10 Ways a Lose a Candidate in a Tight Job Market

Work has changed. Since the beginning of the industrial age, we’ve moved from factories to remote workspaces; from industrial and labor relations into people operations; from pensions to the gig economy. The way people look for work has changed too, with a trend toward online job boards, ATS applications, and video interview screens.

Historically low unemployment is driving the current market, giving candidates plenty of options to choose where they want to work. Although there are definitely frustrations with how talent acquisition works at most companies (the high-volume black hole), the internet has empowered potential employees in many ways. Your potential employees can, without ever talking to you:

  • Research salary comparisons and market ranges with increasing accuracy
  • Read reviews from prior candidates and customers about your business
  • Explore your company in-depth and make a judgment call about whether it’s a match for them

The rules of engagement have changed and as a result, your hiring plan needs to change. Here are ten common ways employers who have not kept up with the changing market and future of work can lose candidates.

Negative online reviews.

Think of the last time you wanted to go out to a new restaurant. If you didn’t read about it beforehand or it didn’t come recommended already, you probably spent some time scrolling through reviews and ratings before you settled on the pizza place down the street.

A candidate that won’t even try a new restaurant without reading a couple reviews won’t apply to your company if you have a lousy online reputation. Nearly one-third of candidates have declined a job offer because a company had negative online employer reviews and 92 percent of working candidates consider reviews to be important when deciding to apply to a job.

A difficult job application process.

Not-so-fun fact: 60 percent of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out a job application because of its length or complexity. In the past, companies have claimed that the lengthy applications would screen out apathetic candidates, and good, motivated candidates will push through. However, this turns out not to be the case at all – both good and bad, motivated and unmotivated candidates are turned off by a lengthy application.

Candidates are especially annoyed by having to reenter information that’s on their resume, having to create a login, and having to include reference information and salary requirements before ever having a conversation.

A bad first impression.

Just as you are forming impressions of candidates based on their sloppy attire or bad attitude, candidates are judging you too.

  • Were you ready for them? Had you looked at their background, experience, and skills?
  • Did you ask them good questions?
  • Did you put them at ease, and make them feel welcome and seen?

If you didn’t make an effort from the beginning, why would a candidate want to work for you? It’s like being asked out to a second date after the first one was a total disaster – it’s not likely to lead to a long-term relationship.

An extended screening process.

Related to having a lengthy application, making a candidate work through multiple steps – maybe a personality assessment, or a (probably unpaid) work sample, or a presentation – without a solid reason is going to turn a lot of them off. Imagine what you would feel if you were being asked to take time off from your current role to spend four hours presenting to a management team after already going through a phone screen, three interviews, two personality assessments, and a work sample. Annoyed?

Sure, the risk of a mishire is high and as an employer you want to make sure you find the right person. However, make sure you question the necessity of every step of the process or you’ll lose plenty of candidates who are tired of additional steps that may or may not have any correlation to their success in a role. You’ll also definitely burn bridges with candidates who went through the extended screening process and didn’t get an offer.

A long wait for a job offer.

A common recruiting metric is time to fill – how many days it takes from a job being opened to an offer being accepted. This time has been increasing steadily for the last few years, and the average time-to-fill now hovers around 36 days. This metric is heavily specific to industry and location, but within the context of your company and industry segment, your recruiting efforts will be more successful if you don’t push a second interview out for weeks because someone on the team is on vacation or because you want to see additional candidates “just to compare.”

If the quality of candidates rose with the amount of time it took, we’d encourage it, but it actually has the opposite effect. You’ll also:

  • Miss out on candidates who are in high demand
  • Lose revenue and productivity from vacant positions
  • Develop a reputation as being indecisive
  • Damage your brand with future candidates when past candidates take their grievances online
  • Dramatically reduce a candidate’s excitement for your company

In summary, candidates really hate having a great conversation and then waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the next steps.

Limited salary transparency.

We live in an era of increased salary transparency in the hiring marketplace. Job seekers use salary tools like PayScale and Glassdoor, which have become increasingly accurate and targeted. Money information is out there.

Also, professionals know what they’re worth and care about it – a recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) survey found that two-thirds of employees rank compensation as very important to job satisfaction. How is a job seeker supposed to evaluate the role if a crucial piece of information is withheld until the offer stage? Think about putting the salary range in the job posting, or bringing it up during an initial phone screen, so you don’t get down to the eleventh hour with a candidate who can’t take a pay cut to work for you.

No workplace flexibility.

There are many different types of workplace flexibility (compressed hours, part-time, truly flexible hours, remote, etc.), but regardless of the type, 77 percent of employees consider flexible work arrangements as a major work consideration when evaluating future job opportunities. This is true across all age groups – it’s not just younger workers who want the ability to work when and where they are most productive and engaged.

We’re not dealing with a Mad Men era workforce where employees have a partner at home taking care of everything, and technology has extended how and where work can be done well, often well outside of the traditional 9-to-5. It’s important to embrace this future of work. Also, most researchers believe flexibility is one of the major ways we can combat the gender pay gap and the drain of talented employees (usually women) leaving the workforce. So, be flexible!

A forgettable employer brand.

Although you’re sitting on opposite sides of the table, the interview doesn’t need to feel like an adversarial experience. Rather than interrogating candidates, you should spend a good amount of time selling them on your company’s culture and the perks and benefits of the office, team, and role. You want them to leave any interaction excited about working for and with you – not feeling like they were just judged and found lacking.

A lack of interest in the candidate.

After every interaction with a candidate you want to keep in the process, you should ask them: “What other offers do you have?” Unless they’re looking to use the offer as leverage to get you to make an offer, a candidate probably won’t disclose that they’re also interviewing with three other companies until they already have an offer in hand.

Asking candidates about their current opportunities means that you:

  • Know their timelines and the competition, and can adjust your process accordingly
  • Can differentiate for them why your opportunity is a better match than their other potential offers (e.g. the commute is better, the type of work or rewards aligns with what they want, your role addresses another “career wound”, etc.)

No counter for the counteroffer.

In today’s competitive job market, companies are apt to give counteroffers when their employees give notice. They know that it will be difficult to find a replacement at around the same salary and they don’t want to worry about finding and training someone new. It’s seen as easier to offer the departing employee more money or another benefit they’ve been seeking.

As an employer, it’s important to have a conversation with a candidate you’re making an offer to about counteroffers. We know that 80 percent of people who take counteroffers are gone within a year – make sure your top candidate knows those odds and remind them of why they’re looking in the first place.