Why Applicants Turn Down Offers - And How to Fix It

By Rhonda Bradley / 30 October 2018

Find out 3 common reasons why job-seekers abandon job applications and turn down job offers, and learn what your company can do to turn it around.

If it seems like it’s becoming more difficult to find and hire the right candidates for your company, it’s not just you. A recent survey found that over half of all job-seekers abandon job applications during the job search.

As the economy continues to grow strong, job-seekers are enjoying a boom unlike anything many of them have ever experienced. 

However, while job-seekers are enjoying a wealth of opportunity, you may be feeling the pinch when it comes to hiring good talent.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the top reasons why job applicants are abandoning applications, ghostings companies during the interview process, and not accepting your job offers. 

We’ll also offer solutions based on what some innovative companies are doing to address the problems.

Problem 1: Your Hiring Timeline Moves Too Slowly

While it’s not unusual for a company’s hiring process to take 4 - 8 weeks, if you put yourself in the shoes of applicants this may be unrealistic. Spending 1-2 months applying, interviewing, and waiting to hear back from each potential employer means it could take her up to 6 months or more to secure a job that’s a good match.

Many job-seekers accept positions for the sole reason that the offer comes in a timely manner, even if she thought she’d be a better fit for your company.

Solution: Unilever consumer goods cut their hiring process by 75% by converting to a primarily-digital hiring system that includes 4 stages:

  1. The first step of the process is streamlined using a mobile application that can be auto-filled on LinkedIn.
  2. The 2nd step includes a gamified skills assessment. The process involves a series of 12 games designed by Pymetrics. 
  3. Next, the interview process begins with automated video interviews in which candidates answer questions online. An algorithm produces a predictive assessment for the potential employer, which helps them choose the best interviewees.
  4. Finally, potential candidates spend a day at the company, in-person. While they get a feel for what it’s like to work at the company, managers conduct assessments of the candidate’s work and interactions.

Using this system, Unilever reduces the amount of time candidates spend traveling to and from interviews and waiting to hear back. Roughly 80% of the people who make it to step 4 receive offers from the company. The total hiring time from the point of the initial application takes a total of 2 weeks.

More and more companies are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed the hiring process and predict the best employee-employer fits with accuracy rates as high as 90%.

Ascendify screenshot

Below are some tools and services that offer AI and machine learning for predictive hiring analysis:

  • Greenhouse Recruiting
  • Ascendify Aspire
  • Outmatch
  • Pymetrics

Speeding up the hiring process can help your company retain better talent, quicker. Using tools and software that employ predictive analysis and skills assessments can often help you find your way to the right candidates quickly.

Not every company finds this the best route for recruitment, though. As you’ll learn in the next section, many reputable corporations believe that a more human-centric hiring process is what’s needed to retain the best employees.

Problem 2: You’re Getting “Ghosted” and Don’t Know Why

“Ghosting” is a popular term that means someone’s dropped out or disappeared without explanation. While the word was frequently tossed around by dating app users, it’s now increasingly being used in relation to recruiting.

For decades, it’s been a common practice of many businesses to ghost potential employees, even after many rounds of interviews. Now, the tables are turning as almost half of all job seekers believe it’s reasonable to ghost a company during the recruitment process.

According to a survey of 507 full-time employees, the top 3 reasons candidates ghost companies are that they’ve accepted another job, been ghosted by a company in the past, or realized they’re not a good match for the job.

Reasons candidates ghost companies graph

When candidates disappear from the recruitment process without warning or explanation, it’s difficult to learn from the experience. The experience leaves you unaware of whether there’s a problem in your hiring, interviewing, or application process. Perhaps the compensation is too low, the location doesn’t work, or the candidate didn’t care for the company culture.

Not only does ghosting make it difficult to learn from and improve upon your hiring process, but it can also drag out the process of finding the right person for the job.

Solution: Improve your communications process to form stronger relationships with job-seekers. Consider adjusting the way you write requirements and descriptions.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson believes in hiring personalities over skills and CVs. In a recent LinkedIn post, Branson shared a message about an organization he’s involved with called 100% Human at Work

Human at Work screenshot

Human at Work believes it’s important to start thinking of people as human beings instead of resources, and leans more toward helping people achieve potential than focusing on pure profit.

Branson believes in making the workplace fun and creating an environment where people care passionately about their jobs.

“We should hire not just based on CVs, but on characters – and always be willing to give people a chance,” said Branson.

“We should hire not just based on CVs, but on characters – and always be willing to give people a chance.”

On LinkedIn, Ewa Dabrowska-Gorniak, Medical Director at AbbVie, agreed with Branson: “If we hire for personality and attitude and then train on skills, we bring to organizations everything they need to succeed: innovation, passion for growth, engagement, empathy and strong ethics.”

Some of the ways to improve communications and form a better connection with potential employees include:

  • Maintain consistent, meaningful communication with your candidates throughout the entire recruitment process. According to Recruiting.com, “Today’s applicants prefer to receive frequent updates and personalized emails.”
  • Describe the role properly. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of applicants who ghosted a company did so because they realized they were not a match for the job. Be clear in your job descriptions to attract candidates who are a good match.
  • Consider shortening job requirements. Lever Modern Recruiting Software intentionally cut down on its “requirements” section, based on data that proves that women tend to apply only to jobs when they meet 100% of the requirements, as opposed to men, who typically apply when they meet just 60%. 

If your job candidates are ghosting you during the hiring process or accepting other job offers over yours, consider ways to form a more human connection. 

Problem 3: Your Hiring Process Has Gaps in Logic

Despite the fact that 3 in 5 employers report having difficulty filling positions, a 2017 report by Harvard Business School indicates that employers are raising the education requirements for middle-skills jobs. Middle-skills jobs require more education than high school, but not necessarily a degree. These sorts of jobs include support specialists, sales, supervisors and administrative assistants.

Degree gap chart

In other words, as it gets harder to find and hire good candidates, companies are making their hiring process more difficult.

Although this example may not apply to your company, it’s a good argument for double-checking your logic in regards to the hiring process. 

Solution: Review your hiring process and ask yourself:

  • Are there gaps in our logic that may be preventing us from hiring the right candidate?
  • Are we using inclusive job descriptions that help recruit a diverse workforce?
  • How might we form relationships with candidates from the first point of communication?
  • Is our “culture fit” becoming a clique? LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 explains that the term “culture fit” can sometimes lead to too many like-minded employees, whereas the phrase “culture add” can lead to more candidates with unique skills, opinions, and abilities.

A strong economy means that the balance of power may shift from employer to employee. If this leaves you wondering why job applicants aren’t accepting your offers, consider how you might improve the process. 

Review Your Hiring Process to Find and Attract the Best Candidates

Clarify your job descriptions and consider simplifying job requirements to attract the right applicants. Take advantage of hiring software that can help you assess skills speed up your hiring timeline.

Finally, assess your entire process and ask yourself if the process is “human enough” to form a connection with the type of candidates you’d like to hire.

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