3 Ways to Move On When Your Top Pick Says ‘No’

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Jul 28, 2017

You knew from the very first interview.

This candidate was a perfect match. From their skill level and experience to their enthusiasm about the job and cultural fit, they were going to make this round of interviews easy.

In fact, when wrapping up the hiring process, you eliminated other prospects and realized your instincts were right — this person is the one. After recently going through a few new hires who didn’t work out, it was a relief for everyone to know this top candidate was perfect for the job and company.

It’s time to make an offer.

But, this time you receive a surprising response; the candidate explains they’ve reconsidered and decided this job isn’t a good fit for them. A few follow-up questions and vague answers later, and you’re still stumped as to why they didn’t accept the offer.

Where do you go from here?

Here’s what you need to do after the hiring process takes a surprising turn and your top pick turns down an offer:

Re-assess Your Hiring Process

Unfortunately, candidates do turn down job offers. So, take a critical look at your process and decide if everything is still working effectively.

For example, when you think a top candidate is on the same page as you, then they surprise you with a “no,” ask yourself these questions:

  • Who was involved in the hiring process? If it was just one or two people, consider inviting more of your team into an interview round. Candidates want to meet and interact with their possible co-workers to get a true understanding of the company’s culture. In fact, according to Engage2Excel’s 2017 Trendicators Talent Acquisition Report, upwards of 81 percent of millennials rate socializing or collaborating with employees as very important or important. If your team isn’t in one place or have sporadic work schedules, video interviews are an effective alternative to in-person interviews.
  • Did the candidate seem excited for the opportunity up until the offer, or did their interest dwindle before then? If their interest began to sizzle out before the offer, look at what interactions or experiences they had with you or your team during that time. Sometimes nothing will seem off or come to mind, and that’s OK. External factors are frequently the only answer.
  • Did everyone on your team seem welcoming and honest? If no, take time to address your team as a whole and explain appropriate interview techniques. Some of your employees may not be familiar with being on this side of the table, and may need a few etiquette tips.

When everything else seems inconclusive, go straight to the source — the candidate. Ask them directly for feedback as to why they turned down the offer or what your company should assess for future hiring. This may give you a surprising glimpse into what candidates see when going through your process.

Move On to the Next Candidate

When your top pick turns down an offer, moving the hiring process forward is like trying to get over a bad break up. It’s difficult to not feel personally offended when someone says no to your company and your team.

Now is the time to pick yourself back up and make a few more difficult decisions.

Should you stay in touch with the candidate who turned you down?

First decide what to do with the naysayer. If the candidate’s initial passion in your industry seems to have dwindled or they’re no longer responsive to your outreach efforts, move on.

However, some people have personal matters or other offers that pop up unexpectedly. Don’t hesitate to ask them if they’d like to be considered or made aware of future opportunities. You never know when they might realize your company is the perfect match.

Should you move onto your second and third picks?

With your top pick out of the picture, re-evaluate your second and third choices. The hiring process is challenging, but often times second and third choices end up being a company’s top employees.

Unfortunately, after losing a top pick, your feelings about second and third choices may have changed or your team’s excitement may have dwindled. Take a look at their credentials and company fit. If you are feeling they just won’t make the cut, reopen the job and find a new top pick.

Don’t Let Morale Drop

Many company leaders are bringing employees into the hiring process. While this collaborative approach enhances your ability to hire talent who fits well with your team, it also brings disappointment to more employees.

Your team was likely just as excited about this potential candidate as you were. Keeping morale high and remaining transparent through the next stages of the hiring process are crucial.

Explain to employees where you’ll go from here, ask for their second and third choices, and leave the floor open for any questions or concerns.

Be optimistic, but also realistic about a new timeline. Employees who were excited about extra work being taken off their plate likely feel overwhelmed again. Let them know you recognize and appreciate their hard work and these challenging days will end soon.

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