Are Top Candidates Turning Down Your Offers?

One thing I hear regularly from new clients is frustration at having candidates say “no!” to their offers.  It’s deflating to invest time and effort to an interview process only to have your top candidate not accept.  When that happens, it can leave a significant impact crater inside of the organization and sometimes can damage the company’s reputation as well. 

Most people would agree that you should never make an offer unless you are certain it will be accepted.  I would add this wacky logic….you should know if your offer will be accepted before your interview process even begins. Ridiculous you say?  Hardly. 

Here are three simple questions you need to ask your candidates before the first interview ever takes place that will reduce, maybe even completely eliminate, your offers being rejected.

  • Do you have a job today?
    1. If the person is working today, guess what? They don’t need your job.  This is important; it changes the entire dynamic of the interview.  A successful outcome in this situation is about this being equal parts of evaluating and selling your candidate.

If you aren’t selling this candidate, directly or indirectly, from the first interview you will not be strongly positioned to have your offer accepted at the end.

  • What is it that another company or opportunity could offer you that you don’t have today?
    1. Some people think this question is the same as, “why are you looking?” It isn’t.  Please don’t ask that question.  It will often make your candidate react defensively, especially those who have a job today. 

If the person has a job today, you must ask this question next.  The answer will reveal a tremendous amount about the person and their situation but most important, it will tell you how you need to sell this candidate. 

It might also kill the interview (and you’d rather it dies now than at the end).  Some people will take this opportunity to trash their current company or boss.  If they do, they have done you a huge favor and made your decision really easy.

  • Where else are you interviewing?
    1. This is a loaded question for candidates and smart candidates know this. You are probably going to have to work to reveal this information but it is critical to your success.  If the candidate won’t answer with specifics, at the very least you want to find out how many companies your candidate is interviewing with currently, what those companies do or how big they are and what makes those situations attractive or interesting to the candidate- really any details you can get to handicap your chances of landing this candidate.

I’m throwing in two bonus things here because I’m nice like that…

Bonus 1– Ask how much money do they make?  This is not a range.  The answer to this question is a specific number, several actually.  You need to know base, you need to know target bonus, you need to know w2 from last year.  Don’t let your candidate weasel out of answering this question.

If you want to make asking this question easier, make them fill out an application or some simple paperwork before the interview begins.  Make sure it includes those money questions and then verify those answers in the interview.

Candidates always worry when they answer this question they will be either eliminating themselves by making too much today or leave money on the table. 

Bonus 2– Know your story.  I’m talking about your company story.  What makes the company a great place to work, what are the major deals you’ve done, how much have you grown, what about the vision of the executive team, etc.?  This is ultimately the stuff that attracts a candidate- the opportunity to work with a company that is well run and going places! 

These are not always easy questions to ask this early in an interview process however knowing the answers will help you hire your top candidates more often.

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