C-Suite Agenda

How to Use a Candidate’s ‘No’ to Strengthen Your Employer Brand Strategy

In a job seeker’s market, it’s important to have a strong employer branding strategy that will help you attract and engage the right candidates. Looking at your business through the lens of those rejecting a job offer gives you insight into potential missteps and what you’re doing well when it comes to your employer brand. Here’s how to get started digging into job candidates’ decisions to shore up your employer branding.

It’s a buyer’s market for job applicants. As talent grows increasingly selective, the importance of having a strong employer branding strategy is more apparent than ever. And if the components of that strategy — employer brand reputation, employee value proposition (EVP), and candidate experience  aren’t well-defined or clearly communicated, you’ll simply fail to attract and engage the best, right candidates.

Strong employer branding gives candidates a clear picture of how your operation works throughout the candidate journey, helping them to decide whether they’d be a good fit — or whether your business would be a good fit for them. That said, it might be tempting to turn inward when building your employer brand strategy and gather feedback from recent hires about their perceptions of your business before they took the job. But this doesn’t cut it. Why? These folks can only speak to why they did decide to join your company — not why they didn’t. And companies thinking about how to improve the hiring process need more than that if they want to make any real change.

Looking at your business through the lens of those rejecting a job offer gives you insight into potential missteps and what you’re doing well when it comes to your employer brand. Delving into why certain applicants opted out might reveal that your EVP was distinct enough for job seekers to realize they weren’t a good fit for your organization. It might also help you understand why your candidate experience turned some away and how to improve it moving forward.

Candidates who reject a job offer make a deliberate decision. Learning its basis can be an absolute goldmine for you as you build or refine each element of your employer brand, so start digging into these candidates’ decisions:

  1. Ask qualitative questions
    Reaching out to candidates soon after they reject a job offer can provide insights into the trifecta of employer brand strategy: brand reputation, EVP, and candidate experience. Prepare a series of qualitative questions that touch on all three that you can ask of top candidates about their decisions to turn you down: Did you have concerns about the job? Was it the compensation structure? Did your verdict stem from the interview process? Did the candidate experience not live up to expectations? Was something lacking in your employee value proposition? Understanding why people are rejecting a job offer or self-selecting out of the hiring process could very well be the missing piece that tells you how to improve candidate experience or where your EVP might need work. Besides that, taking the time to reach out to candidates has been known to encourage reversals in their decisions to reject the offer.
  2. Track candidate Net Promoter Scores
    Net Promoter Scores can tell you a lot about the candidate experience and add another layer to your employer brand strategy — as long as you commit to capturing feedback and pulling the information at every stage of the candidate journey. Should you get low scores in certain areas, you can then have a dialogue with candidates before the problem grows. Understand, however, that the numbers can skew when people don’t feel safe providing feedback. Automating the collection process and keeping it anonymous can help. You may also want to ask for the “why” behind the scores to get a fuller picture of candidates’ reasons for feeling the way they do.
  3. Employ empathy mapping and other tools
    Empathy mapping can add a visual element to the behaviors and attitudes you see from talent along the candidate journey. Consider mapping the experience from the hiring manager and recruiter’s perspectives, too. Your findings can help you understand what tools and resources could create a more efficient hiring process and one that better communicates your employer branding strategy. Shortcuts and cheat sheets are just a couple of the resources my company has found useful in not just creating a consistent candidate experience but delivering a consistent employer branding message from start to finish.
  4. Instill greater accountability
    Accountability can do wonders for the quality of the candidate experience — individual accountability even especially. Review stakeholders, and then select the most logical choice to take the helm and develop ideas of how to improve the hiring process. People often need to feel the weight of responsibility to ensure they’re not the weakest link in the chain. Beyond that, consider encouraging recruiters and hiring managers to “walk the floor” as a retail manager would to gauge how customers are feeling. This enables them to keep tabs on how people are experiencing your hiring process and employer brand as part of it. Most businesses don’t do this enough.

Having a strong employer brand strategy is a differentiator in this tight talent market, so ensure yours is on the right path by talking to candidates who tell you no. In the end, this not only holds business benefits but also shows applicants you care before they ever walk through your doors.


Written by Bryan Adams.
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Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams is the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a global employer branding agency. Ph.Creative has built world-class employer brands and talent engagement strategies for companies like Apple, Entain, and American Airlines.


Bryan Adams is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.