Far too often we have seen employers left disappointed by their preferred candidates not accepting their formal offer. We explore why.

A number of factors can cause preferred candidates not accepting an offer, but the most common is a lack of communication between the employer and candidates. Here is our best advice to hiring managers to keep a candidate locked in from interview to offer:

Validate a mutual feeling

During an interview you will have gained certain impressions from your candidate and your candidate likewise will have gained impression of you and the company. The aim, proceeding the interview, is to validate a mutual feeling with the candidate wanting to proceed with you, and you with the candidate. The key to this stage is to ensure that the candidate knows that you are interested in them. If you have not given the candidate an indication that you were pleased with their initial interview, it is quite possible for them not to proceed to offer because they have been under the impression they were not in consideration. Ideally you would leave the candidate wanting the job and seeing themselves as the employee working for you and the company at the end of the interview.  It can be quite difficult to generate this level of trust at the close of interview, but the more you can communicate in an employer-employee style the more the candidate will start to visualise themselves as the employee.


Create an open channel of communication with your preferred candidate:

After an interview call your preferred candidate with genuine interest and enthusiasm in them and reinforce your thinking towards them, the team, the divisions and the company. This aims to reinforce that the future is now. Now is also a good time to cover any concerns they may have. It could be a simple conversation along the lines of:

“Joe we know you didn’t get a chance to ask too many questions at the interview and we were wondering if you had any queries. We were really impressed with you and could see you working well for x,y,z reasons. If there is anything that you need clarification on we would be more than happy to discuss anything you are unsure of.”

 It is important that you listen and pay attention to what they are saying during this conversation, respond and then probe if necessary.

Questions that you should discuss include:

  • How do you feel about the scope of the role?
  • Is the salary within your expectations?
  • When would you be able to start?
  • Is there anything stopping you from moving ahead if we deemed you our preferred candidate?

It is better to resolve these issues early on in the recruiting process, rather than naively move to offer and face issues later on.


Validation period

Between the interview and offer stages a number of validation processes should be carried out. These can include reference checking, medicals and psychometric testing. An offer may be presented at an interview, but it is strongly encouraged that employers refrain from doing so because there may be a number of questions that your candidate may need alleviated before they are mentally ready to proceed.

Generally speaking, the time between interview and offer can be 24 hours at the short end to five to 10 working days, especially if there is a second interview. Where there is going to be an extended period between interview and offer ensure you communicate with your candidate. Often managers and HR departments go through the recruitment process without informing candidates of where they are at, why there may be a delay and so forth. If a candidate is expecting an offer within 2-3 days, a time frame extended beyond this period can create uncertainty of an employer’s interest. A smart employer in this instance would let the candidate know what is transpiring behind the scenes, and again, keep them informed like you would an employee.


Follow up any last details

As an offer is looming make sure you cover offer any last minute queries. It is a good idea at this stage to conduct another follow up call informing them that everything is heading in the right direction and that before you head towards the offer you would like to know if they would be comfortable with the role of …, at $… salary, at this location, with … approximate start date. Listen for any concerns and go back and cover any queries your candidate may have. If they are happy and the signs are good then you have a green light to move forward to a verbal offer.


Verbal offer

Once you have covered off on any concerns pre offer, the verbal offer should represent a smooth transition. You may have a conversation with your preferred candidate along the lines of:

“Joe all your results and feedback from referees has been excellent. We are delighted to offer you the role of …, on $… salary plus benefits, with an anticipated start date of … What are your thoughts?”

Be prepared for any last minute queries and respond to these in a timely manner with dignity and respect. When responding to queries, know where you can and can’t compromise. If there is some flexibility you can offer is required.


Verbal offer to formal offer

This is a critically important time because the acceptance of a verbal offer is not legally binding.

Up until the point where the candidate signs off on the formal offer it is a waiting game where numerous events can get in the way of an acceptance of the formal offer. For larger organisations this stage can be even more crucial for securing their preferred candidate as this period can be painstakingly long, leaving plenty of time for other options of employment to present themselves. There have been times when candidates we have dealt with have accepted a verbal offer on a Monday and not received a formal offer until Tuesday the following week. Under these circumstances ensure you are actively in contact with your candidate.

Aim to keep the time frame between verbal and formal offers under 48 hours, if it extends past this time you put yourself at risk of losing your candidate. If you are unable to fast track the formal offer at least ensure there is momentum going forward into the this stage. Without communication the momentum broken and the candidate can start to consider or even be offered alternatives to the role in question. A very common scenario that may arise is if the candidate is contemplating leaving their current company not because they are unhappy, but believe they are not being adequately rewarded for their work. With your verbal offer in hand the candidate starts dialogue with their current employer. With your verbal offer in hand the candidate starts dialogue with their current employer. The longer it takes you to front with an offer, the more time you give their current employer or any other potential suitor to come into play with a better alternative. If you cannot get the offer to the candidate in an expedite manner, ensure you do something in the meantime to maintain interest.

Formal offer acceptance to start day

Most individuals who sign the offer are ready to leave their employer and start with you, however there is the odd occasion where this may not be the case. Generally there are four weeks prior to your new employee commencing with your company. During this time do not cease to communicate with them.

Consider doing the following:

  • Keep asking if all is ok. Give them advice on how to counter offers. If they are valued by their current employers they may need it.
  • Switch from candidate dialogue to employee dialogue. Start talking about some current projects or activities they will be involved with. Talk about the logistics of them starting.
  • Whatever you do keep talking. I have seen too many offers fall over on the basis that hiring managers and HR teams that have purely not given the individual they seek enough attention, and with nothing in the emotional bank account, it makes it too easy to ebb back into familiar territory or worse still, accept an offer with a competitor that has given them more attention
  • To get your candidate over the line err on the side of plenty than scarcity when it comes to communication.

Contact Harvest HR & People Solutions for more information or assistance with your Talent Recruitment.

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