Candidates Are Backing Out of Job Offers; Here’s What You Can Do

You’ve offered the perfect candidate the job, and he’s accepted it—only to renege on the deal a few days later. You’re not in a unique situation: A recent survey by staffing agency Robert Half shows 28 percent of people admit to backing out of an offer after accepting it.

“Top-notch candidates have options in the current hiring environment, and choices and competing offers are giving them pause to consider what they want,” says Paul McDonald, Robert Half’s senior executive director. “Candidates are truly in the driver’s seat right now.”

The survey shows that almost half—44 percent—of candidates changed their minds about an offer because they received a better one from somewhere else. Another 27 percent say their current employer counter-offered and convinced them to stay—and the last 19 percent say that bad reviews of the new company made them wary of going to work for it.

McDonald also offers another explanation: With a low unemployment rate, candidates may feel more confident they can find something better, even if they don’t have another offer.

But no matter the reason, when a candidate backs out of an offer, it puts your company in a bad position. (It’s also damaging to the candidate, McDonald points out, saying that making this move “can cause irreversible damage to his or her professional reputation.”) So, what can you do if this happens to you? Unfortunately, you likely don’t have much, if any, way of forcing the employee to honor the agreement. (And even if you do, because of a stipulation in a contract, you don’t want someone working for you who doesn’t want to be there.) But there are things you can do to protect yourself from this unfortunate situation in the future.

“Candidates are truly in the driver’s seat right now.” —Paul McDonald

Make sure you’re offering a competitive salary.

If a candidate has applied for multiple jobs, his or her decision might come down to salary. So, “make sure the company’s initial compensation is highly competitive and that research has been conducted on what the role should pay,” advises McDonald. “If the offer is too low, even if the company intends to leave room to negotiate, the candidate is less likely to accept the offer in the first place,” and might walk away for another, higher-paying offer, he says.

Get in touch with what matters to the candidate.

When you find the perfect match, take time to understand what will make this the ideal job for him or her, too, McDonald suggests. “Sometimes work-life balance—including flexible hours or telecommuting one day per week—can outweigh pay or benefits,” McDonald says. “Candidates today also place a high priority on working in an environment where their values align with the company’s organizational culture and corporate social responsibility. If the candidate’s [values] considered, they may be less likely to accept an offer that sticks.”

[Related: 6 Best Practices for Recruiting Both Active and Passive Candidates]

Move quickly.

The longer you take to extend an offer, the more time that candidate has to consider other offers, McDonald points out. “Even a short delay of a day or two can cause the company to lose out on the candidate,” he says. “Look at ways [you can] streamline the hiring process to be able to extend an offer quickly, such as lining up everyone who needs to be involved in making the decision and setting deadlines.” For example, you might ask the CEO to join in on the interview process if his or her OK is needed to make the hire, McDonald suggests.

[Related: Best Jobs in America 2019 & How to Hire for Them]

Put it in writing.

While a written offer can’t guarantee the candidate will follow through, it may influence him or her to honor his or her commitment more than a verbal agreement. “Make the job offer by phone or in person to act quickly, but immediately follow up in writing with a formal letter,” advises McDonald. “Unless the offer is in writing, it is not official and the candidate may not feel it ‘counts.’” When you extend the written offer, be sure it includes the candidate’s start date, compensation and benefits, and a deadline to accept, he says.

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