Get Job Applicants to say "Yes"

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I’ve made job offers to several applicants and have been turned down. I thought they were qualified and a good fit for our organization. What suggestions do you have to improve our ability to hire top talent?

A: Applicants turn down offers for many reasons but mostly because they get discouraged during the hiring process. Start by reviewing your entire process, from posting to offer, to see what you should be doing differently. Here are some complaints I hear from job applicants:

“It takes too long between the time organizations post an open position and when they make an offer.” While you certainly don’t want to rush the process, good applicants are marketable, and you may lose a highly qualified applicant if your hiring process doesn’t move along efficiently.

“I didn’t get enough information on where the organization was in the hiring process.” Let applicants know the status of your recruitment process, and keep your promises. If you don’t have a decision when it was promised, let them know. This small courtesy will build trust and pay off when you make the offer and bring the new staffer on board. 

If you’re losing good candidates, take the time to put yourself in their shoes. Ask for feedback and refine your hiring process.

“The day I spent interviewing at their office wasn’t well organized.” Treat every applicant like a VIP. Be sure you are there to meet the applicant, and let him or her know the schedule for the day, including interview times and the titles and names of interviewers, in advance. Allow time for breaks. And remember, many applicants are potential members, and you want them to say good things about you—even if they don’t get the job.

“Everyone I interviewed with asked me the same questions.” Anyone who interviews a job applicant should be trained in good interview techniques. Before you bring in a candidate, determine which questions you would like each interviewer to ask, and have a process to gather feedback after the interview.

“The offer I received didn’t match what I expected.” Be sure your compensation program is competitive. Be creative: If you can’t meet a candidate’s salary expectations, consider offering a flexible work schedule or additional time off, which may tip the balance in your favor.

If good candidates are turning you down, take the time to put yourself in their shoes. Review your career site and application process. Ask applicants who decline your offer for feedback, and refine your process so you don’t lose another qualified candidate.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].