Recovering from Rejection: Tips for Employers When Your Top Prospect Backs Out

After the meticulous process of reviewing resumes, selecting promising candidates, and conducting interviews, you’re almost finished. Hours of careful work have led you to a handful of strong candidates and – finally! – the one who stands out from the rest.

With the near-perfect mix of skills and experience and a glowing report from each reference, you finally extend an offer to the right person for your team. 

And they decline it. 



Your top prospect received a new/better/different offer that gives them more flexibility/money/you-name-it and, as a result, won’t be joining your team. Once the initial shock and disbelief wear off, you realize the cold, hard truth: After all the time and effort invested, you’re right back at square one.  

Finding out your top contender has declined your job offer – or withdrawn from the interview process – is frustrating. Especially if you struggled to find promising prospects in the first place.  

So, what should you do next? Here are the five steps we suggest taking to move forward and ensure a successful upcoming hire. 

Ask for Honest Feedback  

Although it can be uncomfortable, reaching out to the candidate for feedback can provide valuable insights. Politely inquire about their reasons for declining your job opportunity, seeking constructive criticism regarding the recruitment process or any other relevant factors.  

You can be honest, too. Sharing how you wanted to hire them and asking if there was anything that could’ve been done differently to increase the chances of a “yes” can result in priceless feedback. A follow-up conversation can help to refine your approach, address any shortcomings, and enhance your future recruitment efforts. 

Evaluate the Scenario 

Step back and objectively evaluate the candidate’s journey to identify potential gaps or areas for improvement. Did it take too long? Did you share feedback and genuinely express your interest in hiring them? Did you get to know their career goals and aspirations as well as their motivations for a potential career move? Did you uncover any of their concerns throughout the interview process? Gathering these insights early on can help you address any potential barriers with the individual before extending an offer.  

Revisit Your Job Description and Employer Branding 

Candidate rejections may be a sign of misalignment between your job description and the actual role or your employer branding efforts. Take this opportunity to revisit your job description and ensure it accurately represents the position’s responsibilities and requirements. Similarly, evaluate your employer branding efforts to determine if they effectively convey your company culture, values, and opportunities for growth. 

Hire a Recruitment Agency 

Recruitment agencies specialize in sourcing and screening candidates, making them valuable partners in overcoming setbacks like candidate rejections. Collaborating with a recruitment agency offers several benefits, including: 

  •  Wider Talent Pool

    Recruitment agencies often have an extensive network of potential candidates, including those who may not be actively searching for jobs. Their reach can help you tap into a broader talent pool that might have been previously inaccessible. 

  •  Deeper Candidate Insights

    When represented through a recruitment agency, candidates often share their questions or worries about an opportunity, insights on other roles in consideration, or reasons for leaving their employer more openly. With this knowledge, recruiters can guide the hiring manager and candidate through the process, alleviating any issues that arise and increasing the chances of a successful hire.  

  •  Time and Resource Optimization

     Outsourcing your hiring needs to a recruitment agency allows your internal team to focus on core business operations and make up for time lost due to unsuccessful hiring attempts. Agencies can handle time-consuming tasks such as screening candidates, conducting interviews and background checks, saving you valuable time and resources. (And reducing the risk of having to start over. Again.)  

Implement a Continuous Improvement Strategy 

A setback like a candidate rejection can be a valuable learning experience for your organization. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement, where you analyze and adapt your talent acquisition strategies based on the feedback received and the lessons learned. Regularly reassess your hiring process, incorporating best practices and enhancing the candidate experience to attract and retain top talent. 

Experiencing a candidate withdrawal or rejection is a natural part of the recruitment process. You can transform setbacks into opportunities for growth, increasing your chances of successfully crossing the finish line and getting an enthusiastic “yes” from your top prospect. With a healthy dose of persistence and a willingness to adapt your methods, you’ll find the perfect candidate for your organization’s needs.  


Looking for a Recruitment Agency?

At Smart, Savvy + Associates we specialize in helping companies find and hire the marketing, communications and creative professionals they need, from coordinators to C-suite. Based in Vancouver, B.C., our team of marketers-turned-recruiters deeply understand where you’re at, the roles you need to fill, and the right mix of skills and experience required to ensure the best possible fit.

Need help filling a role (or two) on your team? Let us take care of it. Contact our team to start the hiring process today.