How to reduce candidates pulling out of job offers

Feb 20, 2020 | Attraction & marketing

Last year ISE members reported that 8% of their graduate and non-graduate job offers were reneged. Sarah Hobbs, Managing Director at Talent & Potential shares new research to help tackle this problem.

Reneging by prospective hires is a growing concern for many employers, as highlighted in ISE Inside Student Recruitment 2019.

In the summer issue of The Student Employer, we shared our research on employers’ perceptions of reneges (candidates accepting a job offer but not joining the organisation). Since then we conducted follow-up research with current students and those in their first substantive role, after completing their studies, to see whether employer perceptions differ from candidates. While the research remains ongoing, we hope our initial findings will help inform your attraction and selection strategy.

Candidate attitudes to reneging

When asked about their job search strategy, around 60% of respondents indicated they are ‘maximisers’ i.e. they invest significant time and effort to find the ‘best’ available opportunity. The remainder are ‘satisficers’, they stop searching once they secure an opportunity that meets their key needs.

Research amongst recent graduates (Iyengar et al, 2006) indicates that maximisers typically experience lower levels of satisfaction with the job search process than satisficers, due to elevated expectations; despite on average securing roles that are objectively superior to those secured by satisficers, when making comparisons using factors such as salary.

In addition, of those surveyed only 25% said they would never consider reneging on an offer. Indeed, 50% indicated that the approach would be to accept an initial offer but then continue progressing any outstanding applications; a further 20% would do this AND continue making new applications. This suggests that for the majority of candidates reneging is something they would be willing to do, should the need arise.

What factors most influence reneges?

By asking candidates to respond to a hypothetical case study, we identified the factors that would most likely influence their decision to renege or not, when presented with two job offers that both met their key criteria.

We then compared the responses of non-renegers and those who had reneged (or who would consider reneging), in order to see which factors were most influencing different groups of candidates.

A comparison of the two candidate groups shows that they are influenced in very different ways to one another. This means that organisations may find that their current recruitment strategy is better designed to meet the needs of one group, at the expense of another. For some this might help explain why they either do not receive the number or type of applications they hoped for, or why some candidates ultimately renege on their offers.

Tackling reneges

As we now know, the majority of candidates will continue to explore other opportunities if they have the chance, it’s clear that organisations should not be too quick to presume a role is filled even if they have received an acceptance letter.

But what is the best course of action to take to minimise reneges? As experts in helping organisations develop the careers of early talent, we suggest two possible strategies:

Strategy 1

Candidates who are likely to renege appear to be most influenced by extrinsic motivators, like job location. Therefore, it’s essential that the employment package offered to them is as attractive as possible and is not just designed to meet their minimum expectations, especially when compared to packages of competitors.

Whilst improving the onboarding process is helpful, this is unlikely to have a significant impact on candidates’ decision-making. However, employers might also want to reflect on the ongoing costs of maintaining a market-leading package in order to attract and retain such individuals.

Strategy 2

Rather than trying to appease potential renegers, employers can seek to avoid these costs by deliberately trying to attract non-renegers. This means placing less emphasis on the employment package and instead stressing factors such as organisational values.

Recruiting ‘well-aligned’ candidates should also prove an effective retention strategy. However, this strategy may not be realistic for employers requiring a high volume of hires, given non-renegers make up a minority of the people in our sample.

For some resource-rich employers, pursuing a strategy that combines elements of both the above may be feasible, but for many employers this may not be realistic. While as recruiters we may not necessarily like the idea of designing a process that will reduce the likelihood that we receive applications from talented candidates, it may be a pragmatic response if we want to ensure that hires turn up on day one and remain with our organisations in the longer term.

This is an article from the winter issue of The Student Employer.


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