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How to Invite a Candidate to Reject Your Offer

You’ve probably heard this saying before: “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

The fact of that matter is that candidates looking for their next great career opportunity abhor a vacuum, too . . . and I have a recent experience that illustrates this.

One of my clients conducted both a telephone interview and a face-to-face interview with a candidate. Afterwards, company officials said they loved the candidate and wanted to have them return for another face-to-face interview, and most likely, an offer of employment.

However, after the second face-to-face interview, I encountered “total radio silence,” so to speak, from my client. It wasn’t until four weeks later that the hiring manager called to inform me they weren’t moving forward. I passed that information along to the candidate, who said the following:

“Yeah, I was already starting to think that the location wasn’t that great and maybe it wasn’t the best fit for me.”

So how did a candidate who went on two face-to-face interviews with a company effectively talk themselves out of the opportunity? Because the company did not provide timely feedback. In fact, after a certain point, the company did not provide any feedback at all.

In a situation like this, the candidate “abhors a vacuum.” In other words, when presented with no feedback or new information, their mind begins to search, subconsciously or otherwise, for reasons why the job is NOT a great career opportunity.

And the longer there’s no feedback, the more reasons the candidate comes up with.

This is a lose-lose situation for the company, regardless of whether or not they decide to move forward with the candidate. Here’s why:

  • If the company does decide to move forward, they now have a half-interested candidate at best. At worst, they have a candidate who has already accepted an offer from a competitor.
  • If the company does not decide to move forward, the candidate feels that they’ve been strung along and they’re left with a “bad taste in their mouth.” As a result, they’re far less likely to speak highly of the company in the future.

When the interviewing and hiring process drags on too long, candidates start to mentally protect themselves against possible rejection—especially if the company does not communicate or provide timely feedback during the process. Candidates fill their own heads with what might or might not be going on behind the scenes, and regardless of what is actually happening, they talk themselves out of the opportunity.

So effectively, companies are inviting candidates to reject their opportunity. And in the majority of cases, candidates are accepting that invitation.

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