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How to avoid declined job offers


This article originally appeared in HR Daily 11 July 2012 7:10am


A survey of 750 job seekers in Australia and New Zealand has found four in five have declined a job offer in the past, but less than half did so due to a better offer from another employer.


The Robert Walters survey report, Managing the offer process to ensure you recruit the best professional, says the job offer process can have a big influence on whether or not a candidate ends up an employee.


"An offer of employment should have more than a monetary amount attached to it," says Robert Walters Australia managing director, James Nicholson, says in the paper.


"It should be well-rounded and encompass details on career progression, corporate culture and non-monetary benefits."


When asked why they had declined an offer in the past, 48 per cent of the survey respondents said it was due to a better offer from another employer.


However, 22 per cent said further research on the organisation had dissuaded them and 15 per cent said the offer differed from what was discussed in the recruitment process.


A further seven per cent blamed a long, mishandled recruitment process, and five per cent said it was due to advice from their networks. The remaining respondents said they were unable to commit to a start date.


Robert Walters Sydney director Bradley Shotland says recruiters must draw out a candidate's major reasons for leaving their current position during the recruitment process.


Questions that will help to gain an understanding of their motives include: "Why are you leaving?" and "What's the main reason?".


It's also worth asking, "What will you do if you get a counter offer?"


"You would naturally see a common theme in their answers, and a lot of the time it becomes fairly evident whether they are actually going to leave or they are just using the process as a salary negotiation."


Shotland says most people start looking for alternative employment because of a lack of career progression or desire for more money, or because of the culture and/or environment of their organisation.


If a candidate has multiple offers of employment to choose from, the recruiter should seek further detail on each. "If they've got three different roles, what are the major drivers within each of those roles? How do they compare?


"It's about understanding which of those roles is the most attractive and why," Shotland says.


"It could be the organisation, it could be the money, it could be the actual position that they're going for and it could be the location - and then you probably bring in other factors like ongoing training and development."


It is up to the recruiter to highlight the benefits of their offer in relation to any others.


"I think a lot comes down to how the candidate engages with the agency and how the consultant or the agency then engages with the candidate," Shotland adds.


This is even more critical if an employer is recruiting internally, he says.


Key lessons


Based on the survey findings, Nicholson draws out 11 key tips for the process of making a job offer:


1. Always have a written component to your job offer.

"A verbal job offer in the first instance is acceptable but it should be accompanied by a written offer within two to three days," Nicholson says. "The written offer tells the candidate you are serious about getting them on board and [could] be the difference between your offer and one from a competing employer."


2. Offer candidates what they are worth.

"The salary you set must be high enough to attract and retain top talent but not so high that it is wildly above what your competitors are paying similar staff."


3. Make sure your internal salary bandings are in line with market rates.

"The majority of organisations determine pay rates in line with internal bandings," Nicholson says. "Examine internal bandings and ensure they are in touch with the market by researching salary surveys and offers from other organisations."


4. Promote the aspects of the job offer that the candidate is interested in.

The survey found salary package and cultural fit are the biggest concerns for most candidates. Recruiters must show the candidate that their offer has "everything they desire", Nicholson says.


5. Manage expectations.

"One of the best ways to ensure your job offer will be accepted is to monitor expectations throughout the recruitment process," Nicholson says. "This includes having an understanding of the job seeker's key motivations for looking for a new role, their salary expectations and also their understanding of your business and culture."


6. Make your offer competitive.

The survey found the most common reason candidates turned an offer down was a better offer from another employer. "If that happens, do not hesitate to ask the candidate why and what exactly the other employer was able to furnish that you weren't," Nicholson says. "Take the feedback on board and tweak your future offers to be more competitive."


7. Stick to the original offer.

One reason candidates refused offers was because what was discussed during the recruitment process varied from the final offer. "Don't wait until you make an offer to advise of provisos."


8. Tick all the boxes before you make an offer.

"There may be an unfortunate circumstance where approval for head count is not given and offers have to be withdrawn," Nicholson says. "Have all of the boxes ticked before you begin the recruitment process. Also, ensure you do all of the relevant background checks before making an offer."


9. Don't be afraid to withdraw an offer if it doesn't feel right.

"It's always easier and more cost effective in the long run to start over than it is to employ someone you know is not suited to the role or organisation."


10. Be prepared to negotiate and ask questions.

"If a potential employee indicates they have another offer on the table, do not be afraid to ask questions and negotiate. The difference between the offers could be something very simple that your company can also offer," Nicholson says.


11. Hire the next best candidate or start again?

If a candidate is lost to the competition or a counter offer, starting the recruitment process again can be costly and time consuming, Nicholson says.


"However, if there is no other candidate suitable for the role, don't settle - it is much easier to start again, than to recruit someone into a role that is not suitable."


Simulate a counter offer


Recruitment expert Ross Clennett says that when an offer is on the line or a counter offer is made, a candidate will tend to move from the rational theory of leaving their job ("I want a better package", "I want to change industries") to the emotional reality ("I love the people I work with", "My boss has invested so much in my development").


Clennett says that simulating a resignation conversation can help them to overcome emotional barriers.


"I strongly advise you simulate a very difficult resignation conversation with the candidate (pulling the candidate's emotional strings as hard as possible) so no matter how tough the candidate's boss makes it in the real resignation conversation, they find it easier to handle than your simulated conversation," he says in a blog post.


"After the simulated conversation, ask their permission to give them appropriate feedback and coaching, in how they handled the conversation, and how they might handle it more effectively.


"If the candidate displays significant vulnerability to a counter offer then be straight with them. Let them know you have major doubts about their motivation for leaving their current role. Tell them to think it over and call you back within 48 hours to tell you whether they really are serious about leaving.


"Either way you cannot lose. If they call you back to pull out of the process then you have saved yourself (and the client) time and heartache and if they call back and tell you they are serious then their commitment to leaving has just gone to a whole new level."