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As a sales manager, you might have faced some hiring challenges in 2016 that you don’t want to repeat in 2017? Hiring a great sales person or an agency new business director can be a delicate process. If you find yourself making offers to qualified candidates, only to have them say “thanks, but no thanks,” there are a few reasons that could be happening, and some steps you can take to reduce or eliminate candidate rejections in your hiring process.

Let’s start by disabusing you of three ideas that will prevent you from honestly assessing your process:

Why candidates turn down job offers

First, you need to forget the notion that they weren’t really serious about the job. Anyone who’s taken the time to go through a phone screen, an interview, potentially a second interview and has been responsive is, you can be sure, in the job market.

Second, they were looking for interview experience or wanted to get an offer to use as leverage in their existing job. Unless your business is pro sports this happens almost never, and even then it only happens at the elite level. You were rejected for another reason.

Third, it was the money. That’s often the case, but we’re not going to talk about that here. If you consistently lose great candidates to competitors that’s something you can address, because it speaks to a lack of an understanding of market conditions. If what you want costs more than you can afford you have to change your expectations or your budget.

Top talent costs top dollar, and like any NFL team, you know how much you have to spend on each position. Would you like Tom Brady as your starting QB? Sure you would, but if all you can afford is Jameis Winston, that’s who you get and you make it work anyway because Jameis is a perfectly fine QB.

So let’s get into the real reasons your offers aren’t being accepted, and take a look from the point of view of a candidate that is ready to get back into the job market or change jobs.


Why candidates turn down job offers

Stay in touch with your top candidates; that means a couple of times a week.

The average length of the hiring process has almost doubled in three years, according to With employers adding phone screens and second or third interviews, that’s no surprise, but for your candidate, three weeks can seem like an eternity.

Candidates can’t wait around forever, and if your review and vetting process takes too long, chances are the great talent you’re trying to hire will go elsewhere. After all, if they’re great talent, they’re probably capable of getting offers from other employers.

Know before you interview when you want the successful candidate to start, and once you’ve interviewed them, don’t wait days to get back in touch. Job searchers are anxious to get back to making money and, just as with sales, it’s usually the first person to come with a viable solution that makes the deal.


Why candidates turn down job offers

Allow a few days for your candidate to think about it, but have a hard deadline and be prepared to go to your #2 choice as soon as that deadline passes. 

You took three weeks from the first interview to make an offer, but you need them to decide by EOD. The first thing your candidate is going to ask themselves is: why do I need to decide so fast?

They may need to talk the offer over with a significant other, or they might be that rare decent human being who wants to leave their current employer on good terms. Either way, your pressure for them to accept send up a red flag.

Maybe you need them to accept quickly so they can’t start a salary bidding war with a competitor. But if you’re worried you’re A-list candidate might have other, maybe better, offers on the table, why didn’t you offer irresistible compensation?

Giving candidates time to think tells them that you understand that where a person works is a big decision, and shouldn’t be rushed. You want them to stick around for years and grow with your company, right? Then give them a few days, it won’t make a difference in the long term.


Why candidates turn down job offers

Find out what former (or even current) employees and customers say about you and your company online. Take steps to address what you can, but know that people are more likely to share bad experiences than good.

Expect candidates to research your organization. The company’s values and culture expressed in the interview should align with everything they can find online. In the last couple of years a few online ratings tools have made life difficult for some companies. Interview questions that were previously confidential are now available with a quick Google search, as are salary ranges. But the most valuable piece of intelligence job searchers can find is how your company is perceived by its customers and employees.

Most companies believe they have culture all nailed down, and surprisingly few do. Often, the culture and values expressed by senior-level staff in a company aren’t lived out on the front lines, and that leads to some discord between what you say your company is, and what it actually is, as experienced by employees.

A few negative reviews can be explained at the interview, but a trend of negativity across multiple business areas may be an indicator that the executive team is out of touch with how their company does business at ground level.

Be warned, too, that it’s not just companies that candidates look at—they look at who’s going to be on their team, who their manager will be, some may even reach out to the previous post-holder through LinkedIn. It’s broadly accepted that even employees who love a job will leave if they have a bad manager. Now that they can find out wat their manager might be like ahead of time, they might be less inclined to take a job under a manager who makes his team unhappy.


Why candidates turn down job offers

Nothing in the offer letter should be unexpected. Change your interview approach to make sure you communicate all the information and expectations related to the job.

You probably tell candidates that interviewing is a two-way street, that it’s as much about them getting to know you as you getting to know them—but that can’t be true if you’re not giving them all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Transparency throughout the process is vitally important, and any sniff of something being hidden or glossed over can be enough to give your candidate the impression that they’ve discovered the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg.

If some out-of-hours or travel is required, you probably knew that in the interview process, so it should have been discussed at that time. If you perks like work from home days were mentioned in the interview but are missing from the offer that’s likely to throw up a red flag with candidates.

The TL;DR version of this comes down to one simple thing: don’t disrespect your candidates.

You valued them enough to consider them for a job that’s the life blood of your business, assume that they’re smart, in demand and able to do their research. Those are, after all, the skills you were looking for.