Why You Should Interview People Who Turn Down a Job with Your Company

Successfully competing for top talent involves both selling jobs to the best candidates and retaining the highest performing incumbents. In order to be seen as an employer of choice with a compelling value proposition for employees, many companies measure turnover and conduct exit interviews with departing employees to gather feedback about the experiences people had working there and the reasons why they’re leaving. But a less common practice is to track how many people turn down job offers at your company, and an even less common practice is to actually gather feedback from candidates who receive offers but don’t accept them. Like “exit interviews” these “declined offer” interviews can yield a lot of information about your own organization as well as valuable data about your industry and competitors.

While academic institutions often gather feedback from students who are accepted but do not matriculate in order to improve student recruitment and retention and to better compete with rival institutions, doing so with job candidates in a systematic and consistent manner is rare in the corporate world. As with other kinds of selling and marketing, you may learn as much, if not more, from the feedback of customers who choose not to buy as you learn from those who do.

If you don’t solicit private feedback from people whom you’ve interviewed (and even if you do), they may provide unsolicited public feedback on websites such as Glassdoor about their experiences being interviewed at your organization. “Declined offer” interviews and feedback can also give you advance warning about factors that may cause your offer rate to decline, enabling you to take proactive steps to prevent it from happening.

Here are some questions that you can and should ask the candidates who got away:

  • What did you see as the potential positive aspects of the role and/or working at our organization?
  • What were your concerns about the role and/or working at our organization?
  • What were the most important factors in the decision you made?
  • What feedback or suggestions do you have about your interviews, interviewers, the interview process itself, or how we could have improved your overall experience as a candidate?
  • Can you provide any observations about, or feedback or suggestions for the hiring manager, Human Resources, or the organization overall?
  • What additional feedback or suggestions can you provide about how we might present a more compelling value proposition to candidates like you in the future?

This kind of feedback can provide ample opportunities for organizations to develop theories about how to improve their processes, branding and the candidate experience.

The hiring manager and HR can also compare and contrast feedback from those who did not take offers with the feedback from those who did, and try to ascertain which controllable factors might make the difference in the decision making process of future candidates that the organization wants to attract.

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