June 15, 2021
Hiring 30 May 2019
What Do You Do When a Candidate Says No?
Britta Howlett

You have worked hard at looking at applications, interviewing several people and figuring out who to hire. When you finally find the right person for the job, you get excited about offering them the job. Then the worst scenario happens: the candidate declines the job offer. What are you supposed to do now?

Figure out What Went Wrong

After responding with grace, you immediately want to figure out why they declined the job. You can directly ask them for feedback. Don’t take it personally, there could be a number of reasons why the candidate declined the offer. A few reasons why could be:

  • Not enough time off
  • Not enough money
  • Didn't like the company culture
  • Didn't like the city
  • Feeling underqualified or overqualified
  • The work doesn't match their skill sets
  • Benefits weren't what they were expecting
  • Too much travel
  • Long commute

Whatever it is, it’s good to know what people don’t like so that you can be better prepared in the future when you find the next perfect candidate. If the candidate is worth it to you then you can find out what the hesitation is and make a counteroffer to better fit the candidate's needs. Make good use of the candidate's feedback, don’t just brush it off. It might have been a while since you were in their shoes. They can have great insight into why your company is not a good fit for them or what things could be changed so it can be a better fit. Once you identify what the problem is, all you have to do is simply change what you are doing. 

You may have to change a couple of things, but once you do, you will come out strong with a good employee. Perhaps you may not even have to change a thing. It could have just been bad timing and not the right fit. Just keep trying!

Shayleen Stuto, Director of HR for TechnologyAdvice suggests,

“When a candidate declines a job offer, you should look at it as an opportunity to learn more about your hiring process. Follow up with the candidate, and ask where the process or offer was lacking. You may find that you can salvage the hire by offering more in the way of compensation or benefits, or you may learn that competitors in the space have more attractive benefits that you can implement in your organization. If you learn that a step in the process turned the candidate off, you can use that information to better refine your hiring pipeline.”

Be Kind

There are many reasons why a candidate might not accept the job offer. It’s most likely not about you. There could be something else going on with their life that you are not aware of. So instead of feeling bad about yourself or getting angry that they didn't accept the offer, respond with kindness and understanding. You may respond in person, on the phone or by email. No matter the response, respond with grace

An example of a response could be something like: “Thank you for letting me know of your decision. We wish you luck in whatever you do next.” You can even ask them if they would be interested in any openings in the future. 

Stacy Caprio, founder of Growth Marketing said, 

“When a candidate declines the offer, be gracious and keep the relationship open. You never know where the future could lead, and there is a chance if you are polite and kind that they would accept a job at your company at some point in the future, possibly even the near future if they dislike the job they end up accepting.”

Don’t Throw out the Candidate

Just because they didn’t accept the job this time, doesn't mean they won't accept a job in the future. If it’s a good candidate, then stay interested, We are not saying to beg for them to accept the job, just don’t delete their information. Archive their information and rediscover them again later. Perhaps when several months pass by or a new position opens up, you can reopen their information. 

Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com suggests to,

“Keep in touch. There have been a few cases, in my experience, where candidates have declined because they had multiple offers. They chose another offer, it didn't work out, and we were able to circle back with them to gauge interest in seeing if they were still interested in joining our company and working for us. It's always smart to stay in touch with a truly talented individual that would be an asset to the business because you never know what might change!"

Keep going forward

The best thing to do when you get disappointing news like a great candidate declining an offer is to keep your head up and keep moving forward. Sometimes life can throw something unexpected at you but you might find that it all works out in the end. You might even hire someone who was better than the candidate who declined the job offer. Just stay positive and stay true to how you want your company to be. You will eventually find the perfect fit for your company!

Key Take-Aways

1. Seek to understand what went wrong so that you can understand how to better the process.

2. Be courteous and kind. Thank them for their time and consideration.

3. Don’t throw out their information. You may hire them in the future.

4. Stay positive and keep moving forward. You will find the right candidate for the job.