Skilled talent is getting harder and harder to come by. According to research for the Robert Half 2023 Salary Guide, 89% of businesses are experiencing a skills shortage and more than half (54%) feel it’s harder to find skilled talent now than three years ago. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder businesses are choosing to investigate why candidates decline job offers at their organisation.

Our recruitment experts reveal the 6 most common reasons candidates reject an offer, what businesses are doing to stand out in the competitive market, and how to ask a candidate why they declined an offer.

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Reasons to decline a job offer

1. No sense of ethics or values

Today’s candidates are attracted to employers with solid values, especially regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environment, social and governance (ESG). In fact, over half (53%) of younger workers will reject an employer they perceive as unethical, and 22% of 18 to 34-year-olds say they hold corporate values above salary when looking for an employer.

Related: How to create a gender-inclusive workplace

2. Lack of flexibility

Flexibility is essential to professionals, especially in the wake of the pandemic. As a result, many of them expect a certain degree of flexibility regarding how they work — whether that’s a choice of in-office days or the ability to adapt their working day to suit their lives.

Research for the 2023 Salary Guide showed that employers were consistently failing where work-life balance was concerned, and potential employees will be on the lookout for this. However, almost a third (31%) of employers recognised that flexibility was a crucial sticking point for candidates. As a result, they use it alongside competitive salaries to attract talent.

3. Remuneration negotiation

Benefit and salary negotiations can draw out your recruitment process, so ensuring your initial offering is attractive enough before you begin is essential. Excessive haggling and negotiation can leave a bitter taste in a candidate’s mouth and makes your offer look uncompetitive compared to the others they’re getting.

4. Candidates didn’t get a sense of company culture

Professionals aren’t just accepting a role; they’re also opting to join a company culture. Positive relationships with their teammates make them 2.7 times more likely to be happy in a job.

By not sharing the company mission or describing the personality traits of an ‘ideal teammate’, you’re missing the opportunity to paint a picture of the unique dynamic that sets you apart from competing businesses.

5. No opportunity for progression

Because career goals are never static, one of the most attractive aspects of a new role is the growth prospects on offer. According to research by Gallup, the highest-quality candidates will use interviews to assess the level of opportunity on offer and base an acceptance on this.

Failure to ask interview questions designed to reveal your candidate’s favoured career path and not explaining how your business can offer progression along the same trajectory is an oversight that can cost you a first-choice candidate. If opportunities to progress are not clear from application or interview, it stands a good enough reason for candidates to decline a job offer.

Related: Top 10 interview questions you should be asking

6. The work doesn’t offer a valuable experience

When asked what drives happiness at work, the top-ranking responses from employees were gaining a sense of accomplishment and undertaking interesting, meaningful work. Daily tasks which are too complex or too easy will fail to satisfy an employee and may cause them to drop off before the end of probation (if they accept the job at all).

It’s helpful to advertise the aspects of the job which offer the opportunity to lead or participate in key projects, the ability for professionals to set targets and goals, and to take ownership of their own tasks.

How to ask a candidate why they declined an offer

1. Put your personal emotions on the back burner

It can be hard not to react strongly after your job offer has been declined, but it’s imperative you keep a cool head before responding. This might mean taking a beat before responding or leaving the email for an hour or two to help create distance. Clapping back is a sure-fire way to push that candidate further out of reach and garner a bad reputation at the same time.

2. Ask for more information

Politely ask whether the candidate would be happy to share why they’ve rejected the job offer. Let them know they’re more than entitled to walk away without giving feedback but that their answers could help you improve your hiring process. Let them know that you’re open to negotiating and that you’re more than willing to make the offer more attractive.

3. Identify potential to negotiate

If your candidate is happy to share more information with you, look for the potential to negotiate. In some instances, you can turn the rejection around with simple changes to your offer. Ask the candidate if they’d reconsider should you come back with a preferable deal. If they decline, respect their answer, and wish them luck for the future.


Hiring new staff amid a talent crunch is incredibly difficult, so it’s worth enlisting expert help. Get in touch with our recruitment experts today for access to the best talent. For more advice on hiring best practices, visit the Robert Half advice blog now.