Why They Said No: Reasons Job Candidates Turn Down Offers


Attracting the best talent to your company is key. But even more important is making sure they accept the offer to come on board—and that makes the decisions from the hiring and human resources departments some of the most crucial for any company.

If you are getting great candidates in for interviews, but not always closing the loop and getting them to accept the offer, then it may be time to take a closer look.

Here are a few reasons people might be turning down your offers and what you can do about it.

Your Company Culture

Many companies make an ‘a day in the office’ video or series of videos that they send to candidates or put up on their websites as the first step to sharing a sense of their day-to-day culture. This has proven effective, but nothing showcases your working environment like the candidates getting to experience that culture first-hand during the interviews.

Typically, candidates want to have a feel of your company to get a sense of what they are committing to.  In a survey of over 14,000 professionals from around the world, Talent Network revealed that 51% of respondents wanted to learn about the culture of a potential employer in person by visiting their offices versus only having video and phone interviews.

Once onsite, a candidate can get a true sense of the culture. Today, companies that prioritize around collaboration, transparency and freedom are at the leading edge. Millennial professionals want to feel like they are joining a team as opposed to a ‘workforce‘. The former speaks of collaboration while the latter speaks of just carrying out instructions—and a candidate may turn down your job offer if he or she fails to observe a team-oriented approach. 

This need is taken a notch further by the Generation Z candidates, who though adept at technology, prefer face-to-face interaction in the office space. A survey by Concordia University showed that about 40% of Generation Z candidates don’t just want a boss, but a coach. they are more likely to feel that they have done something wrong if they are deprived of daily interaction with their bosses. 

“If your employees tense up when you step into the room, it is not a culture I want to be part of,” said one potential new hire on why she turned down an offer from a reputable food chain’s corporate office.

Little Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is the equilibrium that is offered to an employee that enables them to share their time and efforts between work as well as family and leisure. Any company that is big on offering significant work-life balance to their full-time staff naturally becomes more appealing to candidates.

Microsoft was recently in the news when it published the results of the trials it conducted in a Japanese subsidiary, where it piloted a 4-day work-week in a bid to increase work-life balance. The results showed a significant 40% increase in employee productivity.

This suggests that work-life balance has a double-edged benefit both to the staff and to the company. It is therefore not surprising that some of the top candidates have a bias in favor of jobs with a healthy work-life balance. A lack of balance affects the overall happiness of the employee and this affects their output and the company’s general productivity.

Candidates often initially seek out a new opportunity because of pay. However, this is not enough to close the deal.

“It suddenly dawned on me that I preferred having my time to having more money,” said an Ohio State grad who turned down a job offer for a significant pay bump at a bigger studio. “I turned down the job and chose to stay in my current job because though the [new] job offered me more money, it didn’t afford me the time or the happiness required to enjoy it.”

If your company is still one of those that insists on the staff spending an inordinate amount of time at work and much less with family and friends, it just may be the right time to reevaluate your stance.

No Clarity of Roles

More millennials are also choosing what they love to do over what pays the most. As passion takes center stage, more of the best talent will reject undefined job offers. Generation Z candidates, unlike the Millenials, prefer job stability and competitive salaries, but still, feel the need to have role clarity as a primary consideration for accepting offers.

Research shows that employees who experience role clarity are 53% more efficient and 27% more effective at work than employees who have role ambiguity. For instance, a creative may apply for a creative role, but she may soon decline it if she’ll also inherit administrative roles with the job. 

One such candidate, a recent graduate with a degree in Creative Writing, was invited for an interview as a Creative Content Developer for an e-commerce firm. During the interview, she discovered that she was also required to function as a personal assistant to the CEO as well as serve as a secretary to the marketing team.

I felt flattered that they felt I was good enough to be thrown in the deep end with such sensitive roles, but when I tried to look ahead into the job, it was hard to get excited,” the potential new hire said. “I always had the feeling that my creativity would be hampered by the distractions that came with accompanying the CEO all the time. Plus handling secretarial duties was hardly what I would call creative writing.

In this era of high specialization, roles need to be clearly defined in both the advertised position—and in the day-to-day once the candidate joins your firm.

No Clear Diversity

Building an employer brand that resonates with diverse candidates is key for modern businesses and companies and necessary for attracting the best talent. This is especially true for the millennial workforce, which happens to be the majority of the American workforce.  A recent survey showed that about 47% of millennials actively search for diverse companies when considering job offers and a whopping 77% of Generation Z candidates consider diversity a key feature of any prospective employers.

Diversity is not complete when a company is racially diverse; indices like skill sets, work experience, age, sex, and background also play a great part. Diversity increases the presence of different perspectives, and levels of creativity. It also makes room for higher innovation due to the diverse skill sets and work-experience levels and this often culminates in better decision making. Across the board, diversity doesn’t just create a company that people want to identify with—it also has direct benefits to your bottom line. 

On why she turned down a lucrative job offer from an IT and Software firm, a millennial candidate stated, “I found it hard believing in the company’s ultimate direction seeing that their entire management team was made up of men with an IT and programming background.”

Sometimes, the public perception of a company’s diversity may come just from the way the company looks from the outside. This necessitates building a diverse public image in addition to hiring a diverse staff.

Your Social Responsibility Isn’t Shining Through

A 2003 Stanford University study found that MBA graduates would sacrifice an average of $13,700 of their annual salary to work for a socially responsible company. What this means is that many potential candidates today now prefer purpose over a paycheck.

Having strong and well-executed social responsibility programs implemented in your company is one of the top ways of marketing your brand. It’s a good way of attracting the most passionate talent. According to a Nielson Survey, 73% of millennials prefer working for a company whose brand they identify as socially responsible. Brands are even more open to scrutiny by Generation Z candidates, with a survey showing that about 70% of Generation Z candidates research brands and look to company reviews on Glassdoor.com, before making career decisions.

Modern candidates are looking out for more than the offer you place on the table; they want to see how the work they will do in your company benefits society. It is a wise decision for your company to start branding itself with a definite corporate social responsibility edge that appeals to the right kind of talent that you are seeking to attract.

The best way to fine-tune your hiring process is to become a bit more aware and flexible, ask for feedback from candidates who declined and find out what you could have done better. Gradual tweaks and improvements soon set you on a path of immense success where you will have the pleasure of dealing with a new kind of problem—how to hand-pick the best from a wealth of top talent waiting to join your company.