Hiring is, in my opinion, a lot like dating.
To do either one well requires strong communication and self-awareness. The best candidates (like the hottest dates) are sought after. They know their value in the marketplace. They are typically attracted to a confident, clear vision, whether it’s another person or a company. Remember, candidates are watching how you operate as you “court” them. If your hiring process lacks cohesiveness, leaves big communication gaps, or makes you seem indecisive, they’ll assume that your business is run the same way.
Here are five possible reasons why your offer wasn’t accepted:
1. The interview process was discombobulated.
All too often, interviewers operate in silos. Some preparation beforehand will go a long way toward optimizing the interview process. Ideally, your recruiter, hiring manager/decision maker and the interview team (not too many, please, unless you want to drag the interview process out while schedules are coordinated) sit down ahead of time to prepare: what skills/experience & traits should the ideal candidate have?
What can you flex on? Who’s going to ask skills/experience questions (and which ones)? Who’s going to ask behavior-based questions? Debrief with your interviewers as soon after the interview as possible so you can update the candidate (even if it’s a ‘thanks, but we’re passing’). If your company uses more than 2-3 interviews to identify a hire, let the candidate know at the beginning of the process what the timeline to offer stage might look like.
2. Your interviewers didn’t sell the opportunity and/or the company.
There’s a fierce competition for strong candidates, especially in IT. For each candidate that you like & can envision hiring, several other companies are probably thinking the same thing. Keep in mind that candidates are comparing your company against others in the same way you’re comparing candidates against each other.
Remember to bring up authentic examples of why your company is the one they should choose (even if they don’t ask). Sell a vision, not a job description. Paint a picture (if you like the candidate) that captures their imagination and includes them. If you’re aware of negative buzz about your company (you can find out on sites like Glassdoor.com), be sure to address it.
3. You took too long to decide.
Maybe your vision for the position changed. Maybe it was a budget issue. Maybe you didn’t foresee interviewers being out of the office.
Whatever the reason, when a candidate goes long stretches without hearing from you (and a weekend can seem like a long stretch when you’re waiting), it’s easy for them to assume you’re not interested, even if the exact opposite is true. If there are delays, make sure to communicate them. Stay in touch even if you don’t have a timeline update. It’s okay to touch base without an update. It shows you care.
On the flip side, if you’re talking with a passive candidate who wasn’t job-hunting, deciding too quickly can scare them off. Be aware. Asking candidates about their timeline for a new job is a smart move.
4. You haggled over salary.
In my experience, it’s best to present your best, strongest offer first. Make it clear that you really want this candidate to join your team, so you’re making them the highest, best offer you can. Tell them it’s your final offer. Lowballing leaves a bad taste in your candidate’s mouth.
You want them to be excited (and flattered) to join your company. Be that company.
5. You didn’t keep in touch with the candidate during the vulnerable notice period.
After your candidate accepts your offer (if they’re working), they are faced with giving notice. This is a time when counteroffers rear their ugly heads. Also, your candidate may be getting competing offers from other companies with whom they’ve been interviewing.
Once your candidate has said ‘yes’ to you, stay close. Ask them if they’re worried about a counteroffer (and if so, remind them why they decided to say ‘yes’ to your offer). Ask them whether they’ve told their other opportunities that that they’ve accepted an offer. Don’t do all this in a fearful way, but in a positive “we can’t wait for you to join us” way.
While you wait out the notice period, invite them to a team meeting. Ask them to join you for a team happy hour or lunch. As their manager, maybe you take them out for a 1:1 lunch or coffee.
You (or your recruiter) should be touching base with them every few days, making sure the transition period is going smoothly and to keep reminding them of why they said ‘yes’ to you.
After they join your team, stay close to them while they get acclimated during the initial, “what have I done?” period, especially if they were in their last job for a long time.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! One of my favorite managers often stopped by to say “Hi,” and “I’m so glad you’re here!” during my first months on the job.
Even if you get all of this right, it’s still possible to lose a candidate, and that’s tough. My advice in that situation: don’t close the door. It’s a small world, and you never know what’s (or who’s) just around the corner.
But by asking yourself whether your company is making these five common mistakes, your hiring success rate will take a positive spin.