3 ways to avoid candidates backing out of a job offer


Recent research reveals that within a 12-month period, half of candidates have accepted a job offer and then backed out at the last minute. How can recruiters avoid falling victim to this concerning trend?

The road from engaging a candidate to welcoming them into an organisation can often feel like a treacherous one. No matter how many resources are invested into recruitment, even the smallest of doubts on the part of a candidate can derail the process and lead to a great deal of lost time and effort. 

As a result, recruiters may well breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing that a candidate has accepted a job offer – particularly those feeling the pinch from current skills shortages. However, recent research serves as a warning to employers that an accepted offer does not necessarily constitute a done deal. 

In fact, in a survey of over 3500 job candidates, one in two respondents said they had backed out of a job offer after accepting a position within a 12-month period.

The research, conducted last year by Gartner, also found more than half of HR leaders (59 per cent) expect competition for talent to intensify in the coming months, indicating a risk that this trend will continue to cause problems for recruiters seeking in-demand skills.

“What our research is telling us is that candidates today are often not as committed as we would like them to be further into the process,” says Jonathan Tabah, Director, Advisory at Gartner.

“We’re in a market right now where there are lots of jobs around and confidence in job availability is quite high. There’s also still a lot of flexibility in the marketplace for candidates – they can accept an offer in another city without moving, so they have more choice now… And [the stage where candidates back out] has continued to move back deeper into the process.”

Why are candidates backing out at the eleventh hour?

According to the research, the top reasons why candidates ditched one job offer in favour of another were greater flexibility (59 per cent), better work-life balance (45 per cent) and higher compensation (40 per cent). 

Given candidates’ strong focus on flexibility, it’s noteworthy that the uptick in employees abandoning job offers has coincided with an increase in return-to-office mandates. According to AHRI research, mandated office days increased by 11 percentage points (48 per cent) between 2022 and 2023.

“There are a lot of conversations between HR and business leaders around the trade-offs of these return-to-office mandates and the impact they have on employees,” says Tabah. “Very rarely are they also considering how this is going to make it harder for them to bring in additional talent to replace the talent they may lose as a result.

“It is incumbent upon the recruiting leaders within an organisation or recruiting agency to communicate clearly with their senior stakeholders that this is the trade-off that you’re asking us to make.”

“Friction and delay are your enemies, and that’s where we’re going to see the most attrition.” – Jonathan Tabah, Director, Advisory, Gartner

The results indicate that employers who fail to convey work-life balance as a guiding principle throughout the recruitment process also risk seeing candidates back out, he says.

“It was probably a single-digit number of years ago that we would look each other straight in the face and say, ‘You come to work as a professional. You leave your personal issues at home.’ Now, saying that would be like smoking in the office. Today, we [need to] talk about how we’re going to support the whole person.”

How can HR ensure candidates stick around after accepting a job offer?

Keeping potential candidates engaged in the hiring process is set to become a growing challenge in the coming years. 

To help hiring managers overcome this challenge, Tabah offers a number of key tips for employers to avoid top candidates slipping through the cracks.

1. Map out the hiring process

When employers observe that candidates are getting cold feet midway through the hiring process, it’s important to take a data-backed approach to identifying where and why they are losing talent.

“Where candidates are backing out of the process could be different for everyone. So it’s really important that [employers] map their candidate journey,” says Tabah. 

“Take a very diligent and thoughtful approach to understanding exactly what the candidate journey looks like. What are the steps in the process? What are the key points of friction or delay in that process? Friction and delay are your enemies, and that’s where we’re going to see the most attrition.”

Once these friction points have been identified, he suggests looking at potential process improvements based on that information and, crucially, holding hiring teams accountable for executing these changes.

2. Examine drivers of attrition 

Focusing on what candidates want is undoubtedly key to a successful hiring process. However, Tabah believes employers would benefit from paying more attention to what candidates don’t want.

“We spend a lot of our time talking about drivers of attraction when we’re talking about hiring, but I’m also a really big believer in drivers of attrition,” he says.

“Why someone’s leaving another organisation is going to give us a really important cue as to what’s important to them, what would be a breath of fresh air to them and what would make them want to come and work for us.”

For example, if an employer learns that someone is leaving due to a poor relationship with their boss, it would be useful to take the time to speak to the qualities of their soon-to-be manager, or arrange a meeting so that they can get to know each other. Or, if they wish to leave due to a stressful, high-pressure environment, you could reinforce your company’s wellbeing approach and connect them with current staff who can testify to this.

For a well-rounded approach, it’s useful to look at broader industry trends that contribute to attrition as well as the unique factors pushing an individual employee to seek new opportunities. For instance, in many industries, employees are becoming increasingly put off by employers not having formal policies in place to support flexible working. 

This dual focus on attraction and attrition allows for a comprehensive understanding that enables employers not only to attract top talent, but also build an environment that encourages long-term commitment and professional growth for existing employees.

3. Avoid the ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic

In a job market where many candidates are spoilt for choice, one thing that’s sure to put talent off is a hiring process that positions the employer as an adversary rather than an ally, says Tabah. 

One driver of this perception is a lack of transparency in the recruitment process, particularly when it comes to compensation. The impact of this is demonstrated by Gartner’s findings, which show nearly half of candidates (44 per cent) decided not to apply to a job in a 12-month period because the job description did not include salary information.

Read HRM’s article ‘How to approach a salary negotiation with a new hire.’

“Part of it is just that the lack of information makes it harder to make the decision,” he says. “But, secondly, it also calls the organisation’s culture into question. 

“It sends the signal that we’re withholding this information. We’re negotiating with you already. If you were truly transparent, and you were looking for a win-win partnership, you wouldn’t be hiding information. And everyone recognises that.” 

This off-putting ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic can also manifest in the interview process, he says, making it crucial to coach hiring managers in the way they present the employment relationship during an interview.

“For those of us who have ever been through an interview, there’s really nothing worse than feeling like you’re sitting on the opposite end of the negotiating table,” he says. 

“What [we should be] trying to do is figure out whether we can be on the same team. And recognising the opportunities to do that is really important.”


Do you want to sharpen your recruitment skills and learn how to ask the right interview questions? Sign up for AHRI’s short course to arm yourself with best-practice information.


 

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Anshu ( Anna)
Anshu ( Anna)
1 month ago

Interesting trend considering that new gen is lucky to have such offers 😉 at the same time because of higher and varied qualifications they get more choice .
For Gen X and earlier it’s more keeping upto the newer trends and accepting the senior to middle management where employers tend to be more picky

More on HRM

3 ways to avoid candidates backing out of a job offer


Recent research reveals that within a 12-month period, half of candidates have accepted a job offer and then backed out at the last minute. How can recruiters avoid falling victim to this concerning trend?

The road from engaging a candidate to welcoming them into an organisation can often feel like a treacherous one. No matter how many resources are invested into recruitment, even the smallest of doubts on the part of a candidate can derail the process and lead to a great deal of lost time and effort. 

As a result, recruiters may well breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing that a candidate has accepted a job offer – particularly those feeling the pinch from current skills shortages. However, recent research serves as a warning to employers that an accepted offer does not necessarily constitute a done deal. 

In fact, in a survey of over 3500 job candidates, one in two respondents said they had backed out of a job offer after accepting a position within a 12-month period.

The research, conducted last year by Gartner, also found more than half of HR leaders (59 per cent) expect competition for talent to intensify in the coming months, indicating a risk that this trend will continue to cause problems for recruiters seeking in-demand skills.

“What our research is telling us is that candidates today are often not as committed as we would like them to be further into the process,” says Jonathan Tabah, Director, Advisory at Gartner.

“We’re in a market right now where there are lots of jobs around and confidence in job availability is quite high. There’s also still a lot of flexibility in the marketplace for candidates – they can accept an offer in another city without moving, so they have more choice now… And [the stage where candidates back out] has continued to move back deeper into the process.”

Why are candidates backing out at the eleventh hour?

According to the research, the top reasons why candidates ditched one job offer in favour of another were greater flexibility (59 per cent), better work-life balance (45 per cent) and higher compensation (40 per cent). 

Given candidates’ strong focus on flexibility, it’s noteworthy that the uptick in employees abandoning job offers has coincided with an increase in return-to-office mandates. According to AHRI research, mandated office days increased by 11 percentage points (48 per cent) between 2022 and 2023.

“There are a lot of conversations between HR and business leaders around the trade-offs of these return-to-office mandates and the impact they have on employees,” says Tabah. “Very rarely are they also considering how this is going to make it harder for them to bring in additional talent to replace the talent they may lose as a result.

“It is incumbent upon the recruiting leaders within an organisation or recruiting agency to communicate clearly with their senior stakeholders that this is the trade-off that you’re asking us to make.”

“Friction and delay are your enemies, and that’s where we’re going to see the most attrition.” – Jonathan Tabah, Director, Advisory, Gartner

The results indicate that employers who fail to convey work-life balance as a guiding principle throughout the recruitment process also risk seeing candidates back out, he says.

“It was probably a single-digit number of years ago that we would look each other straight in the face and say, ‘You come to work as a professional. You leave your personal issues at home.’ Now, saying that would be like smoking in the office. Today, we [need to] talk about how we’re going to support the whole person.”

How can HR ensure candidates stick around after accepting a job offer?

Keeping potential candidates engaged in the hiring process is set to become a growing challenge in the coming years. 

To help hiring managers overcome this challenge, Tabah offers a number of key tips for employers to avoid top candidates slipping through the cracks.

1. Map out the hiring process

When employers observe that candidates are getting cold feet midway through the hiring process, it’s important to take a data-backed approach to identifying where and why they are losing talent.

“Where candidates are backing out of the process could be different for everyone. So it’s really important that [employers] map their candidate journey,” says Tabah. 

“Take a very diligent and thoughtful approach to understanding exactly what the candidate journey looks like. What are the steps in the process? What are the key points of friction or delay in that process? Friction and delay are your enemies, and that’s where we’re going to see the most attrition.”

Once these friction points have been identified, he suggests looking at potential process improvements based on that information and, crucially, holding hiring teams accountable for executing these changes.

2. Examine drivers of attrition 

Focusing on what candidates want is undoubtedly key to a successful hiring process. However, Tabah believes employers would benefit from paying more attention to what candidates don’t want.

“We spend a lot of our time talking about drivers of attraction when we’re talking about hiring, but I’m also a really big believer in drivers of attrition,” he says.

“Why someone’s leaving another organisation is going to give us a really important cue as to what’s important to them, what would be a breath of fresh air to them and what would make them want to come and work for us.”

For example, if an employer learns that someone is leaving due to a poor relationship with their boss, it would be useful to take the time to speak to the qualities of their soon-to-be manager, or arrange a meeting so that they can get to know each other. Or, if they wish to leave due to a stressful, high-pressure environment, you could reinforce your company’s wellbeing approach and connect them with current staff who can testify to this.

For a well-rounded approach, it’s useful to look at broader industry trends that contribute to attrition as well as the unique factors pushing an individual employee to seek new opportunities. For instance, in many industries, employees are becoming increasingly put off by employers not having formal policies in place to support flexible working. 

This dual focus on attraction and attrition allows for a comprehensive understanding that enables employers not only to attract top talent, but also build an environment that encourages long-term commitment and professional growth for existing employees.

3. Avoid the ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic

In a job market where many candidates are spoilt for choice, one thing that’s sure to put talent off is a hiring process that positions the employer as an adversary rather than an ally, says Tabah. 

One driver of this perception is a lack of transparency in the recruitment process, particularly when it comes to compensation. The impact of this is demonstrated by Gartner’s findings, which show nearly half of candidates (44 per cent) decided not to apply to a job in a 12-month period because the job description did not include salary information.

Read HRM’s article ‘How to approach a salary negotiation with a new hire.’

“Part of it is just that the lack of information makes it harder to make the decision,” he says. “But, secondly, it also calls the organisation’s culture into question. 

“It sends the signal that we’re withholding this information. We’re negotiating with you already. If you were truly transparent, and you were looking for a win-win partnership, you wouldn’t be hiding information. And everyone recognises that.” 

This off-putting ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic can also manifest in the interview process, he says, making it crucial to coach hiring managers in the way they present the employment relationship during an interview.

“For those of us who have ever been through an interview, there’s really nothing worse than feeling like you’re sitting on the opposite end of the negotiating table,” he says. 

“What [we should be] trying to do is figure out whether we can be on the same team. And recognising the opportunities to do that is really important.”


Do you want to sharpen your recruitment skills and learn how to ask the right interview questions? Sign up for AHRI’s short course to arm yourself with best-practice information.


 

Subscribe to receive comments
Notify me of
guest

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anshu ( Anna)
Anshu ( Anna)
1 month ago

Interesting trend considering that new gen is lucky to have such offers 😉 at the same time because of higher and varied qualifications they get more choice .
For Gen X and earlier it’s more keeping upto the newer trends and accepting the senior to middle management where employers tend to be more picky

More on HRM