There’s been a 20% increase in job seekers dropping out of the hiring process over the past year, according to the Washington Post. That’s a major shift and makes one thing abundantly clear — in a tight talent market, candidates can afford to be picky and aren’t afraid to shift gears quickly. To help you avoid candidate drop out, we’ve put together a list of common reasons candidates leave the hiring process — plus simple strategies to keep them engaged.
1. Your job titles aren’t resonating with candidates
You’ve meticulously crafted your Boolean string and found a list of candidates who match the specific job title you’re looking for. Trouble is, when you reach out to them, many just aren’t interested, while others don’t respond at all.
The problem might be the job title itself. Just because your company calls the job one thing, that doesn’t mean other companies call it by the same name. Spend some time searching for similar job titles and noting any variations that come up frequently in the results.
It’s also worth considering that some candidates may not want to move into an identical role at a different company. Many people take a new job to move up, not sideways. Depending on the needs of the role, it may be worth searching for staff in more junior positions — they’ll likely be thrilled to be considered for a loftier role.
2. Your company's online presence is letting you down
Your company’s career page can serve as a compelling reason to stay engaged in the hiring process — or to drop out of it. Whether candidates are coming to you after finding your job post or want to learn more about you after receiving your InMail, your career page should leave them feeling confident, informed, and ready to take the next step.
To improve your page, be sure to include information that candidates want to see, like specific details about your culture, core values, benefits, and perks. Share real pictures of your workspace and employees to help employees envision themselves working for you.
Don’t worry about pleasing everyone. This will only make your page feel more generic, which won’t inspire great candidates to apply. If your page gives candidates enough information to help them self-select out when it isn’t a good fit, then it’s doing its job.
3. Your job posts are missing the information that candidates care about most
Too many job descriptions are focused solely on what the company wants from its candidates. But hiring is a two-way street — and candidates want to know what they’ll get out of the role too. If the job description doesn’t do this, they may not bother to apply.
Research has found that the parts of the job description candidates care about most are details around compensation and benefits. They also want to hear what the day-to-day experience will be like, of course. But first, they need to know if the salary will be financially feasible for them.
Sharing a salary range on your job posts helps set expectations upfront. This can ultimately increase the likelihood that a candidate will accept an offer since there’s no chance of them being caught off guard by a salary that’s lower than they expected. It can also show your company’s commitment to transparency and ensuring fair pay, which can build trust among historically underpaid candidate pools.
4. You’re coming on too strong in your initial outreach
While hiring someone quickly might be your top priority, an overly pushy initial message may do more harm than good. Rather than launching into a sales pitch that may kill the candidate’s interest, focus on piquing their interest and getting them talking. The goal of your first message is simply to get a response — after you’ve accomplished that, then you can try to win them over.
Start by asking questions about the candidate’s goals and career path. Questions encourage a response and signal to the candidate that you care about helping them make smart career moves. Even if it’s not a good match, earning the candidate’s trust can pay off in the long run, as they may be excited to hear from you about future opportunities.
5. Your emails are too vague and don’t clearly explain the next steps
Avoid the temptation to send vague messages like, “we’ll be in touch soon.” Without establishing a clear timeline and next steps, it’s easy for candidates to become disengaged — making them more likely to drop out of the process or accept an offer elsewhere.
Be proactive. Instead of asking the candidates when they might be free for a chat, suggest a few times that could work to keep things moving. When you can’t give them an answer right away, tell them they’ll hear from you within a certain number of days — and keep your promise.
By keeping the candidate informed about what will happen next, you incentivize them to stick around.
6. You’re not following up
It can be disappointing when a top candidate suddenly stops responding to your messages. But don’t give up too quickly. It’s possible that they simply missed your email or forgot to respond, so a well-timed follow-up may be all it takes for them to re-engage.
Set yourself a reminder to follow up with candidates after a week has passed since your last message. You may be able to do this directly in your ATS or using a calendar tool.
Keep your message light and friendly — no one wants to receive a passive-aggressive email. If possible, try to add a little personalization to show the candidate you’ve been paying attention. If they’re on the fence about continuing, even a small, personal touch may help nudge them in the right direction.
7. You’re not giving candidates enough information to prepare for their interviews
Coming in for interviews can be a major commitment for candidates, often requiring them to travel or take time off work. This makes it a high-risk area for dropouts.
You can keep candidates engaged at this stage by setting them up for success. Consider sharing information about the interview process on your website, such as sample questions and FAQs. Top companies like Google and McKinsey & Company use this strategy to great success, helping candidates feel more in control of the situation.
But don’t stop there. Send a pre-interview email containing any important information the candidate should know. This might include travel tips, a detailed schedule, links to the interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles, and a recap of what the candidate needs to bring. Your interviews will go smoother, and candidates will appreciate that you went to the effort.
8. You’re focusing too much on hard skills in the interview process
A bad interview experience can cause a candidate’s engagement to plummet. And one of the fastest ways to put them off is to make the interview feel impersonal and transactional by over-emphasizing hard skills.
While you need to know that the candidate has the technical prowess to do the job well, neglecting to assess their soft skills can make them feel like you’re not really invested in them as a well-rounded person. A candidate who is very creative, for example, maybe looking for a role where they can apply this soft skill, so showing no interest in that side of them may cause them to self-select out.
9. You’re not gathering feedback throughout the hiring process and learning from past mistakes
To continuously improve the candidate experience and keep people engaged and invested in the process, it’s essential to keep track of what candidates are saying about you.
Read your reviews online and have honest conversations with new hires to learn about their experience. You should also try to gather feedback from all candidates who go through the hiring process, not just the people you eventually hire. This will make it easier to spot areas for improvement, helping you address them before they can become bigger problems.
Many causes of candidate drop-out (aka ghosting) have plagued the hiring process for years. But when competition for talent is tight, candidates know they have other options, so they may not stick around if the process lets them down.
Focus on increasing engagement every step of the way, from sourcing to interview to offer, to ensure candidates’ interest levels remain high throughout the process. And once you’ve made your next hire, don’t neglect the onboarding process — or you may lose them before their first day rolls around.
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