Turned Down: How to Handle a Rejected Job Offer

You found that perfect hire. She is the executive leader you want. He has the technical skills you need to take your team the next level. She has the education, experience and unique background that so few have, you want to do everything you can to hire this person. The interviews have gone well and there is a definite mutual interest. You think you have the perfect fit and the offer is presented.

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But suddenly, you get turned down. Uh-oh. What now? What is a recruiter/HR professional or small business owner to do now? How do they handle rejection?

It can be complicated.

“The first step is to listen to why they do not want to accept the offer,” says Irelis Arias, Director of Human Resources at HRdirect, a leading source of practical and affordable HR products and services for employers. “If it is about pay, you ask them what they are looking for.  If it is much higher than what you budgeted for and cannot offer them what they want, see if there is any way you can meet them half way instead and offer them a bit more money, but not what they want.”

Consider all options. Look for other ways to sweeten the deal, like an increased amount of time off, says Arias. Also, be sure to highlight the great qualities about the company and what your current employees really like about it. In addition, if there is growth opportunity in that role, you want express to the candidate the potential for growth in that position and outline the possibility for increase in pay as the growth occurs.

Being turned down is something every recruiter and HR professional faces. How they are able to handle this situation can vary greatly if you are an independent recruiter, corporate recruiter or working in an HR role with a small business.

There is a big difference between independent recruiters and HR professionals who recruiter for small or large corporations, Arias points out. The independent recruiter’s only job is to recruit for their customers in whatever capacity they need.  Whereas an HR professional who recruiters for a small or large corporation recruits for open positions, but their main job is human resources.  A large corporation may even hire a full time recruiter because it may be that they have too many open positions and that can be overwhelming for an HR Professional if they have multiple responsibilities in their HR role.

There is also a difference in “recruiting” or “persuading” the top candidate to reconsider, says Arias.

“As a recruiter, if a candidate does not accept the offer, chances are they have a few others lined up waiting for that job,” says Arias. “For the HR professional, they may only have one or two people with the skill set they are looking for.  In the case of only one candidate being right for the job, the HR professional will really spend a lot of time with that candidate if they counter-offer or just do not accept the position because they do not have another candidate and will need to start the search again.  This is especially true if that candidate is a really good match in terms of not only skill set, but culturally as well.”

For example, independent recruiters placing candidates with a company they are hiring for may spend more one-on-one time getting to really know the candidate before presenting them to a client. This communication before an offer is presented can really help the independent recruiter get to know what the client is looking for.

“Prior to presenting an offer, you should know what the candidate wants in order to accept,” says Laura Mazzullo, President of East Side Staffing, a New York City specialized staffing firm focused on the placement of HR professionals in the New York City Area. “Trying to turn a candidate around after a rejection doesn’t typically work and certainly isn’t my approach.”

But if you just have to go after that top candidate, what methods can recruiters use? What works? It all depends on the counteroffer and communication between parties after the rejection. Arias likes to discuss company strengths – longevity, and a strong benefits package. She also likes to point out growth potential within a role. As mentioned before, if there are tight budgetary restraints and salary can’t be increased, or increased much, consider offering more PTO, especially to key leaders or managers. While money is a driving factor in any negotiation, time off will be attractive to candidates and it will show them the company values their personal as well as professional lives.

But negotiating a counteroffer and working within budget constraints do not always convince the candidate to change their mind. At this point, it might be time to move to the next best candidate.

“The time to move on is if you’ve given it your best shot to discuss benefits to working at your company and tried to meet them halfway with their salary expectation and they still do not accept the offer,” says Arias. “At that point, there’s really not much else you can do, so you have to move on.”

Internal hiring managers should identify the person who really wants the job, and then make them an offer they can’t refuse, says Mazullo. Getting rejected is a good sign that something wasn’t smooth or transparent during the interview process. And wanting a candidate is not enough to hire them, says Mazullo.

“They have to want you back in return,” says Mazullo. “You should go to the runner-up candidate if you know your top choice isn’t excited. Companies should hire the candidates who really want to join their organization and are excited to do so. Convincing someone is not the right approach.”

Mazullo says a rejected offer can also be a sign that something was left unsaid during the courtship/interview process.

“It’s like a rejected marriage proposal – it’s unusual because you should really know how the other person feels about the idea of marriage before you propose,” says Mazullo. “Before extending an offer, know how the candidate will react and feel. Changing jobs is a big, scary venture for most people and they need to feel 100 percent comfortable about the change. As a hiring manager, allowing a candidate to open up to you about their ideal offer, their concerns, their interest-level in the role are all ways you can ensure your offer is accepted. If, after all of those candid discussions, you know you can’t meet their requests, keep looking.”

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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