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6 Ways to Ensure Your Candidate Turns Down Your Job Offer

Sometimes getting your candidate across the line (and then to sign on the dotted line) isn’t as easy as you might think or hope.

After all, just because you believe you have identified the perfect candidate, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate feels they have found the perfect employer.

Sure you may have interviewed them a few times, invited them in to meet the rest of the team, and their references might have been glowing. But trust me this still doesn’t mean your star candidate is actually going to accept your offer.

So many things can go wrong at this point, and as an employer (or a recruiter for that matter!) you need to be aware of these and also be aware of what you can do to prevent the whole process from going pear shaped at such a critical stage.

I’ve seen it happen far too often. I’ve experienced it personally as a recruiter; I’ve seen it happen to many of my consultants over the years; and unfortunately I still see it happening regularly today when clients decide to take the offer negotiation piece into their own hands. The interview process has been great and everything seems like it’s heading in the right direction. Everyone’s getting along just fine. But then at the offer stage … BAM! It’s all over.


Many hiring mangers and recruiters will be quick to point the finger at the candidate for having had another offer in the wings. Or perhaps they will blame their current employer for throwing more money at them when they tried to resign.

Others will just assume that at the last minute the candidate must have decided that things really weren’t all that bad at their current place of work.

Actually this is not the case at all.

All you need to do is ask the candidate what happened, or why they decided not to go ahead and you’ll quickly learn that they simply found the whole offer process far too frustrating (perhaps even stressful) and so in the end it was just much easier to walk away.

Here are 6 easy simple ways to piss off your next rock star candidate at the time when you really just want them to be saying yes.

1. Keep them waiting

You were so keen to rush them through the interview process since you knew how hard it would be to find good candidates. But then you realised just how long the recruitment process was taking and how much of your own work you now need to catch up on so you decide to keep them waiting.

You assume they’ll be happy to wait patiently.

Trust me, they’ll just lose interest. Fast.

You’ll never be accused of over-communicating. No candidate will turn a job offer down because you were in touch with them too frequently during the process.

2. Make the offer via email 

You appeared so friendly and so transparent throughout the entire interview process. You gave the candidate the impression that you’re so transparent.

Stuff it. Go ahead and kill that myth by sending a generic email with the offer enclosed as an attachment?!

Remember you actually called the candidate to invite them in for their interview. You then met with them face-to-face. You even had them in for team drinks.

There’s nothing that shows your next potential employee how much you care about your people than to send out their offer via email so that the first time they even learn of any offer is when they click open a pdf … not.

If you can, it’s always a good idea to make a verbal offer first. Ideally meet with them in person – or at the very least call the candidate. Be excited for them, and let them know how keen you are to have them come on board.

Talk through the role and core responsibilities again, be clear on the salary you would like to offer them and when you’d like them to start.

Assuming they do verbally accept, there is then absolutely nothing wrong with telling the candidate they will receive an official letter of offer within 24 hours.

3. Get someone else to send the offer out on your behalf

Believe it or not candidates like continuity. So if you want to derail your star candidate, just ask another random team member to email the contract out on your behalf.

The candidate will then think you were just the ‘show person’ to get them in the door, but that you really don’t have any time for them.

In their mind they receive a communication that reads, “Hi, you don’t know who I am but please sign here. Welcome aboard!”.

Really? Is that the message you’re trying to convey? Great employer branding!

4. Include items in the offer that you hadn’t explained in person 

Surprise! “You can’t take any annual leave until you’ve been here for a year!

Or “You’ll be expected to work until 9:00pm 3 nights a week and we don’t cover taxi fares”.

How about one more for good measure … “We know you interviewed in our head office, but you’ll actually be based out in [insert dodgy neighbourhood one hour away by car]”.

Once again in their mind they’re reading, “Hi. Sorry I lied. Hope to still see you on Monday”.

When a candidate receives your offer of employment, there should be absolutely nothing in it that surprises them or that they weren’t expecting to see – including salary details.

For example if the commencing salary is different to their post-probation salary, make sure you cover that off during the interview. Or when you first discuss salary with the candidate, you must clarify whether it’s a salary package inclusive of benefits or a base salary plus benefits.

Any hidden surprises will just end up pushing candidates away.

5. Don’t give them any time to think about it

Nothing is more nerve wracking for a candidate considering a new job offer than to feel like you’re holding a gun to their head.

Sign here. Sign now. What more could you possibly need to think about?

Accepting a new role and going through the resignation process is stressful enough as it is. So when your candidate is feeling at their most vulnerable, why not apply even more pressure?

6. Get defensive 

Better yet get angry if your candidate calls to let you know they have been counter-offered by their current employer.

After all there’s no point in ever getting into a bidding war, right?


There’s evidence to show that over 75% of candidates who accept a counter offer end up leaving the organisation anyway within the next 3 months.

So if you show a bit of aggression or hostility towards a candidate who might be considering a counter offer, then whilst they might ultimately leave their current employer within the next few months, they most likely won’t be reaching back out to you.

Remember how you thought they were a rock star candidate?

Keep that thought in mind before you get too defensive.

Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.

  • David

    great comments. Have history with a firm that once did ALL of these things! Did take the offer, as there was no other work around, but regretted it all the time


    All these events are the work of amateur ‘recruiters’, not professional executive search consultants.

  • MilitaryAF

    My ‘executive’ recruiter is committing #1. I interviewed on 11/24/2015. 2 feedbacks I’m their #1 recruit, with 1 more person to talk to. Today is 12/21 and I’m about ready to tell them to shove their job.

  • Barbara Joy

    This was almost funny. I am actually going through having been offered a position at a law firm, exactly how this is written! It has contingencies involving background check, etc. 12 days later (with me trying to get info along the way)…I get a voicemail saying they hope I’m ready to start on Monday! I’ve not even given notice yet! Then when I call the COO back (not HR…sort of a good cop/bad cop with this firm)…she gets defensive that I need time to now give notice since they took 12 days…then she tells me ‘oh by the way, we hired the TEMP for the job we OFFERED YOU, but we have a different job for you if you are interested.” Of course it sounds like tons more work, more personalities to deal with and no clarity…but they want me to make the decision to accept this job IMMEDIATELY or they’ll hire someone else! Seems they’ll do that anyways as they have already! Thanks for this article…think I might send it to them!

  • Vikrant

    Hi .
    Starting of this year I have got offer to join a company , but due to some reasons I had to left that offer and I have not joined that company .
    But again the same company has requested me to come for an meeting/Interview , please suggest how to deal with this.
    I also want to join the company , but unable to understand how to face the Interview again , because there first question would be how we trust you this time that you will join us ?
    Please suggest any possible answer to this.

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  • Heiko Joerges

    more highlights of brilliant recruiters (Europe is full of them, most of them working for betting/IT companies – some of them would never ever qualify as recruiter in their home country):

    offer a job which does neither fit with the candidate´ s actual position, nor his CV or qualification
    e.g. offering a customer call centre / support position to a university professor or a lawyer, physician (who does anyway not look for a job), software developer,
    offering a (quite unattractive btw) position as employee to an obviously self employed person/freelancer, who indicates on his website that he is looking for business partners and not for any kind of employed position (and that he has clients),

    best: job offer with a lower income (!) and a lower qualification, compared to the candidate´s current job

    I sometimes wonder if some recruiters ever attendet school

    • Ray

      Devil’s advocate here, a job with a lower income is not a 100% non-starter in many instances.

      • Heiko Joerges

        “a job with a lower income is not a 100% non-starter in many instances”
        That´s the argument of some companies where employees and business partners soone or later see no money at all. I would avoid them at any cost, expect the position appears to be a starter, which does never ever apply to help desks, customer support positions etc. These are jobs for student interns.

        Companies offering costomer care positions to senior professionals, including a lower income, apparently have no money for a proper HR department, are spammers, and should resign from the market (instead they become more and more, just like mushrooms). Same goes for all “great opportunity” offers, which turn out to be “we pull you over the barrel” jobs (my opinion)

        • Ray


          If you had a family, you would leave Under Armour and $150,000 a year to work for Johns Hopkins at $125,000 a year. Why? Because JHU has incredible benefits and free in state tuition for your kids.

  • Mr

    So I’ve interviewed, received offers, and worked for global organisations across the world, from US to Singapore. I’ve experienced each of the above more than once:
    – I’ve had offers retracted after months of hold-up
    – I’ve had people demanding a response on the day
    – People changing titles and salaries with no prior notice
    – People failing to reimburse interview travel expenses despite company policy
    – People failing to follow through from verbal to written offer
    – People indifferent of the support required during the visa application process
    – Having to deal with 4-5 recruiters throughout the offer review process
    – I’ve had a ‘welcome letter’ and contracts sent to me after formally rejecting a job offer
    – I’ve even had a face to face interview with an external recruiter for a senior role
    These were leading organisations in management consulting, retail, pharma and other industries. These were not ‘amateur’ recruiters, these were not little start-ups; these were organisations heavily invested in employer branding activities and failing terribly at it. I can only attribute it to sloppiness and lack of accountability. Whatever the reason, in my experience, this is the norm.

    On the bright side, on the rare occasion, I’ve been hired by people whom I found to be welcoming, enthusiastic, supportive, empathetic, professional, transparent, and consistent. I even once got a hug to say thank you for choosing to be part of our team. I choose to focus on that tight angle of brightness.

  • DoneAgain

    Here’s one for you: have HR pressure your top candidate to start as soon as possible, discourage them from taking a break between jobs, and do a salary study using someone who has half the experience your “top candidate” has. Also, make sure the HR rep has a bad attitude towards the top candidate when he mentions the need to take some time off between jobs. When you don’t even work for a company and they already have a problem with you taking time off that they aren’t paying for, that’s a HUGE red flag.

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  • Puzzled

    7. Offer a lower job title then the one you have been promised! This just happened to my husband. Salary was negotiated, relocation package discussed, the role was agreed upon from the first interview more than a month ago… but now after a month of waiting for the offer, with continuous communication in between, the job title is now “specialist” instead of “manager”. My husband is truly the most honest, good-hearted and hard-working man I know. When he commits, he gives his 100% to a company’s success. We were so excited about this opportunity but the whole thing just left us completely disgusted. They have not even called him back after a voicemail and an email…. this is a very respected billion dollar company, but apparently ethic is not their thing. Thank for us, in the long waiting process, another more competitive offer from an amazing company came up so – aside for the huge disappointment and the money we spent preparing for the move – we come out winning.

    I used to work in HR, managing a metrics & benchmarking team in a big corporate that has its people at heart. Because they are so devoted to a happy workforce, their employee retention averages 20+ years! After seeing the numbers, I can hardly believe how companies let HR malpractice (often isolated to a single department or even an individual) jeopardize their global retention strategy. A high turnover rate cost large corporation millions of dollars per year (in recruiting, on-boarding, training, productivity and possibly negative public relations). WHY would you want to make a new employee feel like crap? Any person with a backbone would walk away. Just be honest, hire the right people in the right roles and focus on long-term success not on short-term schemes.

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