Is Your Interview Process Turning Off Top Candidates?

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You interviewed a seemingly perfect candidate: skills, experience, personality, etc. all match up. Hooray! You make a job offer and are disappointed to learn they turned it down. How can that be? You were under the impression that everything lined up and they were interested in joining your organization. What went wrong? Why did they decline?

In our experience, there are many reasons why candidates turn down job offers. More often than not, it is because they did not feel a true connection during the interview, which may stem from a variety of items. They also likely had multiple great offers to choose between. We spend a good chunk of our lives at work, so choosing your next place of work is a decision that cannot be taken lightly.


Here are our top reasons why candidates are put off during the interview process, as well as some tips to mitigate this happening to you and your organization!

No rapport or connection established

Attempting to establish some rapport initially should be the job of both the candidate and the hiring manager/interviewer. Not only does it improve the overall "interview experience", but it also helps set both parties more at ease. This allows both sides to perform their best in their respective interviewing roles for the duration of the interview!

Think through some of these questions on your interview process:

  • How do you welcome the candidate?
  • Do you provide a short tour, or could you, as you're walking to the interview room?
  • What do you spend the first few minutes of the interview focused on?
  • What are some good small talk questions I could ask to welcome them and get to know them a bit (i.e. commute/where they're coming from, how was the drive, have been to the organization before, how is their day going, how was their weekend or what are their upcoming weekend plans, etc.)?

The bottom line is that time permitting, investing a few minutes getting to know each other on the front end to build rapport and help make the candidate feel welcome and comfortable, goes a long way.

Lack of exposure to the environment

Do you conduct interviews in a small, windowless room? Do you meet the candidates at the front desk and immediately usher them into a conference room? Often times, candidates have limited exposure to the office complex / environment where they will be working. Would you buy a house from just seeing the closet or a bathroom? That is the best analogy we can provide here, as candidates, especially your best ones, want to see the "full package" of where they will be working! To our point above, we spend the majority of our days at work so there needs to be some level of comfort there.

For candidates you want to impress, evaluate your process now and see where you may give them additional insights into the environment. A few specific ideas include:

  • You could spend two extra minutes giving them the "scenic route" while you escort them to a nicer conference room/office instead of a blank, boring room.
  • Task a member of your team with giving them a brief tour of all the meeting and training rooms, and explaining what your team uses and for what purposes.
  • Ask a member of HR or your staffing partner to give them a more extensive, 10-15 minute tour, outlining the major building areas they might be interested in seeing, such as a cafeteria, game room, outdoor work lounges, fitness room, training room/s, etc.

No introduction to team members/culture

We have had quite a few candidates mention they did not get the opportunity to meet a single team member they would be working with. Think about what sells a candidate who is on the fence between multiple job offers. A lot of the time, people may positively sway the needle! We spend so many hours each week with the people we work with, and a positive, fun loving, team-oriented culture may be a top "interest igniter" for candidates!

Task one of your senior team members with giving the candidate an overview of the culture, highlighting things such as: how meetings are run (style, structure, and frequency), training programs/offerings, team dynamics, social events of the team/group and company, any other internal activities or outside events/activities the team engages in together, etc. For example, one of our clients' technology departments has both a Running Club and a Biking Club, where those who wanted to participate ran together every Tuesday after work and biked Thursday after work. Another client has an informal Brew Club where folks would meet up at a local brewery the last Thursday each month.

Not enough focus on key priorities and job responsibilities

We cannot express the amount of times we have spoken with a candidate after a job interview and they mentioned "the manager was great and I think it went well, but I'm still not sure what I'll be doing every day." If you are spending the entire interview doing quality assurance on the candidate, you are doing it wrong. Your interview needs to be a balance of qualifying the candidate and then also highlighting key details about the opportunity that that type, and level, of candidate would want to know, and giving insights into the environment, culture, facility, benefits, etc.

Express negativity or simply, lack of charisma

If you are not passionate about the opportunity, organization, and how that individual will contribute to your team, project, goals, company, etc., why would that candidate be excited? Maybe it is an exciting, new project that's about to kick off. Or the reason you have worked there for 15+ years. Details like these are important to share with prospective hires.

A focus on the past and current, but not the future

While you want to share your current project list, technology landscape, and short-term goals, you also want to highlight where you are going as a team, group and company! One of the best ways to get candidates excited is to share your roadmap with them. Vision ignites passion, so invest a portion of the interview outlining the future of technology in your respective team/group, and how that will contribute to the macro goals of the organization and/or client/s!

Too much talk; very little listening

It always surprises us when a candidate's feedback is that "the Manager spent 80-90%+ of the interview talking." Interviews are a balancing act, and that applies to who has the microphone. Ensure your candidates have enough time to not only explain their work history and experience and sell themselves, but also time to ask questions.

Grilled by questions that were too easy or too difficult

We have had entry-level developer candidates asked extremely complex coding questions, and that ended up being a huge turn-off for most. Ensure your interview questions and requested code samples are right for the level of the person you are hiring for. We understand many managers ask a series of questions that may increase with difficulty, but there should be some limitations to this. Candidates should feel challenged, but not completely defeated. On the flip side, senior candidates are also put off when the interview consists of only basic questions, leading them to the conclusion that the role won't be challenging and/or that you don't know how to interview or are not taking the interview seriously.

Limited preparation prior to interview

It really makes us sad when we hear from a candidate that the manager was completely unprepared going into the interview. Whether that was not having their resume, not having a chance to look at their resume prior, or not knowing what particular position they were interviewing for (yes that has happened). We've even had managers who called the candidate the wrong name and/or had the wrong resume in front of them. We both understand how busy work gets, but as hiring managers ourselves, we know the importance of proper interview preparation. Do not let your candidates think that they are an afterthought. That is a sure fire way to inadvertently turn off great candidates. Rather, invest time before an interview in reviewing the candidate's resume (and LinkedIn profile, GitHub, etc.), and making notes and jotting down questions you'd like to ask them.

Lengthy interview process

I just saw a post about this the other day. A candidate had six rounds of interviews and ultimately turned down the offer. The company was shocked! It turns out there were many red flags that happened throughout the process that, frankly, would have caused me to turn it down too. It is a job seeker's market, so if you find a strong resource, you need to move quickly. See if there are ways to consolidate your interviews process. More cooks in the kitchen is often a detriment.

Next Steps
  • Interviews and hiring are time-consuming processes, but if you truly take time to evaluate your existing processes and make some changes, it can be easier, and timesaving for everyone involved. A better process and interview experience for the candidate will also result in a higher offer to acceptance ratio, which will save you considerable time!
  • If you feel as though candidates are declining your offers, schedule a meeting with those involved in your interviewing process to determine which of the above 10 areas you might be exhibiting. Once that discovery and identification process is finished, start to determine how you'll fix it so you have a better interview process that leaves candidates walking away thinking "I hope I get an offer; I can't wait to work there!".

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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