a candidate during a first interview that they offer them a job on the spot, they risk not knowing what kind of salary and benefits are important to the candidate in their next career move, or what kind of questions and concerns they might have.

In both cases, timing is key.

The Candidate Doesn’t Thoroughly Plan Ahead

According to Vice President Billy Doubraski, a lot of candidates think they know what to expect from a hiring process — but they haven’t really thought through all of the factors that go into making a career change. “They haven’t envisioned the reality of making a change — leaving friends and colleagues behind, having to resign or relocate, etc.,” Billy says. This process is complex and difficult, and changing jobs is incredibly stressful under the best of circumstances. By the time a candidate receives an offer, sometimes the reality of the situation hits them and they aren’t able to go through with the change.

To prevent this, communication is key. Hiring managers should check in with candidates at every stage of the interview process, offering support with the challenging parts of changing jobs and asking questions to ensure that the candidate is still motivated and committed to making a change. Then, when the offer comes, they’ll know the candidate has all the information and can make a confident decision to come on board.

Multiple Opportunities on the Table

In a candidate-driven market, when a strong candidate decides they’re open to a career change, they are going to have multiple options at their disposal, according to Billy. As a result, more and more candidates are confident enough to wait for the best available opportunity. “It’s very important for hiring managers to understand the importance of putting forth their best offer at the outset,” Colby says. If a hiring manager anticipates a negotiation process and opens with a low offer, a candidate might very well decide that it isn’t worth the time to go back and forth, and they’ll decline outright — after all, they may already have multiple offers on hand. This doesn’t just include salary, but also growth opportunities, cultural factors, relocation, and other career planning considerations. So, hiring managers should make sure to submit their strongest offer right away to a candidate they really want to hire — otherwise, they might risk losing out as the candidate pursues a better offer.

It’s simply not feasible for every candidate to accept every offer they receive. Sometimes, things happen and in the end, the career opportunity isn’t the right fit. However, hiring managers can set themselves up for success by moving through the hiring process efficiently, communicating clearly at every step, and giving the candidate the best offer they can.

Candidates should also understand that they should not explore opportunities and let things go to an offer stage without truly evaluating their interest in joining the interviewing organization and being honest about their short- and long-term goals and circumstances. Even a turndown can keep the door open between a candidate and a company, creating a relationship that might benefit both parties in the future — as long as everyone feels respected at the end of the day.

We’re grateful to Billy Doubraski, Colby McCoy, and Wes Snoddy for contributing their unique perspectives to this article.

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