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Recovering From a Candidate Declining Your Offer

What is worse than someone running over your kitten? The answer: having a candidate decline your job offer. This is literally the absolute worst thing in the world for a recruiter, maybe second to someone just not showing up for their first day of work, but it’s a very close second.

From the moment a hiring manager decides they need to open a position, the clock starts ticking. The request may not have reached you yet, but in that hiring managers head, the search is on. It’s not fair, but it’s the game. You know very well that once that position hits your dashboard, you are probably already two weeks behind. The hiring manager spent time getting budgets, approvals, talking to finance, HR and anyone else they need to clear before submitting the request to the recruiter. And so, the hustle begins.

The Promising Beginning

It’s exciting getting a new position. You get a fresh start, you talk to new people, work with a new hiring manager, and get a chance to make an impact. it’s also a nice little honeymoon to think “this one will be different.” Maybe it is, maybe it’s the one where all the pieces fall into place and your strategy is starting to work. Whether it’s an easy or difficult position, you still need to be on point and take all the necessary steps to complete a successful hire.

Offer Extended

You have just spent months searching, interviewing, searching again, marketing, scheduling and selling this open position. The hiring manager has finally made a decision and decided the candidate is perfect and they need to be a part of the team. The decision has finally been made and you are ecstatic that you can check this opening off your list. The job offer has been approved, you have a time scheduled to extend it to the candidate and it’s the best feeling in the world. You’re on the phone with the candidate giving them the great news. Then, that feeling of butterflies and rainbows quickly go out the window when the candidate does not seem excited. Their tone is flat. They don’t have any questions. They sound hesitant. They are disengaged.

You’re Getting Dumped…and Declined

It’s time to report back to the hiring manager on how the conversation went. You don’t have anything to positive to say and you do whatever it is you need to do to make sure this candidate accepts. You scramble to find clues this was going to happen. The candidate is still taking their time maybe you wait anxiously. While holding out hope the candidate will accept, you haven’t stopped being a recruiter, right?

A week goes by and the candidate is not yet sold. You hustle some more and you’ve pulled out all your tricks. While you know what’s coming you’re still holding on to the improbably that maybe they are just nervous and they will accept the offer. It happens and you know this is a big step for some people. However, the next morning rolls around and there it is your inbox. The decline. A measly two sentence email saying they are not accepting the offer. While you may have been mentally prepared, the hiring manager may not have been. What happened? Why? Now what? Not only are you asking yourself all these questions, but you’re trying to get more information from the candidate. The hiring manager is asking you these questions too. It’s like an open wound that you are trying to patch up because your reputation is on the line.

Be a Hero

So, it happened. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. The candidate declined the job offer and now it’s recovery mode. How do we move on from here? As a recruiter, you know very well the conversation with any candidate is never over until someone signs that offer letter and commits to a first day. Also, your job is to be a relationship manager and a recruiter. You guide the hiring manager through the candidate declining the offer just like if it were a breakup. You are there to talk, find out what happened, offer guidance and advice. Providing actionable next steps, learning opportunities and enthusiasm back to the table to keep marching forward is part of the job and you should not miss a beat here.

For a recruiter, this is part of the gig, right? We keep on going. The hiring manager is a different story. They don’t do this everyday. They expect people to be excited to work with them and be a part of their team. They committed to someone, which is a feat in itself. So how do you keep rolling without missing a step? First, you need to build the confidence again in your hiring manager and stroke their ego a bit. Get them back on their horse and don’t let them use that candidate as a bench marker for the next one. Next, you pull those other two candidates out of your back pocket that you’ve been keeping warm and didn’t decline once you extended the offer for this very reason. The hiring manager took a day to recuperate and now you can call him up and say “here are two solid candidates that are strong than the first. Let’s get them in ASAP.”

Seal the Deal

Now the hiring manager is in ‘get this filled’ mode and they are practically putty in your hands. Almost always, the next one or two candidate will receive an offer quickly and the search will not be the same as the first attempt. The hiring manager has taken note of your guidance and suggestions and worked to understand your perspective. They come around and understand you know what your’e talking about and can find good people. Their trust is now in you and they are more open to committing to a candidate of your suggestion. But, having one or two candidates quickly available, it reconfirms you know how to do your job, and know how to find people they are looking for. Providing a new candidate quickly keeps your reputation intact and established a strong relationship for you and your business.

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