He met her online.  They talked over the phone.  They texted, emailed, learned about each other!  She liked sushi but he was steak guy but they both loved the Broncos and waffles!  A coffee date was followed a week later with dinner, drinks and dancing.   They spent a weekend skiing together and he introduced her to his friends and his family and they loved her!  He got on his knees, opened a box and popped the question, “Will you marry me?”  

The size of the ring took her breath away.  Her eyes glowed!   She looked at him and said politely, “Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, but I must decline your offer.”

It’s an age-old story; and a job recruiter’s worst fears when making a final job offer to a top candidate.

For a recruiter, making a job offer is the final step in a lengthy, expensive and cumbersome process of job interviews, reference checks, discussions with colleagues and negotiations with the candidate.

So when a job offer is declined, there should be a lot of questions asked starting with “What went wrong?” 

There are many reasons why top candidates say ‘no’ to a job offer.   A new job is agreeing to enter into a long-term relationship.   Commitments of these sorts require a great deal of soul searching,  research and thought.

Here are the most obvious reasons candidates decline job offers:

Unprofessional conduct.

This could be on part of the recruiter or any other company official interviewing the candidate.  Much like the candidate is in a fish bowl, so is the company.  Unreturned phone calls and emails.  Delays in decision-making.  Inappropriate language.  Last-minute cancellation of meetings/interviews.  Tardiness to meetings.  Company officials unprepared at interviews.   All of this type of behavior is noticed and felt by candidates and contributes to their decision making about whether to take the job.

Online research.

Today’s professionals can research companies and company officials with incredible ease.  In much the same way companies are seeking references on candidates, professionals are also seeking out references on companies, bosses, departments and leadership.  They are reading newspaper articles and seeking information about the strength of the organization.  Glassdoor.com lets employees (present and past) rank companies and comment on what its like to work there.  It can be a company’s best friend….or worst enemy.  Connections via LinkedIn can lead candidates to past and current employees, clients and vendors of a company.  

Lack of clarity on job.

From the initial job postings to discussions with recruiters and others at the company, candidates need to understand their roles, their functions and what success looks like in the position they are being asked to consider.  Direct and specific job descriptions, reporting structures, goals and and understanding of how the company will support individuals in being successful is critical.


Culture is not simply a boiler plate description of a company, Boccie Ball in the break room or ‘beer Fridays’.   Culture is an embedded commitment from the company to create an ’employer of choice’ environment.  It is an environment of transparency, a dedication to helping employees succeed, an unwritten feeling of ‘we value your contributions, we appreciate your hard work and we want you to be here.’  Culture is defined by ethics, an organization’s larger place in the community, and values that are followed by everyone in the company starting with the leadership.

Unable to agree on compensation

Awkward discussions about salary are no fun for candidates.  Great candidates know they have options.  They typically have a target for what they want to make and need to know early on in the recruiting process if the organization can meet their salary goal.  If, after lengthy interviews and discussions, a job offer is made and the salary level is obscenely low or out of their target range, it will be hard for them to justify taking the position.  This is especially true if they are currently employed and being asked to consider leaving the relatively safe space of their current job.   But it their salary expectations are met with a disappointingly low-ball offer, it also serves as a reflection of the lack of professionalism on behalf of the company, a lack of value of the candidate and a predictor of how the company may treat their future employee later on.


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