When a top candidate turns down your offer

by | Executive Search

After multiple rounds of interviews, a candidate you were certain was perfect for the role—who seemed enthusiastic about the company and mission—turned down your offer. Now, after weeks of wasted time, thousands of dollars spent flying the candidate out to interview and substantial mental energy invested, you are back at square one and no closer to filling a critical position.

What went wrong?

When a potential leadership team member turns down your offer, it is usually due to a handful of the same factors.

  • The position wasn’t the right fit
  • Their underlying concerns were never expressed and addressed
  • The offer didn’t align with the candidate’s personal priorities and expectations

Lack of communication can cause offers to top candidates to fall flat. The problem is, it can be difficult to facilitate candid conversations with potential hires who are hesitant to share personal priorities and concerns with your team.

Three things to uncover before the offer, and why candidates hold back

It’s important to facilitate authentic conversations to really understand the motivations of a key candidate. There are 3 things you need to know to make sure your offer matches the candidate’s goals:

  • How the candidate feels about the company
  • How they feel about the role
  • How they believe the opportunity will interface with their goals and priorities

It’s flattering to be asked back for an interview, and smart candidates are careful about the information they share in an attempt to keep their options open. Candidates often feel that sharing concerns with a member of your internal team might give the wrong impression. Because of this, a candidate may go through the entire interview process to see where it will lead, all the while harboring uncertainty about the company or the suitability of the role.

Failing to find out what is important to a candidate, what their concerns are and what they want out of the role can cause leadership teams to waste time with the wrong people or cause great candidates to miss a great opportunity because it wasn’t presented to them in the right way.

In order to make a decision about a candidate’s suitability for the role and craft the right offer, you need to know what is going on in the candidate’s head before, during and after the interview. Unfortunately, as a member of a corporate leadership team, the nature of your relationship with the candidate and your busy schedule almost always prevent you from investing enough time with them to build the trust and alignment necessary to have open and honest dialogue.

Getting to a point of real understanding with a candidate takes time, experience, emotional intelligence and a feel for the industry’s recruiting climate. As a busy MedTech leader, you can lean on an experienced recruiting partner for help.

Working with the right recruiting firm

A good recruiting firm will do more than just present the leadership team with qualified candidates. They will follow candidates closely through the interview process, representing their interests, building trust, facilitating important conversations and providing the company with context about the individual’s priorities and concerns.

Find out what is going on behind the scenes

The conversations a candidate is having behind the scenes—with themselves, their spouse or others in their network—often have the biggest influence on their decision to move forward with a new opportunity.

A recruiting partner who is willing to invest time with the candidate can be invaluable in building trust and encouraging the candidate to share those details early on.

Let’s explore a theoretical example.

Andrew is a top choice for your next CEO.  He has been through two rounds of interviews, and the board wants to bring him on at any cost. Andrew is excited about the role and would normally jump at the chance to make a career move like this, but your company has some ambitious short-term goals, and the way those objectives were communicated to him during the interviewing process makes him worried that he may be operating under pressure to meet impossible deadlines.

Teasing out their priorities and concerns

A post-interview debrief with the candidate to glean their perspectives and impressions can make all the difference; and a few carefully-placed questions can inform your hiring process immensely.

A great recruiting partner will have the background to be able to tease out honest answers to questions like:

  • “What were your impressions after meeting the team?”
  • “What do you like about the role? What are you unsure about?”
  • “How are your feeling about the company?”
  • How do you feel this move aligns with your goals and priorities.”

For example, when your recruiting partner follows up with Andrew after the interview—especially if trust has been established—he may feel comfortable sharing his worries about company timelines. This will shape the conversations your recruiting partner has with you as well as the next steps you take to craft your offer or respond to his concerns.

Open and honest communication facilitated by a thorough recruiting partner can also help you weed out the wrong candidates early.

When the right questions are asked early on and the candidate feels comfortable enough to share their feelings honestly, it often becomes apparent that the role you have to offer isn’t really what the candidate is looking for. In some cases it may be that the candidate is unwilling to relocate due to personal and family obligations. It may be that your company can’t afford to compete with the compensation. Whatever the reason, uncovering a disconnect early on saves both your company and the candidate a lot of headache.

Uncovering what’s most important to them is essential to crafting the right offer

When offers aren’t accepted, it’s because important conversations haven’t happened over the course of the hiring process. Often, this is because the candidate doesn’t feel comfortable sharing with you how they are analyzing this opportunity for themselves at this time. How does this impact their family life? Their professional life?

When it comes to the offer, talking with the candidate about compensation expectations is important. A recruiting firm who has experience in MedTech and understands industry norms and salary averages for various roles can be invaluable here. Many factors come into play for a candidate considering a new opportunity, including cash comp vs. equity, anticipated travel and time commitments, career growth opportunities and family dynamics.

The bottom line

Sealing the deal with the next member of your leadership team requires three things to come together:

  • The right candidate
  • The right role
  • The right offer

Sometimes it’s not the right time, not the right person, not the right fit. In those cases, it’s important to know when to walk away.

On the other hand, when you find a great candidate, it takes work to uncover what is important to them in order to present the opportunity the best way, to adjust the role if necessary and to craft the right offer.

It all comes down to the quality of communication during every step of the hiring process.

If your hiring process isn’t producing committed candidates, let us help.

On average, we present three qualified, interested and committed candidates for every MedTech leader hired by the companies we work with. The industry average is fourteen.

Allen Partners is uniquely positioned to serve as a third-party advocate for both the candidate and company. We have decades of experience building trust with candidates, facilitating critical conversations, and working with companies to craft offers that get accepted.

In almost 20 years we have only had one offer declined. That says something.

Reach out at julie@allenpartnersltd.com