Even after a candidate accepts a job, John Crossman, CEO of commercial real estate firm Crossman & Company, knows that nothing is certain. On at least five occasions, he’s had employees back out of job offers after they’ve accepted them or simply not show up for work.
“It’s happened where somebody has started with us, has been with us, and then disappeared,” he says. “It’s happened where somebody has accepted a job–they had an email address, they had a scheduled first day–and then disappeared. It’s happened where they’ve accepted the offer, and then our HR reached out to get them onboarded, and then they disappeared.”
A May 2019 survey by staffing firm Robert Half found that 28% of workers say they’ve backed out of a job offer after accepting. And an April 2019 survey by Randstad US found that it’s tough on the other side of the desks; 66% of managers say they’ve had a new hire accept a job offer, only to back out before the start date.
“Today’s market has so many opportunities that I think a lot of people go into it [and] they get enticed by the pursuit. It’s really nice to be wanted,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. But, when it comes time to make the move, various factors may deter them. There are generally three reasons candidate bail, the Robert Half survey found:
- 44% received a better offer from another company.
- 27% received a counteroffer from their current employer.
- 19% heard bad things about the company after accepting the offer.
So, what can your company do to prevent candidates from ghosting? While there are no guarantees, there are some actions that can help mitigate the risk of losing your newest hires.
Take your company’s pulse
Use pulse surveys and other feedback mechanisms to keep an eye on workplace conditions in your company, McDonald says. If your company’s culture isn’t healthy or morale is bad, candidates may hear about it. Conversely, if you have a thriving culture and engaged employees, they may be more likely to recommend friends and colleagues for open positions. With unemployment at historically low rates, “it’s important to really stay focused on engagement,” says McDonald.
It’s also easy to research your employer brand and find out what’s being said. Review sites like Glassdoor and PayScale as well as other review sites and social media to get a sense of what current and previous employees think about your workplace.
Stay in touch
Crossman encourages his human resources team to build relationships and stay in touch with candidates to ensure that they’re still interested in the job. That’s smart, says Brian Kropp, group vice president of research firm Gartner‘s HR Practice. He recommends regular contact throughout the recruitment, interview, and onboarding process. However, he says the most important time to keep communicating is the time between when the offer is extended and the first day on the job, which may span several weeks.
“So, this time period–and we’ve actually found this within our research–is the most important time period to actually improve new-hire performance in their first year,” he says. It boils down to two key reasons: First, you can get your candidates to productivity faster. Introduce the candidate to other employees. Give them information about what it’s like to work for the company. Invite new hires to appropriate events.
By building their network within the company and providing them the information they’ll need, they’ll have the information and contacts they’ll need to be more productive sooner–all of which can lead to greater engagement and retention, Kropp says.
In addition, you will likely learn of any counteroffer sooner, which gives you a chance to negotiate. “Without being really focused on that time period between offer, acceptance, and start date–especially in a really tight labor market–companies are putting themselves at risk with lower-performing employees and this ghosting phenomenon,” Kropp says.
Today, companies are fighting hard to keep their best talent, so counteroffers are common, Kropp says. And with the information available to them, more employees know their worth. To lessen the impact of counteroffers on your hiring process, ensure your company is offering appropriate compensation in the first place. Salary guides are a good place to start. Regularly reviewing your pay rates can help you ensure that salaries are competitive in your industry, which can help you retain your best talent and make it less likely that they’ll be lured away by a bigger payday.
Pay is important but will only go so far to retain employees. Some employees are seeking growth, better benefits, or opportunities to develop new skills. During the interview process, focus on what you have to offer–and give them a peek into their future with you. For example, in a piece I previously wrote for Fast Company about what gen Z employees want from employers, the findings included better benefits and a clear career path. Showing candidates what you have to offer (that their current employers don’t) can be a powerful motivator to stick with your company.
Be careful about profiling
You may identify traits or types of employees that tend to work well at your company. And those personas may be helpful in identifying successful new hires. However, they should be used carefully to avoid introducing unintended bias, Kropp says. For example, one of his clients noticed that employees from a few different zip codes had high rates of quitting or not showing up for work the first day.
The solution was to simply not hire from those areas. But, those neighborhoods also had high populations of people of color, so they soon realized that the decision also introduced racial discrimination, he says. A better option might have been to examine why there was so much turnover–answer: the commute–and focus on making it easier for people to get to work.
By focusing on your brand, culture, and the benefits your firm offers and keeping in touch with candidates until they show up for work, you’ll have the best shot at landing–and keeping–the best talent.