Top Three Reasons a Candidate Will Reject You—And What You Can Do About It

In today’s hiring market, sourcing talent is hard enough. But once you’ve got some high-quality candidates through your interview process, your next challenge is closing on an offer. We’ve all experienced it–rejection. Considering how competitive the state of the SaaS talent market is, getting your top candidate to accept your offer is easier said than done. 

At OpenView, we’ve been researching this year’s top hiring trends to help determine what strategies are most successful in connecting businesses with the talent they need to grow their business. And to understand why candidates accepted, rejected, or even ghosted offers and recruiters.

Our recent hiring survey asked nearly 100 participants across executives hiring for their companies in B2B SaaS and executive candidates that recently joined SaaS businesses to share insights on all things hiring and recruitment.

Our data uncovered three primary reasons that your top candidate for your company’s open role might have rejected your offer. Here are the red flags that candidates are on the lookout for, and what you and your team can do to proactively avoid them:

1. Your team was misaligned on the role and company vision

Of the executives who participated in the survey, 63% listed “misalignment across the role and vision across interviewing teams” as one of the biggest red flags in the interview process. 

People get excited about opportunities at companies with high potential for growth and market success. For candidates, misalignment is a major indication that the company doesn’t have the right strategy in place to be successful in the long run. So when people on the interview team are reporting different visions for the product or business, candidates are likely to lose interest. 

“When they talk about company goals, are they being consistent? If one person thinks they’re going north and another person thinks they’re going west, we’re going to have a problem,” said Pauline Chen, Head of Product at Encamp, an Openview Portfolio company.

So how can companies ensure that they’re presenting a unified front to job candidates? Here are a couple of strategies:

  • Meet with interview teams before kicking off your search. This is your opportunity to get everybody on the same talk track regarding the open role. Not only is this an opportunity to ensure that everyone interacting with the candidate is aligned on the company’s vision and direction, but it will help you build out an efficient hiring process. 
  • Prepare a “sell deck” in advance. This should outline all the reasons why they want to join your company. Explain how the role will benefit them and their careers. You shouldn’t wait until you’ve identified your top candidate before you try to win them. Your interview team should be prepared to sell the position from stage one of the process. 

2. They didn’t have access to company data and financials

In this job market especially, the best candidates aren’t going to be suffering from a lack of choice. The ball is in their court, and they want to select their next opportunity at a company with a high probability of financial success. Top job-seeking executives know what metrics to look for and are going to do their due diligence. In fact, 74% of survey respondents reported “company and financial metrics” as among the most effective ways they evaluate a role and company, 

Samantha Strube, recently appointed VP People at Encamp, shared her approach to evaluating  job opportunities: “I am definitely looking at product-market fit and financial viability of the company.” This is because she knows first-hand how important financial viability will be in her ability to do her job. “In the past, there was a situation where I rolled out a major employee benefit and then had to roll it back six months later because the organization was not financially prepared for the long-term costs.” 

So if companies make it difficult or near impossible for candidates to get visibility into company performance data, candidates are going to assume that your numbers aren’t promising. This is why 63% of survey respondents listed “limited or no access to company data (i.e. revenue, growth rates, retention, etc.)” as a top red flag in the hiring process. 

Don’t give candidates the opportunity to assume the worst. Here’s how you can meet their expectations for access to information:

  • Be transparent and honest about the stage of your business and revenue metrics. Many companies are compelled to withhold information in an attempt to present an inflated image of the company’s current phase of development. While, sure, this might make some candidates more likely to close on your offer initially–they will churn and you’ll have to start the process all over again in the long run.
  • Sign NDAs early in the process. Executive candidates want to see your company’s data—so give them what they want. Sharing this access allows them to determine if their interests and expertise align with your company’s size and stage, and it demonstrates that you have nothing to hide. 

3. They wanted a real and strong culture 

For a lot of companies, the term “culture” is just a buzzword. Its meaning is often left ambiguous and refers to nothing more tangible than free snacks in the breakroom or justification for an open floor plan. But this ambiguity may indicate that your company hasn’t established or maintained the strong, attractive organizational culture that top candidates are seeking to join. 

But the data shows that culture really is that important. 47% of survey respondents rated “strong company culture” as a top quality they look for in the interview process, and they’re willing to do their research. 42% of respondents listed “researching company culture” as a major way they evaluate a role and company. 

You might talk about culture in the interview process, but hearing it from you isn’t enough—they’re going to want to hear from a less biased source. They aren’t afraid to reach out to people in their network to get the inside scoop. In fact, 63% of respondents say that “backchannel references about the company and leadership team” is one of the most effective ways they evaluate an opportunity. 

So how can you sell a candidate on your company culture? Here are a few ideas:

  • Find creative ways to highlight the culture in the interview process. Encamp did this by releasing an Encamp Culture Handbook. According to Luke Jacobs, the company’s CEO and founder,It’s been referenced by almost 100% of the candidates we’ve had. As an asset, it’s a winner.” 
  • Practice what you preach. The best way to sell a candidate on your culture is by actually fostering a positive and supportive work environment. People have a good sense of when others are being authentic. If your interview team truly believes that your company is a great place to work, your candidates will pick up on their enthusiasm naturally. 
  • Offer candidates a shortlist of reverse references. Share contact information of several people who love your company and can vouch for the work environment and organizational values. Encourage your candidate to reach out to these people if they want to learn more about life at your company. This saves them time doing research they were likely going to do anyway and shows that you’re confident that they’ll be a culture fit in the role. 

Interested in learning more about hiring trends in 2022? Download our first annual State of SaaS Talent Market report.

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Steve Melia
Steve Melia
Partner at OpenView

Steve works with OpenView portfolio companies to identify and recruit high-impact senior executives and board members. Prior to OV, Steve was a Principal at True Search, a globally retained executive search firm. At True, he led executive searches across scaling venture and private-equity backed technology companies. Steve started his career at Korn Ferry, the largest executive search firm in the world, focusing on CEO/Board and CFO searches for fortune 2000 companies.
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