Why Do Candidates Turn Down Job Offers? And What You Can Do About It

Have you ever felt really good about a candidate? You thought it was a perfect match and couldn’t wait to have them on your team. You made your absolute best offer … only to have them turn it down. This may have led you to settling for your second, third, or even fourth choice candidate. You might find yourself wondering, what makes someone go through the trouble of applying, interviewing, etc., only to say no once the job is offered? What is it that job seekers want? 

At CareerPlug, we wonder the same thing, which is why every year we conduct research to determine what active job seekers want to see from potential employers during the hiring process.

Our latest research shows that more than half of candidates turn down job offers due to poor candidate experience. This means the solution for hiring more of those “got to have” candidates, is improving their experience with you from the job posting to the initial offer. 

Let’s dive into the specific problems that occur during the hiring process that keep candidates from accepting an offer and how you as a business owner or hiring manager can address these problems and make the right hires. 

Reasons candidates turn down job offers 

We define the candidate experience as the experience a candidate has with an employer throughout the hiring process, from job posting to offer. We found that a whopping 58% of job seekers said they’ve declined a job offer because of a poor experience with a potential employer during the hiring process. This is up from 50% in 2020. 

impact of bad candidate experience

The best candidates will always have the benefit of being picky about where they work. Plus, recent changes in the labor market have been favorable for job seekers, giving them more leverage than ever before. 

Many factors will influence a job seeker’s final choice. So what are those specific factors of the candidate experience that make or break a job seekers decision?

reasons job seekers decline offer

“I had a negative experience with people in the interview process.”

When we looked at the reasons that job seekers classified different experiences poorly, we found that the number one reason candidates decline job offers is because of a negative experience with people in the interview process. 

This means that one out of every four candidates who turned down a job offer did so because the people interviewing them did not leave them with a great impression of the company. Fortunately, this is a reason that you totally have the power to combat. 

The solution: Creating a positive experience for all candidates is attainable for any business. Train hiring managers and interviewees to conduct great interviews and hold them accountable for it. 

Schedule interviews in a timely manner and prepare for interviews thoroughly. Have a ​​standardized list of questions ready and stay present throughout the interview. We suggest handling virtual interviews the same way you would an in-person interview. Give candidates clear instructions, respect their time, and avoid asking candidates to participate in one-way video interviews

“The compensation and benefits didn’t meet my expectations.” 

According to our research, the second biggest reason that candidates turned down a job offer was because of the compensation and benefits not meeting their expectations. This can be frustrating for both parties, but is definitely something that you, as a business owner, can address and avoid. 

The solution: At CareerPlug, we encourage transparency from the start. Candidate experience starts with an effective job posting. We suggest putting compensation and benefits into the job posting so that job seekers know before applying whether it is a match. Ultimately this will save you time and help you avoid interviewing applicants that are looking for something different from what you can offer. 

“The role and responsibilities were different from what I expected.”

Another top reason that candidates turned down a job is that the role and responsibilities weren’t quite what they expected. An interested candidate that finds out late in the interview process that the job isn’t what they thought will feel like you wasted their time. 

The solution: Once again this solution lies within a good job posting. Take the time to think about the role and write a job posting that describes it accurately. Job seekers use the job posting a guidepost when trying to decide whether or not they want to work for your company. 

Laying out both the compensation and expectations for the role from the beginning might decrease your number of applicants, but it will weed through candidates that aren’t a good fit. You can be assured that someone that makes it to the interview process is already aware and satisfied with what you have to offer and the responsibilities of the role. 

For more guidance on how to create a good job posting, check out this video where our director of HR, Natalie Morgan, outlines the blueprint we use at CareerPlug. 

“I was worried about the company’s COVID safety measures.”

The fourth biggest reason candidates turned down job offers is over concern of COVID safety measures. COVID concerns may play a bigger role in certain occupations. For example, 35% of candidates in the personal care industry cited “concern over the company’s COVID safety measures” as a reason for declining an offer. This is a rate much higher than any other industry in this study.

The solution: Providing a safe and healthy workplace is important for both candidates and employees in any industry. Make sure that you have the proper protocols in place to address these concerns. You can let job seekers know how you are handling COVID concerns in the job posting and also take the time to discuss this with candidates. 

Consider incorporating phone and video interviews when possible. If you need to conduct interviews in-person, understand that many of your candidates will be evaluating the health and safety measures you’ve taken in your workplace. 

More things to consider 

The importance of the candidate experience may vary from industry to industry. 78% of job seekers in home and commercial services reported that they have declined a job offer due to a poor experience in the hiring process, while job seekers in the healthcare and retail industries reported the lowest rates of poor candidate experiences. 56% of healthcare candidates and 60% of those in retail, said they have not declined an offer due to poor candidate experience this year. 

Clearly, there are variations across different industries, and plenty of other factors that might affect a candidate’s decision, including a better offer elsewhere or the job not aligning with the candidate’s career goals

However, it’s worth restating that based on our research, no matter how many hours you put into the hiring process or how good your final offer is, if you are creating a negative candidate experience, then over half of your offers will be rejected. 

The impact of a positive candidate experience

The answer is clear. To get more candidates hired, you have to improve your candidate experience. The good news is that this effort will pay off! 

Based on our research, 80% of candidates said a positive candidate experience influenced their decision to accept an offer. When asked about the company they currently work for (or most recently worked for), 93% of employees rated the candidate experience in the hiring process as “excellent” or “slightly positive.” 

impact of positive candidate experience

You know that hiring can be stressful. Looking for a job can be stressful as well. Have empathy for your candidates and show them that you value and appreciate their time and effort. Take action to improve your overall candidate experience to ensure more candidates are excited to say yes to your job offer.

Want More Info on the Candidate Experience?

Download our 2021 Candidate Experience Report to learn what job seekers are looking for plus industry specific insights and tips for improving your hiring process.


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