Knowledge & Insight

How to avoid candidate turn downs

Mon 8 January 2018

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario - you advertise for a new position, attract several good candidates, carry out a thorough selection process and finally identify someone who is perfect for the role. Then they turn you down. If it’s ever happened to you then you’ll know it’s an incredibly frustrating and costly business.  So we’d like to offer some insight into why candidates turn down offers, and suggest some actions to help prevent it happening in the future.

Why do candidates turn down job offers?

The most common reason why candidates turn down job offers is a simple lack of enthusiasm for the new role. Changing jobs is a real commitment, and if a candidate doesn’t believe the new role will provide a significantly improved package across a range of criteria then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to persuade them to leave their current role. The other common reason why candidates turn down job offers is because they’ve responded to an advertisement that’s been placed either  by the employer or by a recruitment agency that relies heavily on advertising. Candidates from these sources typically have multiple job applications in progress, which means your company will be just one of several competing for their services.

How can job turn downs be prevented?

Working with a headhunter avoids the scenario of trying to attract a candidate who is pursuing multiple opportunities. But there are other steps you can take to minimise the likelihood of turn down, like actively selling your company and the role to candidates.

It’s an interesting fact that some of the UK’s leading companies have great difficulty attracting the very best people, while many SMEs, with apparently much less to offer, can find top talent knocking on their door. The reason for this lies in the “selling job” the hiring manager is prepared to do. Too many managers spend the entire interview talking about their 20 years’ experience with the company, and how, if the candidate works hard, they too can enjoy a long and  fruitful career. Or conversely, some hiring managers treat interviews as an interrogation process, followed by a series of psychometric tests. But when you’re dealing with senior people, perhaps the leading talent in their field, you should recognise that they need to be handled differently. So rather than grilling the candidate about specific areas of expertise, the interview is also an opportunity to highlight all the benefits  the role offers, like faster career progression, greater responsibility, and diverse and exciting new challenges.

The best way to attract top talent

However much experience you have in hiring new people, it’s likely that recruitment forms only a relatively small part of your job. Whereas professional headhunters like Stone Executive are focused solely on recruitment and selection. So even if you’ve been around the block a couple of hundred times, we might still be able to give you some interesting insights you’d not considered before.

Today, selection interviews can range from a 30-minute informal chat through to a 2-hour meeting with the Board of Directors. But although there’s no set interview format, there are some recognised best-practice  methods. For example, however long the interview might take, the first three-quarters of the session should focus on the candidate’s technical ability – essentially finding out whether they have the expertise and experience to perform well in the role. Talking about your company’s history should be kept to a minimum. Always remember, you have a limited time in which to establish whether a candidate is right for your company, so an interview isn’t the time for swapping pleasantries. To test this theory, if you’ve ever finished an interview and still been unsure whether the candidate could do the job or not, then you’ve failed to sufficiently understand their technical ability. Every interview should provide you with a definitive 'yes' or 'no' about each candidate you meet.

A smarter solution

If you’re not a natural salesperson then selling the benefits of a role won’t necessarily be an easy task for you. However, the most effective way to successfully promote your company and the opportunity is to understand the personal drivers behind the candidate’s wish to change jobs. That might include taking on new challenges or gaining exposure to specific areas of the business, or it could simply be a desire to manage a larger head-count. Whatever their wishes and needs might be, you need to demonstrate that the new role will fulfil them. But finding out precisely what these prerequisites are isn’t always a straightforward task. Asking a candidate face-to-face why they are unhappy in their current role is unlikely to elicit a full and honest answer, not because the candidate will be evasive, but because they may not wish to be disloyal to their present employer. So how do you do it? The answer is to employ a professional headhunter.

The benefits of working with a headhunter

Professional headhunters are very skilled at understanding candidates’ technical assets and personal motivations. So working with a headhunter will furnish you with this valuable information for each and every candidate. And once you have an insight into the ambitions and aspirations that drive someone, you can tailor both the interview and the scope of the opportunity. This results in candidates leaving an interview more committed, more motivated, and more likely to agree to proceed to second-stage interview or accept an offer.

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