what’s up with candidates turning down our job offers after we pay to fly them out?

A reader writes:

I work in the fundraising profession, and my role (not to mention the department that I manage) is somewhat specialized. My department has been expanding after a long period of being under-resourced and under-staffed (yay!) but one of the challenges I face with recruitment is that the talent pool in our local area is not very deep.

As a result, I usually have to conduct national searches for all but the most entry-level positions. This means that I’ve had to work pretty hard to identify applicants who are serious about the opportunities and would be likely to say yes if offered a position, given that we invest a lot of money both during the interview process (travel and lodging expenses, etc.) and if an offer is accepted (relocation assistance). My process has three distinct stages, culminating with an in-person interview for the finalist(s), followed by a period of feedback collection from the hiring panel, formal reference checks, and, if everything looks good, a verbal offer. (I should also mention that anyone who interviews with us in person is connected with a relocation firm, offered a real estate tour with a local realtor, etc. — all things that telegraph our interest in the candidate and also help them to think seriously about the practicalities of relocating to our area.)

Obviously, we don’t invite out-of-town candidates to interview in person unless we already feel confident that they a) can do the work, b) would fit in well with our team and organizational culture, and c) are as serious about us as we are about them. That being said, I have had the experience twice (in less than a year!) of going through this process with two separate candidates for two separate searches (same role, just two slots to fill) only to have my verbal offers turned down. In both instances, the candidates had expressed above-average interest and even enthusiasm for the position, for our mission, and for the region of the country where we are located (we’re in a diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate) and yet when I made the offers, they simply declined for vague “personal reasons.” If they had questions or concerns about the job, the work, or the relocation, they never voiced them, despite being given ample opportunity and encouragement to do so. Needless to say, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth — did they just want a free trip to our beautiful city? Were they trying to leverage retention offers from their current employers? Does it even matter?

I guess my question is this: what are the ethics of accepting an in-person, out-of-town interview (as a finalist, no less!) when you have no intention of accepting the position if it is offered to you? In my own career, I have turned down invitations to take the next step in an interview process when I know I’m not interested in the job. Personally, I wouldn’t dream of going all the way to the reference-check/verbal offer stage when I knew I wasn’t going to accept an offer — it seems like a colossal waste of the interviewing entity’s time and resources, not to mention wholly disingenuous.

I once traveled to interview for a position at an organization that told me they would reimburse me for just half of my travel expenses initially, and for the other half only if a) I was offered and accepted the job or b) they decided to go with another candidate. I remember thinking at the time that that was a little odd, but now, as a frustrated hiring manager, I’m thinking it’s something I might want to talk to my HR department about putting into practice!

What suggestions do you have for sussing out how serious out-of-town/out-of-state candidates really are, because I’m clearly failing on this front! I try to be a good steward of my budget, and I’m tired of spending money, time, and energy on candidates who aren’t really serious. (And please know I’m a very empathetic person — I understand that stuff happens and people’s circumstances change. An opportunity that seemed feasible at the start of the process might not be feasible at the end for reasons a candidate can’t control. Personal and family concerns can intervene, etc. But in both of the instances I’m referencing above, I felt that my organization was deliberately misled and, quite frankly, used.)

(As an aside, applicants are given information on things like salary and benefits early on in the process, so they know how much they’d be earning up front and can make a decision right away about continuing if compensation is the issue.)

Two rejected offers in one year isn’t really a lot. Of course, it depends on how many total offers you’re making — if you only made two offers and they both got turned down, I can see why you’re worried. But it sounds like you’re doing more hiring than that, and in a context where plenty of your offers are being accepted, I wouldn’t look at this as a problem at all.

Some portion of your offers will be turned down. That’s how interviewing and hiring works!

It sounds like you’re assuming that by the time someone is flying out for a final interview, they should know whether or not they’d accept the job. But that’s not the case. Just like you don’t know whether or not you want to hire them at that point and are still doing your own assessments, candidates are doing their own assessing and reflecting as well. The point of having them out for that final in-person interview isn’t so that you can do a one-way evaluation of them; it’s so that both sides can figure out if they want to work together. Just like your decision will sometimes be no, theirs will be no sometimes too. But that doesn’t mean that it was already a no before the interview.

And there are lots of possible reasons why that could happen. They could realize once they visit your office in person that the culture or energy there isn’t for them. They could find they don’t love the dynamic they have with the hiring manager or other people they’d be working with. They could spend that time getting to know your city and realize they don’t want to move there after all. They could decide to pursue a different job that they’re more excited about, or could have multiple offers to consider. They could just conclude that the job isn’t right for them, once they’ve finished the full process. The “personal reasons” they cited to you could be true — they could be dealing with a sudden family health crisis, or a divorce, or all sorts of other things.

People turn down offers! It’s a normal thing that happens.

It’s true that if someone knows for sure that they wouldn’t accept a job, they shouldn’t fly out on your dime. But there’s just nothing to indicate that that’s what’s happening here.

And you definitely should resist any impulses to hold back travel reimbursements unless someone accepts an offer from you. Candidates will rightly be turned off by that. You’d be conveying that you think there’s an obligation for them to accept an offer if you fly them out, and since there is no such obligation, you’ll come across as not understanding something fundamental about interviewing. It’s also simply wrong and unfair; people shouldn’t be financially penalized for deciding a job or company isn’t the right match for them. (And good candidates will turn down that arrangement anyway.)

What you can do, though, is to take a look at what might change for people in between their pre-interview enthusiasm and their post-interview lack of interest. Is there something about your culture that people are seeing in-person and being turned off by, and if so, can you be more transparent about it ahead of time so people can self-select out if it’s not right for them? Same thing if they’re getting turned off by a difficult boss or cranky team or something else that they’re only seeing once they arrive for the final interview. You also might ask candidates who turn down your offers for feedback.

But truly, you can do everything right and be an excellent place to work, and some of your offers will still get turned down by sincere candidates, because that’s just how hiring goes. You probably understand how it’s true on the other side — that your intentions with a candidate can be utterly sincere and you still might decide in the end not to hire them — and it really does work both ways.

{ 346 comments… read them below }

  1. MuseumChick*

    OP, flip this around. How often to we see people here say something like “I applied for this job, went through a long process that finally resulted in a an in-person interview. They flew me, put me up in a hotel, the interview went really, really well but I didn’t get a job offer!What’s up with companies turning down job candidates after paying to fly them out?”

    There are 1 million reasons for this and as Alison said, two rejections in less than a year is really not a lot.

    1. Jubilance*

      Great point! The last time I interviewed externally, this happened to me. After being flown out across the country and going through multiple interviews at 3 different locations, I got radio silence from the company :-(

      1. SignalLost*

        Same. They never even got back to reject me, which worked out because after interviewing I had serious doubts about their financials and the company culture, but I was expecting to at least hear something, because … dude, I rearranged my life to accommodate an interview in a neighbouring state.

        1. Close Bracket*

          > dude, I rearranged my life to accommodate an interview in a neighbouring state.

          Yes, this. Sure, they pay for it, but it’s not a vacation. Typically it’s only overnight, and it’s really tiring to have to travel, interview, and then travel again. My interviews are full day interviews. That stuff is exhausting!

      2. Specialk9*

        Let’s flip this around another way. So let’s figure out what the general rule is, if they aren’t supposed to do the thing that’s annoying you.

        Rule: “candidates can’t turn down a job if the company paid for a flight or hotel.”

        Eek! You see the direct corollary to the dating “No?! You don’t get to say no, I bought you dinner!”

        You don’t own them by buying a flight – you did that because they are strong enough candidates for you to have judged the risk-reward to be in your favor. They don’t owe you their accepting a job in exchange for a night in a hotel.

        It’s especially a problem that below you’re basically saying that you have completed *your* obligations to candidates by emailing each candidate after the interview (not by offering a job), but they can only fulfill *their* obligations by actually *taking* the job. Pretty uneven.

        I also picked up a fair bit of feeling cheated, like they were scheming to take your money for a free vacation. That’s… not really how it works for most people. An interview trip is exhausting, it’s not vacation. You’re taking this way too personally, and straying into troubling mental territory.

    2. jk*

      I had the same happen to me. Flew me out. Put me in a hotel. Afterwards I wrote back with thanks and got my lunch reimbursed with all the documentation they required. Got the money back… never heard back about the job!

      You’d think if they flew me out they’d at least respond with a sorry you didn’t get the job. Seems really financially irresponsible to me so I’m kind of glad now that I look back on things.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Hi OP, sorry my post was unclear. The company my friend interviewed at flew her out, put her up in a hotel, told her how much they liked her, that her experience was exactly what they need for the role. Only for her to be turned out but “highly encouraged” to apply again in the future. So, they did follow up.

          Again, think of this from the candidates perspective. This is a two way street and either part can have a whole lot of reasons for turning the other down.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            The two-way street aspect of this is where I think OP has a misunderstanding. They want to know that this is the right job for them also, and they can’t tell unless they go through the interview process as well.

        2. Teal*

          But do you always offer them the job if they fly out? If nothing is in question (because you’re definitely making an offer, and they really ought to accept) why fly them? Just make an offer.

    3. Michelle*

      Sorry, but as a candidate that has been flown out several times to interview at companies and never heard back, I think the company needs to realize it goes both ways. Plus, as a candidate it’s nerve wrecking when a company puts all that effort into them (flight, hotel, car rides/car rentals, etc) and then it falls through.

    4. LizzE*

      I also want to add: “The interview went well and I really hit it off with my interviewers, as well as the team I would be working with. My answers were praised several times and they kept saying things that hinted they were going to hire me.”

      In the same vain that candidates overestimate how much the company wants to hire them, employers can make that mistake too. And quite frankly, the interview could have gone well and the rapport was quite strong at that time; however, just as a good candidate can get rejected because another candidate was stronger/better fit, a good employer can get also be rejected because a better offer from another organization came along.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        a good employer can get also be rejected because a better offer from another organization came along.

        I was going to say the same thing. If these candidates are so good that you’re flying them out with the intention of giving them verbal offers, they may have other companies beating down their doors as well. If that’s the case, they probably took the better offer and it just didn’t happen to be yours.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          On this note, to be frank, the offer where you don’t have to move is almost by definition going to be the better offer. Unless you’ve specifically applied for this job because you WANT to move to that city, the offer where you don’t have to uproot your life and your family and pack and house hunt and leave your friends will be more appealing.

    5. Casuan*

      OP, your question is what are the ethics of accepting an in-person interview when a candidate intends to decline the job offer. That is unethical… & I don’t think this is what happening with your employee search. Strong candidates won’t accept the interview if they’re not serious & if they aren’t serious, you’d probably see other signs [such as their general attitude, not asking insightful questions during the interview, asking to stay another day or two at their expense before flying home, etc]. Usually candidates’ reality is more like how-can-I-arrange-my-schedule-without-my-boss-knowing-what-I’m-up-to-&-how-do-I-tell-Jane-I-have-to-miss-the-game mode than yay-I-get-a-free-visit-to-this-city.

      You’re doing due diligence to find good candidates & to be a good steward with company funds. That’s good! What isn’t good is that you’re taking the rejections too personally.

      Try to evaluate things from the candidate’s perspective. What you call “all things that telegraph our interest in the candidate and also help them to think seriously about the practicalities of relocating to our area” might be information overload to them. I’m wondering if you might be inadvertently scaring candidates off by giving too much information? You seem to be saying that flying out a candidate is simply a formality to the foregone conclusion; this might be true for you, yet for the candidate this is not a given.

      You did say candidates are connected with a relocation firm & offered to talk with a realtor. Both should be opt-in for the candidate & offered in a way that doesn’t make the candidate compelled to accept.
      Visiting a city is much different than reading or hearing about it, even more so when there’s a spouse &or kids who are also relocating. The environment needs to fit each of them- jobs, school, extracurriculars, etc, & there are travel logistics to see family & friends.

      After the initial interview, is it feasible to offer a quick tour of the city [by someone at your company] & to meet for coffee [or a meal] afterward? If so, you could address any questions & get more of an idea of the candidate’s concerns. This would be as much of the interview process as the interview itself.
      caveat: If so, before the candidate flies out make it clear that these are the components of the interview.

      Are you suspending the employee search to focus on this one candidate? If so, I can see why you’re frustrated they decline the offer. Of course, you don’t need to be so broad as to fly out other candidates, although you should have other candidates on the short list [the analogy here is how a job searcher should continue the hunt until they accept & sign the offer].

      the dialogue I can’t get from my head:
      You: “This will be your office/order supplies through Quark tho be careful he doesn’t take some for himself/Fergus here is good at Latin teapot terminology so he’s your guy if you have questions/ the coffee from downstairs is better/many of us live in this area tho if you don’t have a car this Vulcan & Bajor are good areas because they’re close to the metro & the realtor who shows you around will take you all over.”

      Candidate: “Please slow down. This is for us both to determine fit & for me to check out the office culture & community. My focus is on having a good interview & asking some questions. A tour of the city would be helpful although at this stage anything else is information overload. I don’t think this overload culture is for me.”

      Good luck!!

      1. tangerineRose*

        Someone interested in the job will probably want to take an extra day or 2 to check out the city – people want to have an idea of where they might live.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Also if there is a spouse/SO in the picture most candidates can’t just unilaterally decide”ok well we’re moving to X City next week…get packin’.”

      2. Susan K*

        I don’t think connecting candidates with a realtor or relocation firm is information overload. I’ve had a couple of interviews where the company did this, and it was awesome. It gave me a good impression of the company because it made me feel like they cared about their employees. Relocating for a job is a huge life decision, and it’s nice when the company recognizes this and makes an effort to assist a candidate in this decision. If I am serious about a job, I definitely want this kind of information.

    6. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Yes, people take days out of their personal schedule to travel to an out of town interview. They may be getting a free trip but they’re still giving you their time, energy and consideration. If they’re not trying to extend the amount of time they’re there, they are probably not getting much if any free sight seeing time and are likely not trying to take advantage of you. I was in San Francisco for a conference, but I didn’t spend any personal time there. I wouldn’t count it to say I’ve been to San Francisco.

      I live in a tourist area. It’s a nice place, but we like to say it’s not so much a place to live as it’s a lifestyle. My husband often conducts nation-wide searches and he has to make sure out of town candidates see what living here is really like. He loses-out on good people because it’s not their kind of place and that’s a tough thing to figure out unless you’re familiar with the area or can experience it first-hand.

      1. finderskeepers*

        “people take days out of their personal schedule ” Actually , to be precise, they are taking time out of their *working* schedule as the interview is not going to be n the weekend. But the interviewer, otoh, is doing the interview as part of their normal job duties.

        1. Yetanotherjennifer*

          Well, there’s always evenings and sometimes weekend days involved. But I meant more broadly that a candidate is arranging their own schedule to free up enough time to travel and interview.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I live in Seattle. I regularly hear/read people telling me “you are soooo lucky to live there,” yet still had people decline to relocate here. I guess living in the best city in the country is just not their cup of espresso, and that’s ok.

    7. Marthooh*

      “Obviously, we don’t invite out-of-town candidates to interview in person unless we already feel confident that they… are as serious about us as we are about them.”

      Great, but you can’t expect them to be MORE serious than you are. You aren’t obligated to make an offer to everyone you fly in, and they’re not obligated to accept an offer if they get it, and… some of them don’t. .Think of it as the natural result of attracting highly-skilled candidates!

  2. Cordoba*

    Does the LW make an offer to every candidate they fly out to interview?

    If not, then as a job candidate I could just as easily ask “What’s up with employers declining to hire me after I spent my time and energy flying in and getting dressed up and interviewing all day? Were they not serious about hiring me, and just needed to interview X external scarecrows before they gave the job to the internal candidate they planned to hire all along?”

    Somebody who is interviewing with LW is probably interviewing other places too. “Personal reasons” could easily be “I got a better offer and am taking that instead”.

    We say often here that job candidates don’t have to just be good enough, they have to be the very best candidate available for the position. Well, that applies to employers, too. The best candidates have the most options.

    1. OP*

      Again – we always follow up with every candidate we fly out. But we don’t bring candidates out unless we feel reasonably confident that they are serious about the opportunity. And I’ve been the external candidate who was interviewed when the company had every intention of promoting someone from within, so I know how lousy that is.

      1. bridget*

        I think you’re missing the point. The analogy is not whether you follow up with candidates or ghost them, it’s whether you give them an offer. You don’t give an offer to everyone you fly out, and conversely not everyone you give an offer to will accept it. Even when everyone involved was operating in good faith.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, I’m worried that you’re focusing on a different issue than what folks are raising. They’re noting that candidates who are flown out but do not receive an offer (but do get a follow-up in the form of a rejection) also go through the analysis you’re going through.

        For example, applicants often ask: Why did they fly me out if they weren’t going to hire me? They said they liked me, but why did they waste my time? I incurred costs that won’t be covered (lost leave/wages)—shouldn’t the hiring company have to pay for that?

        The answers to those questions are almost identical to your questions. Folks are asking your to imagine the other candidate’s position because it may help you. For example, your concerns assume a level of deception or bad intent. But just as companies may reject someone who they fly out to interview, candidates who are genuinely interested may reject a company that flies them out.

        There are so many reasonable and non-nefarious reasons for rejections that folks are urging you to assume good intent instead of trying to force a candidate’s hand if you fly that person out.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Great comment. I think OP might want to focus on Alison’s point that [an] interview[s] is/are a two way street. It’s not merely the interviewee at the mercy of the caprice of the company’s choices. The candidate has the duty really to evaluate the company to the best of their ability before deciding for sure if they want to work there.

          That’s difficult to do without being there in person. If the OP’s company flies them out as a matter of policy in order to evaluate them, well then they have to expect they will be evaluating the company right back.

      3. Hills to Die on*

        OP, they can be serious about the opportunity and still want to know more about the company before making a firm decision. They could be thinking, ‘this looks like a great place to work and I think I would like it here but I really need to see the place and meet people face-to-face to be certain. In the meantime, X company also looks like a great option and I can see myself there too. Which place has the best pay, fit, culture, etc. for me right now?”. They are assessing you just as you are assessing them. They may decide it’s the right job, they may not. But they don’t know until they visit with you just as you are visiting with them. ‘In person’ tells you so much.

        1. JM in England*

          I was going to say something similar to this. As you say, an employer and the role being advertised can seem fantastic on paper. However, you can only really make your final decision from an in-person meeting. I have applied to and interviewed at companies that seemed great from the outside but the location and the manner of the staff turned out to be quite the opposite…..

      4. Observer*

        So then why are you even asking this question?

        You KNOW that some companies bring out people with a low chance of making an offer, and people have now way to know if you are such a company or not. You also KNOW that even though, in YOUR case, there is a high chance you will make an offer, it is NOT certain.

        So, what Cordoba says stands – just as you don’t offer a job to every candidate that flies out, not every candidate is going to accept your offer. It’s pretty simple.

      5. Rainy*

        You follow up, but do you make a job offer to everyone you fly out?

        That’s the point of all of the comments in this vein–a “thanks but no thanks” followup isn’t a job.

        1. OP*

          To clarify: there was only one candidate we flew out that we didn’t make an offer to. All the others got offers. One accepted, three rejected. (I have two openings.)

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Frankly, OP, you sound like the guy who says, “Can you believe it? I took her out for a fancy dinner, paid for everything, bought her flowers, and then she wouldn’t even sleep with me! Why would she go out to dinner with me if she already knew she wasn’t going to bed with me that night? Was she just trying to take advantage of me for a free high-end restaurant meal?”

            In both cases, you/they are mistaking *courtship* for *conclusion*. Somebody who accepts a date/interview is indicating that they don’t know yet whether you’re right for them, but they’re interested in finding out. That doesn’t mean they are obligating themselves to say yes — they *don’t know* yet whether you’re right for them. All they have committed to doing is getting to know you better so that they can decide whether or not you’re a good fit… afterward.

            Some of these people are going to decide you’re not what they want. THAT IS OKAY. They’re entitled to decide that, because the courtship process is only a process, not a guarantee. It’s designed to give both of you opportunity to learn enough about each other to make a decision. Sometimes that decision will be Yes, and sometimes it will be No.

            If you find that most of the candidates who interview with you are turning you down afterward, I would not assume they went into the process with bad faith, but that there’s something about the way you’re courting them that’s turning them off from wanting to commit to you. Frankly, heavy pressure can be part of that — nobody likes to feel that someone is breathing down their neck to say yes when they’re not yet certain they want to. But it could also be something else about your corporate culture or environment. You may want to overhaul your recruiting process, especially the late stages of it… looking for what might be making candidates decide, in that final interview, that they don’t really think you’re what they are looking for after all. If they’ve shown interest before, something has made that interest cease, and it appears to be happening at the last interview.

            1. neverjaunty*

              All of this. Especially the pressure. “Here is a real estate agent and a relocation company” right away sounds like the guy who talks about how much he wants kids on the first date.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                In fairness, this is far from the first date — it’s after the offer is made, meaning either after that final interview or in its late stages. But it is still too much pressure. “We know that moving to a different city can be daunting, and we’d be happy to put you in touch with relocation services and other local connections if you would like them,” is a great thing to mention in passing in making a verbal offer, but it should be offered and left to them to take up or not — not just the connection made, with or without a request.

                I’m inclined to think there’s something else going on. The OP’s attitude about expectations and obligations of people they interview smacks so much of entitlement that I’m wondering whether that entitlement is showing up in other ways during that final interview. If the company — or simply that hiring manager — has expectations of their *staff* which are as unreasonable as their expectations of their *candidates*, then they could be driving away good employees by giving them reason to believe this company would not be pleasant to work for.

                I am not saying this *is* happening — I don’t know. The OP and their company could be perfectly awesome people who just made one offbeat mistake in the hiring process. But that’s why I’d overhaul the whole recruiting process, especially at the last-interview stage of it. *Something* is making these people lose interest, and I am betting it is something those candidates are finding out in the last interview, that they didn’t have occasion to learn before.

                1. On Fire*

                  This. I was having trouble putting my finger on what about this letter was so off-putting to me, and you nailed it. It’s the tone of entitlement. If I interviewed and picked up on that? Yeah, I would decline the offer, too.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  “The OP’s attitude about expectations and obligations of people they interview smacks so much of entitlement…”

                  This. I couldn’t quite figure out what was jumping out at me in the letter, but now yes it is obvious to me that it’s a sense of entitlement, even “ownership” of the candidate(s) and their decision(s).

          2. Yorick*

            So you flew out 4 people and would have made 2 offers except the second offer was rejected. Think about the people who would have been rejected otherwise.

      6. INTP*

        Serious about the opportunity doesn’t mean “There is nothing that might reasonably happen that could make them not take the job,” though.

        They might be very interested and leaning towards taking the job, but another offer comes in (they’re not under obligation to not entertain other offers any more than you are to not interview other candidates), they might not like the physical work environment for reasons they didn’t think to ask about beforehand, they might dislike the city when they see it in person even though on paper it seemed great, they just don’t feel a great rapport from someone they’d be working with when they meet in person. Good candidates have other options and can be picky even if they’re giving each interviewer genuine consideration. There’s not much you can do to control for any of this, it just has to go into the interviewee travel budget that many of them won’t wind up being hired. If you can’t afford that, you might have to take out some of the perks you’re offering to every interviewee, or offer them after acceptance of an offer (like the real estate tour).

      7. nonegiven*

        One job search of my son’s, he was flown out and interviewed all day by four companies in 4 different areas of the country. He got 2 offers and chose the one that seemed a better fit for him.

        Another search, he was flown out to the west coast by 3 different companies in two states, over a few weeks time, all day interviews. He had an offer from one and an offer for remote work based in the same state he was living. He chose the one that was a better fit for him.

        From what he told us, he made his choices for personal reasons. The company was a better fit, the hiring manager, the team, the location, (COL, lifestyle, etc) the projects he would be working on were all factors he considered.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I love the idea of asking candidates for feedback. They may not be willing to share it, but it would be so helpful to get past the vague “personal reasons” answer.

  3. Cambridge Comma*

    You don’t say anything about your phone/video interview stage. I wonder if there’s scope there to find out more about the candidates, and for them to find out more about you.

    1. OP*

      This is something I’ve been thinking more about — I try to expose the candidate to good cross-section of the team they’d be joining (without overwhelming the video interview, of course) — but there could definitely be more opportunities to fine-tune those conversations.

      1. Sketchee*

        The only way to really know if they will accept an offer is to offer. At that point they get to say no. As Alison said, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to get a 100% offer rate. If you were getting most offers rejected, it might be worth putting effort into. It sounds like you’re doing everything right as are the candidates

      2. yasmara*

        I understand your frustration, OP. My husband flew out 3 candidates for a job search and it turned out that two of them, while they were interested in the job, did not actually intend to relocate (despite a stellar relocation package). In one case, their spouse strongly objected to moving. In the other case, it turned out the candidate was trying to leverage a job offer to get a higher salary/more responsibilities in their current job. The third candidate they flew out took the job and has worked out wonderfully. My husband had to take a look at his interviewing/hiring practices and evaluate if he could screen the candidates better, but in the end it was a cost of doing business.

  4. Jubilance*

    Alison’s answer is so spot-on here.

    Interviewing is a two-way street, and while candidates can be enthusiastic in the initial phone interviews, things can change. Maybe they decide they don’t want to move, or that the salary you’re offering in the new city isn’t enough for them. Maybe they are worried they won’t be able to sell their house. Maybe their spouse/kids don’t want to relocate. Maybe they were turned off by the hiring manager or other members of the team. Maybe their employer found out they were interviewing and gave them a bonus/raise to stay.

    1. Manders*

      Yes, I get why this would be frustrating to the letter writer, but there are a lot of valid reasons to turn down an offer that are going to fall under “personal reasons,” from a reluctant spouse to the candidate realizing they don’t want to move to this area.

      I saw this in action when my husband was searching for jobs as a private school teacher. Some of the schools that were most enthusiastic about flying him out were so remote that teachers had to live in the dorms with students because there were no nearby apartments for them to rent. While those job openings were great opportunities for single people who didn’t really have much to move beside themselves, they weren’t a great fit for someone with a partner and pets to think about. He heard later that the principle of one of the schools he turned down after learning more about the living situation was very peeved about it, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t willing to leave his wife to live in a dorm in rural Delaware. The LW’s situation doesn’t sound that extreme, but any time you’re talking to a candidate from out of town you have to accept the possibility that they might decide not to move.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Also, just as the company is interviewing a handful of finalists, and only one of them will be offered the job, good candidates often are interviewing at several places, and they can accept an offer only from one of them. Even if there was nothing they particularly disliked about the rejected companies, they can still only choose the one that they think will be the best situation for them. It’s just like hiring, really; there may be absolutely nothing wrong with any of the finalists, but you can still typically hire only one of them.

      1. Sarah*

        This is a really good point. When I accepted my current job, I also turned down an offer from somewhere I would actually have been delighted to work at–I just obviously couldn’t have two jobs at one time! Ultimately a big part of the decision was which job was in a city that had better job prospects for my spouse, so really nothing they could have done about that. I think I probably would have been really happy at both jobs — I love where I’m at now, but there was nothing wrong with the other job! And if I hadn’t been offered the job I ended up taking, I would have happily accepted the other offer.

    3. CityMouse*

      I once interviewed for a job and got my car broken into in the same garage I would be parking in every day as an employee. (I didn’t have anything valuable in the car but my window getting smashed was a huge problem). There were other bad things about the job, but that alone was enough to make me nope out of there.

  5. Stellaaaaa*

    I’m always curious about the details behind a business claiming that they can’t find good local candidates. Do the job responsibilities actually make sense in one role? Are the experience/education requirements lining up with what the job actually is? Is the business’ mission maybe just unusual or unappealing from the outside? And no, you can’t always smooth over these issues by offering a good salary. I think OP might want to think about why locals aren’t latching onto this company and try to determine in the same thing is happening with these applicants.

    1. It's all Fun and Dev*

      I’m a fundraiser, and I can attest that it’s very, very common to hire non-local candidates. There’s a lack of experienced fundraisers out there, so talented employees are constantly being snatched up and hired away from their orgs. This is one field where not being able to find local candidates is not a red flag.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      If you’re in a STEM field away from a geographical hot spot for your industry, you often have to conduct national searches. That could be the case here?

    3. fposte*

      Happens a lot at my employer, because we’re not in an urban area. You don’t have to get very high level before there only three people in town who do that and they’re all employed at places they don’t want to leave.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        OP says she’s in an urban area though. I don’t see the company as having overt red flags; more that there could be information that they’re not thinking to communicate somewhere along the line.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m in an urban area. I’m hiring for a couple of jobs that are national searches because what we’re looking for is genuinely hard to find. It’s not that unusual to need to do that, depending on the field and the seniority of the position. With a fundraising job, I would definitely do a national search.

          1. OP*

            This is absolutely true in the fundraising field and is especially true in our town. The specific department I manage is unusual to find in smaller nonprofits (and there are plenty of smaller nonprofits in town.) This is a challenge that my colleagues in other departments deal with as well, and it’s not at all uncommon for us to bring in applicants from out of town.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s more common than folks realize. I’ve hired in urban areas where we could not get a pool with the skills we were looking for. Even cities may have smaller labor markets than folks realize, especially if you’re a small city or a city surrounded by rurality.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I’m in an urban area that is also one hot spot for my industry, and we have exhausted the market for experienced candidates in several jobs.

      3. Risha*

        I always know when someone posts a job for an expert in a certain obscure software package anywhere in the US, because I’ll get calls or emails from multiple recruiters that same day. It’s not that hard to learn the basics but when you need an experienced person in it you really need one, and there’s probably a pool of only +/- 50 or so people with it on their resume in the country.

    4. Blackcat*

      In addition to what others have said, it could be that LW is in a smaller, perhaps less desirable city. Candidates may think they’d like it (particularly if it known as lovely/a tourist destination) and get turned off by the city when they actually get there. Or they just don’t know.

      In addition to the ideas above, I’d suggest doing interviews on Monday/Friday and giving candidates the option of an unscheduled day and a stipend for exploring the area.

      1. OP*

        We pretty much always do this — have them come in and interview on a Thursday or a Friday and stay into the weekend, or arrive on the weekend and interview on Monday.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          It may cut your costs down to have them fly in for only 1-2 days. Is your city a cool place to visit? If so, could people be coming to ‘interview’ to get the free trip?

          1. nonegiven*

            The flight may cost less for a longer stay. If they want to look around the city maybe they should let the candidates pick up the extra hotel nights and weekend meals.

    5. KHB*

      Some jobs just require rare combinations of skills, such that the best candidate nationally (or internationally) could be far better than the best candidate locally. My employer interviews a lot of non-local candidates (and I was one of them, back in the day), because the few thousand dollars it costs to fly people in is well worth it for the chance of hiring the very best person.

      The flip side of that, though, is that if a candidate’s being sought after by one non-local employer, they’re more likely to be sought after by others as well. By going after the very best people, you’re competing with other employers for candidates who have options, so you need to be the very best of those options.

    6. Sketchee*

      Natural question to have curiosity over. I’ve had many friends who have high level degrees and experience move for work. If you’re a news reporter or a specialist scientist, you might have to move to another market. Another common industry we hear about moves are university professors. CEOs often are a broad search.

      Many cities are strong in one industry and not in others. It can be an easy way to grow in your cities by bringing outward expertise. They can help train and build up and coming local candidates after they’re hired

    7. Jake*

      In our local market there is a ton of construction at the local hospital and university all the time. Far far more than the local labor market can handle for management level employees. We are a town of 80000 with the construction costs exceeding a town with 250000 75 miles north of here. Sometimes local candidates just don’t exist.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        That’s all fair. I’m not saying that OP is definitely off-base or anything. I’m only wondering if this might be one of the issues at play. It’s an honest truth that quite a few companies claiming that there’s no local talent are operating in regions where there are a lot of talented, underemployed people who would love those shiny jobs; those companies aren’t served any better by widening their searches before addressing that disconnect. It’s just something to think about if you’ve gotten to the point of being as frustrated as OP is.

    8. Veronica*

      We get lots of local candidates for jobs in my niche industry, but I would say less than 10 percent are actually qualified — it’s a job that sounds cool on paper, but energy and enthusiasm don’t translate into the skills we really need. We get a much higher percentage of qualified national candidates — more like 70 percent. Then it’s a matter of figuring out if they’re the right fit for this specific job, versus able to do this work in general.

    9. Clever Name*

      My company is located in a major metropolitan area that has been rapidly growing in recent years. Most of the candidates we’ve hired in the past several years have either moved here from out of state or other parts of the state. It’s because unemployment is very low, and highly educated scientists and engineers we employ tend to be in high demand in our area. It’s not because we’re aiming too high in requiring an engineering degree for an engineering job.

  6. It's all Fun and Dev*

    I am a frontline fundraiser who is currently conducting a nationwide job search, and I think part of the problem is that it’s just a hot job market for experienced fundraisers right now. I’m a few years past entry level and I know I’m a very desirable candidate – I’ve gotten phone interviews from almost every place I’ve applied, in person interviews for more than half, and I am expecting one or two offers before the end of the month. I do have a first choice among the orgs I’m interviewing with, but of course I still need to keep up my search in case that one falls through. If your salary, benefits, and culture (work-life balance, team dynamics, metrics and expectations) are at or above those of your peer institutions, it might just be true that your candidates are choosing to work elsewhere for personal reasons.

    Have you tried asking your candidates who reject your offer if there is anything that might make you a more competitive workplace – the same way rejected candidates ask for feedback from companies? In my experience fundraisers are excellent communicators and it’s likely you’ll get some clues that could help you in the future….and if your candidates don’t share their feedback, perhaps it’s worth examining if there’s something about your approach to candidates that’s scaring them off.

    1. OP*

      This is not a frontline position, but I do understand that this is a particular challenge in that space as well! We are looking to do more feedback collection from the candidates who turn us down — see my comment downthread.

    2. CatCat*

      Interesting that this is a hot market right now. That would probably mean more candidates will turn down jobs because they can be choosy.

      “If your salary, benefits, and culture (work-life balance, team dynamics, metrics and expectations) are at or above those of your peer institutions…”

      I think if at/not much above, that could explain it too. Candidates may be getting roughly equivalent offers that don’t require moving, which is a huge, life uprooting hassle. I wonder if something like a signing bonus might sweeten the offer.

      1. Bea*

        The job market for lots of skilled professions are hot right now. I got a new job and 2 offers within two weeks of starting my search and I’m in accounting/bsns management. I was assuming it was a fluke but confirmed with a colleague that no, there’s a run on accounting professionals and a drought of seasoned ones.

        1. It's all Fun and Dev*

          So true! Someone else said it better in this thread already, but I think a lot of companies are still operating in the Recession-era mindset where they hold all the cards and will be able to get exceptional candidates for a bargain, and in a lot of industries that just isn’t true any more.

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        I honestly think this is a big part of it. Unless I desperately wanted to move to that city for some specific reason, if I had choices, I’d take the choice that didn’t involve moving. Your yes rate will go down if all of your candidates would have to move, even if you’re asking them to move somewhere awesome. That goes double if it’s a higher-level position, where candidates likely have spouses and families and communities and property to consider.

  7. Trout 'Waver*

    This may sound a little harsh, but I don’t mean it in that way. When you expect people to feel obligated to you simply for interviewing, rather than viewing it as a two-way process, that is a red flag that your interviewees may be picking up on. It sounds like you’re reserving the right to say no the interviewee, but you don’t think the interviewee should still be able to say no.

    It’s not as bad as the boss who expects her employees to be thankful they even have jobs. But it does have that same vibe to it.

      1. GRA*

        The feeling of obligation is what I got from this letter, too. If that comes across in the interview process, I would definitely not want to work in that environment.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is a good point. It *might* be a sign that the job candidates are getting a vibe from the interview process they don’t like or the over all culture of the organization is problematic.

      1. OP*

        Please see my comment downthread. I was INTENSELY frustrated when I wrote to Alison. I don’t actually think people are obligated to accept a job offer if they agree to travel for an interview , and I make it a point to tell candidates that reach the in-person interview stage that they are interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing them and that I want them to ask questions, really “kick the tires,” so to speak, etc.. And I understand that things happen, people’s circumstances change, and what feels like a good fit at the start of a process might not end up being the right fit at the end.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I’m only saying this to try to be helpful and this isn’t any sort of moral judgment. If you disagree with me, that’s perfectly fine and you’re free to disregard my anonymous internet comment. But I would not want a boss to feel INTENSELY frustrated by anything that I considered normal business. It’s not a professional reaction.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Eh, I get what you’re saying, but humans are humans. I go home and express what my husband might call INTENSE FRUSTRATION over normal crappy things that happen at work. It doesn’t mean that I’m hard to work with or have unreasonable expectations. It just means that sometimes things add up to a bunch of ARGH.

            1. OP*

              Thanks for saying this… I got a little too human in my email to Alison. The level of ARGH (this situation combined with some others) was getting to be overwhelming at the time I wrote in and I wish I had just taken a few breaths instead of clicking send.

  8. Stranger than fiction*

    And hopefully Op is discussing salary expectations before flying people out. Nothing was mentioned, but if the offer ended up being way below their expectations that they didn’t bother trying to negotiate, that could be a factor. Or they realized the cost of living in that city was too high where previously they thought it might be doable.

      1. Mike C.*

        I posted this below, but I have to wonder if the perspective on wages changes once folks go on the real estate tour.

        1. Reba*

          That’s a great point. Real estate in many desirable cities (as OP describes theirs) is brutally out of control these days.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep. It’s the main reason I’m stuck where I am for now. :( Even moving to one of the two larger cities in my state will double my housing cost, and assuming I’d get the same kind of job, the wages aren’t much more than they are here.

          2. Naruto*

            Yeah, I agree, the real estate market could easily make their desired salary change.

            I also think it’s possible that people still don’t know what they’ll be making. If you tell them you expect to pay between 85k-100k, maybe they expect 100k. Or maybe you tell them you’re looking to pay about 100k, and then later they think they’ll be able to negotiate 115k, but they can’t.

            Even if you’re trying to be honest about compensation, unless you say “the salary for this position is $105k and there is no room for negotiation,” there’s just a lot of room for mismatched expectations or misunderstandings.

        2. sunny-dee*

          The first thing I thought of was housing / schools / relocating a spouse. I live in the DFW area — which isn’t as bad as something coastal — but if you want to live in a good school district, you’re looking at a minimum one-hour commute, one way. If you’re looking for affordable housing that is not a loft or totally ghetto — like, more than one bathroom and under $600,000 — you’re looking in the suburbs with a minimum one-hour commute. And that’s if you’re lucky — a lot of people do two or more hours, one way, because the metro area is fantastic if you’re single or a couple and really royally sucks if you have a family.

          And that’s not apparent until you come here. My 45 minute commute to my office (if I go in; I generally work from home) is less than 13 miles on paper. But it’s 45 minutes in the morning and 1.5 hours in the evening. A lot of the neighborhoods are really patchwork; one neighborhood has $1,000,000 – $20,000,000 gorgeous homes, and literally one block over is falling down, building code violation, nasty apartments with high crime.

          1. Anony*

            That is exactly what I was thinking. The salary could look really good to someone from a lower cost of living area and then they find out that it will not go as far as they thought.

          2. Anion*

            We just moved to the DFW area last year–we’re in HEB–and when my husband was job hunting we didn’t even look at jobs downtown because of the commute. If he hadn’t found something we would have expanded the search, obvs., and we know he could have gotten more money if he worked downtown, but as it is our bills are covered with enough left over for savings and fun, the culture of his small(er) company is fantastic, our neighborhood and children’s schools are great, and his office is five minutes from our older daughter’s school–and his hours mean he can pick her up on his way home several days a week.

            His previous job had an hour and a half commute each way, and we’d hate to deal with that again, so yeah, I can see an amazing opportunity in a great city turning into an “Actually, no thanks,” after visiting and realizing that such a commute would be necessary if we didn’t want to live downtown.

          3. Just anon for this time*

            Hello, just here to add a friendly note, please don’t refer to any housing flippantly as “totally ghetto.” Ghettos have a big, nasty history, as I’m sure you know, and living in genuinely unsafe housing is not at all comparable to “not having more than one bathroom.” I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but its really a word that people should work to erase from their day to day vocabulary because it tends to lose its meaning when applied like this, even though we are far from being in a world free of actual ghettos.
            It stings me, personally, to hear people talk about not having as much house as they want or having to send their kids to a regular old public school (or – gasp! – a bad school that they’ll probably do just fine at) like they are living in poverty.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Oh, actually in this case… I pretty much meant ghetto. There are CONSTANT complaints to the city about things like balconies rotting away, leaking roofs, rats and pest infestations, graffiti, mold, crime. It’s this really weird juxtaposition, because literally, within two blocks, you go from places with fountains and rolling gardens and private tennis courts to these kind of terrifying, actually rotting apartments.

              1. Mary*

                I would guess that what Just Anon meant was that the history of “ghettos” isn’t just poor quality fabric, but particular ethnic/racial groups being banned from living in other areas, and that being one of the ways in which they’re marginalised . It’s a really racialised term, and that’s probably not what you meant to evoke!

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          That’s what I was thinking. I’ve had a lot of friends who do some research ahead of time but nothing too seriously. They then go to the interview and learn more about the area, which has been a personal and very important deciding factor.

          1. Natalie*

            Every city looks charmingly perfect from their city government’s Instagram or whatever, but it might have a totally different feel once you’re actually there.

          2. gladfe*

            On the flipside, people tend to be pleasantly surprised by both the culture and low cost of living of my Midwestern city. It’s very normal here to encourage good candidates to fly out for an interview even after the they say they have an offer elsewhere that they’re planning to accept. It’s just that common for people to get here and change their minds.
            In those cases, it might be frustrating to the other employer to feel like the candidate was very interested until they turned down the offer, but the candidate would have been totally sincere throughout the process.

        4. Manders*

          Yes, this is something that’s definitely worth digging into. The diverse cities in warm areas I know are notoriously expensive. Even if the salary looks fantastic on paper and is appropriate for the position, candidates might be realizing on the real estate tour that they’d be losing something else they value (like being able to afford a big house with a yard for a dog, or being able to live in the best school district in town, or having a 10-minute commute).

          I live in an area where wages are high, but cost of living is also high. Even a candidate who’s offered a very nice salary might not want to move to a place where modest single-family homes can cost a million dollars.

        5. Rainy*

          Yup. I live and work in a very desirable small city an hour from a major city, and rents and housing prices here are out of control, but the very desirability of the area leads employers to underpay because people will take a pay cut to live here.

        6. Kate 2*

          Holy cow yes! Before I moved to my city, the national articles about it were: great place to live, really friendly, low cost of living. You move here and all the local and state news is about the high cost of housing and the need for more of it!

          The reality is that we have *relatively* low costs of living for a big city, but still high housing costs and housing scarcity. It’s something you would never know until you visited and checked out the real estate market though. The online sites don’t give an accurate, complete/full picture. Even renting an apartment is pretty difficult here.

          As a side note I have friends who travel for work, and they talk about how a lot of the conference cities are great if you are a tourist (zoos, theme parks, etc), but really lacking in entertainment (movie theaters, cafes, etc) and shopping (grocery stores, clothing shops, hobby shops like record stores or yarn stores) if you actually live there.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Your last paragraph reminds me of every trendy neighborhood in my city. (Which, after reading this thread, I consider myself fortunate to live in – big city, a lot going on, housing prices still reasonable, except in the far suburbs with top-ranking schools, where I never wanted to live, even when my kids were in school.) Indie movie theaters on every street, bars on every corner, but no grocery stores, except for an occasional 7-11 or a terribly overpriced/low-quality local chain. I’m guessing the assumption is that the area is populated entirely with the young and happening kind of people, who go out to eat 3/day, because staying in and cooking is so boring. Or with college students who don’t know how to cook, and don’t have the time even if they knew how. This assumption is probably not that far off, but I’ve considered moving to one of those areas, and “but what am I going to eat” is one of the things that always stop me.

            1. Natalie*

              Could be, or they just can’t afford the real estate in that kind of area. Grocery is a pretty low margin business. In those kinds of neighborhoods in my city, if they have a grocery store its been there *forever* so it got in when the land was cheap.

            2. Nanani*

              This sounds like a food desert. You can google the term for more infor, but to my knowledge “trendy kids who eat out a lot” are not the cause of them. Not by a long shot.

        7. INTP*

          I thought this as well. Especially considering that at least in my experience with rental market, it usually looks like you can get an adequate place for far cheaper than you can in reality. Online it looks like one price range is realistic and has plenty of options, and then you show up and all the apartments in that range reek of cigarette smoke, are on the one sketchy block in a nice neighborhood, are fake listings or have landlords that never return your phone calls. I’ve never purchased a house but I’d imagine that it’s similar and the real estate tour might be an eye opener for a lot of them.

    1. Reba*

      The OP says in their last para that they do discuss the salary and benefits package early on.

      So that tells us that probably the no’s are either something about fit/culture/location (something on the company side) or something about the candidates’ lives, i.e. not something to take personally, OP!

    2. MarylandAnon*

      It was mentioned!

      “(As an aside, applicants are given information on things like salary and benefits early on in the process, so they know how much they’d be earning up front and can make a decision right away about continuing if compensation is the issue.)”

    3. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus*

      I had this happen the other week. The position was @1000 mi. away from my home. We discussed salary and relocation expenses upfront. When the offer came it was -$14000 and a step down. It was a bait and switch. If I would have flown out there I would have said NO.

  9. Raine*

    OP I’m kind of wondering, have you ever flown anyone out, done the in person interview, and then decided they weren’t going to be a good fit? Were you then mad at yourself for “wasting” money on a dud candidate or did you just kind of chalk it up to ‘life happens’ and move on?

    I think these are metrics to consider:

    – How many “fly-in” interviews you conduct in a year
    – How many of those interviews end in Job offers
    – How many of the ones that don’t end in Job offers were because you decided not to move forward with them in the process
    – How many of the ones that do end in job offers are turned down by the candidate.

    If the number of rejections on your end is greater than or equal to the number of job offers turned down (by a significant margin) then there’s really no cause to be getting upset at candidates who turn down the position. If you find you don’t generally turn away anyone who makes it to the in person interview stage, try to examine why that is.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      And in related news, if the offers are to the absolute best candidates, be aware that those are the ones who likely have great options. They are your first choice for good reason…and they likely are someone else’s first choice as well.

  10. Jules the Third*

    Were both rejections under the same hiring manager? Is there a smell or other unpleasant evidence in the office where they’d be working? Were both interviewees some variety of protected class that may have been made uncomfortable by something in the office environment? Have you double checked the salary range for that position lately? Are there any other commonalities between the positions that only become visible with a physical visit?

    The disconnect is most *likely* with the interviewees, but two rejections for the same role does leave some room for them to have noticed something on the visit that they didn’t want to mention. For example, women might get a ‘skeevy’ feel from the hiring manager, but not want to mention it because there’s nothing solid, just a feeling. I’ve turned down promotions for nothing more than a feeling about the manager I’d be working with.

    1. OP*

      Since I wrote in, I have been able to learn more about why we were turned down. Commented with more detail downthread.

  11. Mike C.*

    I should also mention that anyone who interviews with us in person is connected with a relocation firm, offered a real estate tour with a local realtor, etc. — all things that telegraph our interest in the candidate and also help them to think seriously about the practicalities of relocating to our area.

    And maybe once they thought seriously about the practicalities of relocating to your area, they felt that it wasn’t a good idea.

    I once traveled to interview for a position at an organization that told me they would reimburse me for just half of my travel expenses initially, and for the other half only if a) I was offered and accepted the job or b) they decided to go with another candidate. I remember thinking at the time that that was a little odd, but now, as a frustrated hiring manager, I’m thinking it’s something I might want to talk to my HR department about putting into practice!

    This is the absolutely last thing you want to do.

    Look, it’s not 2008 anymore, it’s 2018. The unemployment rate is low, wages are finally rising after years of folks having to be happy about watching their coworkers get laid off and having to take on their jobs for free. There’s choice now, and people are going to take advantage of that and they should.

    People are only going to site nonspecific “personal reasons” because there’s an enormous taboo against saying negative things. Alison’s advice on self reflection is really good. Also, I have to wonder if your salaries really match the market, once candidates see how much real estate costs.

    1. Anony*

      It might be worth looking into whether the candidates were from areas with a lower cost of living and were surprised by housing prices. Or if they have children, how are the schools in the area?

      1. Sara without an H*

        This. I was once part of a search committee for a university in a beautiful city with notoriously high housing prices. We lost a lot of good candidates after they talked to local realtors and saw how far our salaries didn’t go in the local market.

        1. Rainy*

          Oh, I wonder if we are in the same place, or were–my current and last city are both out of control on the rental front and impossible if you want to buy.

  12. Wheezy Weasel*

    OP, that definitely sounds frustrating to have two great candidates decline. It would be really great to have all hiring managers take the steps you and your company are doing when making an offer, especially regarding the salary transparency, team dynamics and relocation offer. Yet taken all together, your letter reads like you are thinking of this very transactionally. “If my company does X, Y and Z, then the employee will certainly accept the job”. For all the reasons Allison mentioned, you can’t control the hundreds of different variables that are happening to each of the candidates. You also can’t expect any quid pro quo from them about why they are declining to take the job. I get that you’ve been very transparent on your end, and it would be very revealing for a candidate to say something like “I was all ready to take the job until I flew out and met or found out that you work with Now I’m going to pass and I hope you do something about it for the next candidate”. That’s a very brave thing for a candidate to say, and I can’t imagine a time in my life where I’d feel that comfortable saying it to an employer…I may need to be employed by you in the future, we could have mutual friends in the industry, and many other reasons that the AAM community has brought up before. It would be great if the hiring manager and prospective employee relationship was on a more even keel and transparent as it is for your company, but many people are probably deeply enculturated to not speak freely.

    Finally, you might want to reframe your last two hiring situations as key lessons learned rather than sunk costs. Let’s say your direct and indirect costs to bring these two people out were $5-7k each. You’re not getting that back, but how much would you have lost if they accepted and then moved to a new job in your beautiful city in 6 months? Rehiring, retraining, lost productivity, projects that they started which can’t finish….you’re actually ahead by spending money to fly people out to make the right decision.

    1. OP*

      As I said downthread, I was extremely frustrated when I wrote in — I’ve since gained some perspective and am trying to understand better why this feels like it keeps happening; I’ve also gleaned some info about why some of these candidates turned us down, and in one case it was personal (a family situation), and in the other two, professional (retention offer, a desire to move in a different direction professionally.)

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        And also sometimes people will just turn you down for reasons outside your control. It’s part and parcel of recruiting.

  13. The Tin Man*

    Definitely agree with Alison here. I get how frustrating this can be, but how do you know they had no intention of accepting the offer? They could have had every intention of accepting throughout the process and still turn it down based on personal reasons (e.g. got a better offer elsewhere, the tour with the realtor made them reconsider the city, learning more about the position/organization made them realize it isn’t the right fit). And even if you pay for the travel the candidate still goes well out of their way to travel to your city to interview.

    In short: would you rather have a new hire who felt guilted into accepting via a threat to charge them money to not accept an offer or one who truly wants to be there? I know I’d never accept an interview where I had to commit to the company or face financial consequences before even going there.

    1. OP*

      I wish I had never mentioned the experience I had with the organization who said they would only reimburse me for half of my travel expenses. They were a small company that didn’t have a lot of money to interview out-of-town candidates. As I said, I was frustrated when I wrote to Alison. (And if anyone cares, I was offered that job, took it, and got the full amount of my travel expenses reimbursed. It was also less than a year after 9/11 and the economy was in the toilet, and many nonprofits were feeling tremendous financial pressure.)

      I would never actually do that to a candidate, especially not in this economic climate/job market. I mentioned it out of frustration, not intent.

      1. Mb13*

        But based on your own letter, you said you are considering employing this tactic. I know when I am frustrated everything seems a million times worse and I tend to think extrem “what ifs thoughts”. But what you suggested was pretty drastic (also over a not so big of a thing of being rejected). Is it possible you intensity when you are frustrated translated in any way to the candidates?

        1. o.b.*

          I think your last sentence is a worthwhile question but everything before that is splitting hairs with the OP over their own thoughts & feelings, which seems unkind and unproductive.

        2. Purplesaurus*

          “I’m so angry I could X, where X=spit, kill, cry, or charge for travel,” is rarely an actual consideration.

          1. Mb13*

            But theres a diference between “why won’t PowerPoint work, I want to break the computer” when you are at your desk v.s. “Some of the highly competitive candidates for the job rejected our offer, not only do I find this annoying I find it frustrating enough that I’m going to write and edit an email for an advice blog, including a lengthy segment about how I want to implement new punitive policies for candidates despite having prior personal unpleasant experince with said policies”

      2. The Tin Man*

        Yeah I saw your post below and felt bad I zeroed in on this aspect, my bad! I focused on the wrong thing and not your question, which was if there are ways you can prevent this from happening. You sound like you do a great job being respectful in the hiring process and I am sure it gets frustrating to do so much right and still feel like you are getting let down by the process.

      3. CityMouse*

        Yeah, those people (the financial penalty for turning them down) treated you badly and you may not have realized it until writing in. That was hugely wrong of them to do that.

  14. Antilles*

    I once traveled to interview for a position at an organization that told me they would reimburse me for just half of my travel expenses initially, and for the other half only if a) I was offered and accepted the job or b) they decided to go with another candidate.
    As a candidate, this sort of qualification would make me instantly suspicious that there’s something seriously wrong – either pay for the interview or don’t, your call (realizing that not paying will cost you candidates), putting qualifications on the reimbursement would really strike me as a red-flag. Like you’re either (a) trying some screwy negotiating ploy to force me to decide between “$500 reimbursement” versus “well, I really wanted 15 days vacation not 10” or (b) There’s something so drastically wrong with your company that ‘holding money for ransom’ is necessary to keep people from sprinting out the door.
    Also, the cynical side of me also kind of wonders what happens when a candidate agrees to this, but then gets out there and realizes that they just will hate the job. Would you suddenly start tanking the interview hard just to make sure there’s no offer so you’re eligible for reimbursement?

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Exactly. The sheer entitlement of proposing that to a candidate would be enough for me to pass. On top of that, it’s a ludicrously bad proposal for all the reasons you mention.

    2. The Tin Man*

      All of that, and it strikes as tone-deaf as the candidate who wants to invoice the interviewing company for their time!

      1. OP*

        I wish I had never mentioned the experience I had with the organization who said they would only reimburse me for half of my travel expenses. They were a small company that didn’t have a lot of money to interview out-of-town candidates. (And if anyone cares, I was offered that job, took it, and got the full amount of my travel expenses reimbursed. It was also less than a year after 9/11 and the economy was in the toilet, and many nonprofits were feeling tremendous financial pressure.)

        As I said downthread, I was frustrated when I wrote to Alison. I would never actually do that to a candidate, especially not in this economic climate/job market. I mentioned it out of frustration, not intent.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Our default here is to take letter writers at their word. That’s probably why you’re getting comments about that portion of your post. But thank you for clarifying.

          1. Reba*

            Yeah OP, please don’t take these comments as accusations.

            Since that sort of reimbursement is part of the spectrum of hiring practices, I think it’s worthwhile anyway to see how people here are responding to it, combined with how you yourself have experienced it.

          2. Observer*

            Yes, especially since you actually said that you were thinking of implementing something like that. I’m glad that once you calmed down, you realized that it’s a total non-starter, but it’s really not surprising that people are commenting on it.

            But, there is another thing you should be thinking about here. I get that you are frustrated. But your frustration seems a bit.. overdone? Disproportionate? I’m not sure what word to use. But it’s definitely leading you to come across as thinking in really unreasonable ways, even if you did ultimately come to your senses.

            If I had options, I would NOT take a job working for someone whose first response to frustration is to throw a tantrum, make accusations (“using me”, “no intention of taking the job” etc.), and / or to think of ways to force people who don’t owe you anything to do what you want them to (“maybe I should talk to HR” about making them pay for half the interview costs.)

            If this reaction is really not typical of you, and you understand the issue, you’re ok. No one is perfect all of the time. But, if this is a typical response or you don’t really get why people are taking such strong issue, you have some hard thinking to do.

            1. Natalie*

              It feels like the OP got very frustrated quickly *here* as well, in response to comments that were (on the whole) mild and constructive. So I do think its worth looking into if you have a tendency to take things personally overall. That doesn’t serve a person well and it is something that can be worked on.

              1. serenity*

                Very much agreed. There’s a good deal of defensiveness in all his/her comments, and I can’t help but wonder if that comes across in-person to interviewees.

    3. MCL*

      Yeah, I would not be down for that. It signals that your organization is willing to hold my money hostage during negotiations (even if that is not what you are actually intending to do). If your org’s business procedure for interviews is to pay the full amount, that is what you should do – this “halfsies” thing would seem like some sort of power game to me and I would be turned off.

      I get that you’re frustrated! There’s a lot of time and money spent on candidate searches, and it’s really a bummer when you have to fail a search.

      1. MCL*

        And I see now that this was an idea borne of the OP’s frustration and that they were not seriously considering it.

        OP, I’m glad to see (downthread) that your processes are improving! I wish you success for your future searches, and hopefully you learn over time to not take these offer rejections personally. It’s just business.

  15. essEss*

    Also, how long is your interview process? In the time that they are interviewing with you, they are likely interviewing with other companies. They may be excited about your company, but also may be excited about others as well. If they get a definitive offer while they are waiting for your final decision, they may likely accept it since a guaranteed job is better than a possible other job. Plus they may have been willing to do the relocation but the other job offer has less impact on them.

    1. OP*

      We’ve actually gotten pretty agile and efficient with our interview process — the last couple of rounds of interviews have averaged about six weeks, because we have more support on the HR side now than we did previously. (When I was recruited/hired for my current job, it took about double that from the time the position was posted until I received an offer.) I realize that six weeks isn’t exactly quick, but it’s definitely an improvement and pretty efficient for an organization of our size.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Six weeks is quite long. When I accepted my current job, I had another interview that was scheduled a few weeks out and ended up cancelling as I accepted this job. I’m in the UK where things are perhaps different but if you’re taking six weeks it doesn’t seem egregious to me that someone might accept another offer. And as already said people turn down jobs for all sorts of reasons.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, I don’t think six weeks from start to finish is quite long, especially for more senior-ish positions and especially when you’re flying people in. Certainly you shouldn’t be surprised/upset if someone takes another job during that time, but I don’t think that’s a problematic timeframe.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Six weeks is definitely quick. My current job only took three weeks to secure, but the one prior to it took about eight months from application to offer.

  16. OP*

    I admit when I wrote this email I was deeply frustrated. I had just made an offer and the candidate had turned it down and then ghosted — refused to provide any feedback as to why, even when asked. I later learned via LinkedIn that that particular candidate had been given a pretty nice-looking promotion and a title change by their current employer, and I started to question whether this person had ever been serious about us at all.

    Between the time I wrote the email and the time it was published, I had yet another fantastic candidate turn down an offer for the same role — but in that case they offered honest feedback and it was clear that they had realized through the interview process that they wanted to go in a slightly different direction professionally, which I totally understand. (So my scorecard for these two openings is now four offers, one acceptance, and I’m still searching to fill the second opening. I know that’s really not that bad given how much hiring we’ve been doing, but it’s been deeply demoralizing for me and it’s starting to impact our productivity in real ways.)

    Please know I wouldn’t actually dream of withholding reimbursement for travel expenses or anything like that because I do understand that the in-person interview is just as important for the candidate as it is for us. (In fact, when I start the interview day with a candidate, I tell them that at this stage in the process, they are interviewing us just as much as we’re interviewing them, and I want them to feel comfortable asking questions and truly evaluating the opportunity.)

    Another positive note is that there’s also been an investment made in recruiting/talent acquisition at our organization, so I now have access to some very supportive and gifted folks in HR who are providing incredible assistance with everything from screening candidates to scheduling interviews to doing post-interview follow-up. (So now when a candidate turns us down, a member of that team helps collect feedback as to why — or at least tries to.) I’m also taking a serious look at what may be turning candidates off — and that means asking some pretty hard questions. Again, having the added support of a talent acquisition team has been invaluable in this regard. We’ve had a number of successful hires in other parts of the department I manage, too — it just seems to be this one position that I feel like I’m constantly striking out on.

    1. Reba*

      OP, that is all awesome news and it is great that you are looking at this situation with a serious will to learn and improve. Thanks for the update!

      FWIW, a couple more thoughts:

      It still sounds to me like you are feeling this stuff perhaps too personally (“deeply demoralizing”).

      Remember that wrt the LinkedIn promotion person, you’ve put a narrative together based on the events you can see, and it may be what happened — but you still only have such a tiny, tiny window onto that person’s life!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It still sounds to me like you are feeling this stuff perhaps too personally (“deeply demoralizing”).

        Yes! OP, do you think your candidates should find it deeply demoralizing when you reject them? If not, that’s got to go both ways.

        1. OP*

          I’m passionate about my work. I’m proud of the program I’m helping to build. Yes, I find it frustrating when a candidate rejects us, but I am trying to channel that frustration into finding out what we need to be doing differently to get to a successful hire. We’ve already done it once, so I know we can do it again.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            So, for what it’s worth, I would try to recalibrate that! This is just a normal part of doing business. Candidates *will* turn down your offers. It’s built into the process. Be a bit disappointed, absolutely, but getting frustrated is a more intense reaction than the situation warrants. It’s sort of like when a boss reacts badly to an employee resigning — it’s too strong of a reaction for something that’s a normal part of doing business, and it’s worth taking a look at it and consciously trying to recalibrate that!

            (I mean, obviously you can have any emotions you want — but I think it’s impacting your stress level and doesn’t need to.)

            1. mf*

              “Candidates *will* turn down your offers.” And really, don’t you WANT them to if they’re not sure the job is right for them?

              It’s a good thing when a candidate self-selects out of a job. This ensures you’re not pouring even more resources into them than you already have.

          2. neverjaunty*

            OP, you sorta dodged Allison’s question there. If your passion means that you take a professional “no thank you” personally – and from your letter and follow up comments, that seems to be the case – that’s something you do need to recalibrate.

    2. Hank*

      As far as feedback goes – are you or your company just as forthcoming with any candidates that you take a pass on? Do you prospectively provide them with detailed feedback on their candidacies – what went well, what could have been better, and what the winning candidate had that made all the difference?

      What – you don’t? You mean you simply ghost them like 95% of all the other companies do?

      Then don’t expect candidates to give candid feedback to you when they reject an offer. It could be money, it could be your location, it could be the manager’s personality, it could be any number of a hundred reasons.

      Just do what the recruiters tell the job seekers – don’t take it personally, move on and continue your search.

      1. Reba*

        The OP says in another comment that they do follow up with candidates post-interview regardless.

        The tone here seems out of line — OP is trying to improve their outcomes and has come here for advice and perspective!

      2. Parenthetically*

        Where are you getting ghosting? I agree with Reba — this seems pretty hostile given OP is all over the thread responding and making every effort to learn from this experience.

    3. MuseumChick*

      Thank you for the additional information OP. I’m going to say something that might not come off quite right since tone can’t be conveyed VIA text so please take this is the best possible way because I that is how I mean it.

      I think you are taking these rejects way to personally. Yes, its frustrating but the candidates are not obligated to accept the jobs (just as you are not obligated to hire them just because you flew them out) or provide you the details of why they are turning down the offer (just like you are not obligated to provide that information to candidates you turn down).

    4. Purplesaurus*

      For what it’s worth, it sounds like your interview process is pretty great – the fact that you’re upfront about salary and benefits early on is a unicorn to an interviewee – and you’re doing your best to hire the right people. It’s frustrating to put so much work into something and watch it get rejected (says everyone who has ever interviewed), but this shouldn’t be a reflection on you.

      In addition to looking at possible turnoffs, how hard has it been to fill this role in the past? Striking out at this right might be normal and okay.

      1. Anony*

        It is also worth looking at how competitive the salary is. Being upfront is great and maybe it is a salary that they would be willing to accept if necessary, but given a better offer than are going to go with that.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I wouldn’t question whether that candidate had been serious, just because they stayed with their employer for a promotion. It’s pretty common to be looking outside and inside for advancement. Theoretically, the “outside” company with relocation is going to have a higher bar if I get an inside offer, but if I don’t get an inside promotion, I would definitely accept an outside role. You don’t know how it’s all going to come together at the beginning of a job search.

    6. all aboard the anon train*

      I had just made an offer and the candidate had turned it down and then ghosted — refused to provide any feedback as to why, even when asked.

      Considering all the times companies ghost candidates, I figure candidates are allowed the same privilege. Furthermore, it’s not really ghosting if the candidate turned you down and then didn’t want to continue engaging to provide feedback.

      I’ve had companies get very defensive and upset when I’ve provided feedback on why I turned jobs down, to the point that I’d be hesitant to do it again.

      A candidate doesn’t owe you feedback or a reason why they turned down the job. You seem to be really stuck on the fact that this one candidate didn’t offer feedback, and I think you need to let that go. They don’t owe you anything, and if you press for feedback, you may end up getting someone who lies just to get you off their back (I’ve used the “want to go in a different direction” because it’s a nicer way to say that the company I’ve interviewed with had some red flags).

      1. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

        Yes, this is like a breakup. It might be *nice* for them to give you feedback. But they don’t have to. They can just politely decline and then you have both fulfilled all of your social obligations.

      2. Mb13*

        Reading this letter (especially your comment) it sounds so much like dating and learning to deal with rejection. I guess its just goes to show that people are not good at handling rejection no matter what it is a rejection off.

      3. einahpets*

        Yeah, I once rejected a job offer because the team I’d be working on had a “difficult personality” who everyone during the day warned me about and then had me interview with her alone at the end of the day. She spent the whole time complaining about the upgraded system they were trying to hire me to help implement, the rest of the team, company culture change, and the manager.

        Everyone showed that they knew this person was difficult. What good would me saying anything about it when HR asked for feedback? No thanks.

        1. Close Bracket*

          They do already know she is difficult, but they don’t know that she was the reason that you turned the job down. If enough candidates said they turned down the job bc Jane turned them off, maybe the company would do something about Jane. You certainly aren’t obligated to give feedback, and it’s sure not your responsibility to get that company to do something about Jane, but there is reason to tell them why you turned down the offer.

          1. OP*

            I’m just one hiring manager, but I would absolutely want to know if a difficult personality on the team was the reason someone turned down an offer. Feedback like that could very well be the thing I needed to make a case for reassignment or even termination, depending on the circumstances.

        2. nonegiven*

          If everyone that gives them feedback at an exit interview or on why they didn’t take the job, says “Oh, it was 90% Cersei,” will that change anything?

    7. CatCat*

      I agree with others that you seem to be taking the rejections too personally. Like the candidate who turned you down and “ghosted” you. This characterization is really just not right. You had a candidate that turned you down and moved on with their life. They didn’t ghost you. You heard back and the answer was no. Ghosting is when you hear nothing back.

      They were just done talking to you and probably had other stuff going on in their life. They had no obligation to give you detailed feedback about their decision, just as employers don’t have to do the same. And honestly, if the feedback is bad, they might not know how to deliver it nor want to invest the energy in doing it. Sure, it’s nice if you can get candid feedback, but it’s understandably not a high priority.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s how I’m reading this, too.

        I appreciate the OP’s willingness to engage with us, so I hope they take this question as not an attack: are you conveying some of this tone over email? I find it rather off-putting that you seem to expect that a candidate provides feedback on the hiring process and are miffed you don’t receive it. I know it would be useful but they’re not obligated to do so.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          I do want to second this–OP, you’re describing some pretty intense emotions around the hiring process. You’re frustrated and demoralized when people say no. If I were one of your candidates and I got a hint of your feelings, I wouldn’t want to give you feedback at all. “Personal reasons, not a good fit, sorry!” would be what I’d say. If you’re upset that I said “no thanks” to a job offer, what will you be if I say “the hiring manager had a dreadful attitude” or “the team seems totally demoralized” or something else that companies don’t usually want to hear? I don’t like people being upset with me and (here’s the big point) there is NO potential benefit to me in providing you with this upsetting feedback, so I wouldn’t do it. Not unless you make it really safe for me. And these strong emotions you’re describing would not make me feel safe.

          It really does sounds like you’ve worked hard to create a hiring process that bends over backwards to be open and give candidates info that they need. That’s great and you deserve praise. You asked for advice about improvements, and I hope you can hear that the best advice people are giving you now is to let go a little. Sometimes “no” happens. Sometimes money gets spent. It’s okay. Those are part of a good hiring process, which is what you are building!

    8. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      You are clearly very passionate about your organization. Which is great! But I think it’s making the hiring, and therefore the rejections, especially personal for you. They aren’t rejecting *you*. They’re rejecting a job.

    9. Observer*

      The others are right. You deserve a lot of credit for trying to create and open and efficient hiring process. But, although you are trying to be respectful, you are not actually being as respectful as you think. You’re showing a rather high level of entitlement, and you are taking things WAAAY too personally.

      Also, 6 weeks is a reasonable time frame. But it is just not realistic to expect that candidates won’t get other offers within that time frame. Reasonable doesn’t mean “short” or “the clock stops on other job activities for candidates”. And that means that some candidates WILL get other offers, including possibly for promotions from their current employer.

    10. Safetykats*

      Four offers, one acceptance is really not a bad record if you are interviewing highly qualified people in a competitive market. It might help for you to try to connect with others doing recruiting to gain some perspective. If you’re interviewing people who are currently employed, and they are valued employees, it’s entirely possible their current employer who’ll try to do something to retain them (even if they weren’t out interviewing for leverage). Also, most people who are looking for a new opportunity apply to several jobs – so every candidate you talk to is probably interviewing elsewhere. You are potentially competing for head people with every other company that has a similar opening – so a 25% acceptance rate is pretty reasonable.

      There are things you can do in candidate selection to try to raise your acceptance rate. For example, you’re asking people to relocate. That can be a big challenge – and someone who has already done it successfully once may be more likely to do it again. It’s also more of a challenge for people with a family – so you may want to ask about that. (I had one interviewee tell me straight out that his wife would never relocate again – they lived in the same town with her three sisters and her parents. Not a big surprise that didn’t work out.)

      If you’re in a big city, you may also have more luck with people from a similarly urban area. You might also have better luck doing less during the interview trip. Many companies do a separate house hunting trip (also flying out the spouse) after the offer is accepted. Meeting with a realtor during the interview trip might be a lot for some candidates. (Asking if people want to do this during the interview trip it defer it to later might be a nice compromise.)

    11. Zillah*

      OP, if it’s this position you’re struggling to fill, is it possible that there’s an issue with this position in particular that gives candidates pause as they learn more about it? It could just be bad luck, but I’m wondering if you should also just recalibrate your expectations re: how much effort you’ll need to put into filling the position.

    12. Bea*

      I’m going to flip the script a bit here.

      Not everyone will take a job offer, just like not everyone wants to be your friend. You are a great organisation, you know it like it’s your best friend and your passion. However getting a glimpse of it as an outsider may not look so wonderful or pull a person in so deep they want to move across the country to work there.

      Would you rather them accept,despite not being thrilled to be a member of the company and lack of passion turns to a lukewarm performance? Then they move to Wonderful City, on your dime and find another job in 6-12 months because again, they’re not feeling it…

      Sure feelings can change but you’ll take it even more personally when someone decides to move on given your emotional investment in rejections right now. You need to adjust that quickly to protect yourself.

      I get it. I had people ghost interviews and the worst was hiring someone, them accepting and then no-showing their first day. That was tiresome and deflating but mostly because I was overwhelmed doing that job on top of my other duties so it was more about me needing someone to come take the work off my plate, bleh.

    13. Jesmlet*

      Honestly, it sounds like you’re doing a lot right that many other companies do wrong and this just all happened to emotionally hit you at once and take your frustration over the top. People rejecting offers is pretty common, especially when relocation is involved. While someone may be open to it in theory, there are a lot of factors that can turn that maybe into a “no thanks”. Everyone needs to make the right moves for their career, their family, their happiness, etc. Just continue being as open as possible – salary, benefits, team, environment (both in the office and out), and give them as much opportunity as possible to ask questions about everything before they’re flown out there.

      Also take a second look at the market. If it’s the same position, is there an external reason that would dissuade people? At one point when I was considering a relocation, the salary to COL ratio just wasn’t worth it compared to where I currently was. Lower salary in current city would still leave me putting more money in the bank month to month than higher salary in new city. Either way, try your best to stay positive, not take this personally, and good luck!

    14. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      “I had just made an offer and the candidate had turned it down and then ghosted — refused to provide any feedback as to why, even when asked.”

      If they got in touch with you to turn down your offer, they did not “ghost” you- period.
      They contacted you, and let you know they would not be accepting your offer.
      They do not have any further obligation to you, nor are you entitled to more than that.

      1. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*

        Yeah….I kinda wondered HOW and WHY the OP found out on LinkedIn that the not-actually-a-ghoster got a new promotion and new title from their current employer. This person turned OP’s job offer down, so why was OP still compiling data on them? If the information came to OP in the natural flow of LinkedIn info and OP didn’t go looking for it, that’s fine. (I’ve never used LinkedIn, so I don’t know how that works.) But if OP was deliberately digging into the former candidate’s details “out of curiosity” or “just to know” or something else outside the scope of OP’s job, then that’s NOT okay, and is a sign that OP is taking anything perceived as negative far too personally and seriously.

        1. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*

          By the way, OP, I’m not accusing you of anything! I’m really just pointing out how a lot of your rather defensive replies are coming off here–it wouldn’t hurt to re-examine them in case there’s a personal issue here you maybe didn’t realize before, but that you really need to unpack and examine.

          1. OP*

            Fair question re: LinkedIn. After a third candidate turned us down, I was doing some sharing of the position description within my own professional network. A couple of my contacts, in particular, have very large networks and likely know many of the people we’d already connected with. I wanted to let them know who we’d already talked to about the position so that these contacts wouldn’t inadvertently reach out to someone who had already turned us down (or whom we’d decided not to move forward with.) I put together a short list of who we’d already interviewed (either in person or via phone/video conference) who had turned us down or who we had turned down, and I included the individuals’ names and where they currently work. It was just faster to look everyone up on LinkedIn rather than pull out my file of resumes. Nothing nefarious — just trying to ensure we didn’t repeatedly ping anyone about the position.

            1. Yorick*

              I think when you reach out for recommendations, you should just let them recommend anyone who comes to mind. You can throw out the people you’ve already contacted yourself.

              1. OP*

                I wasn’t asking for recommendations, I was asking these contacts to *share* the opportunity with people that *they* knew. I simply didn’t want to put my contacts in the awkward position of reaching out to someone on my company’s behalf that had already turned us down or who we’d turned down.

    15. Smithy*

      While there’s been lots of comments more generally about hiring, here are my two industry cents should they be helpful.

      Not entirely sure what jobs you’re looking to fill – but the current administration in the US has definitely made some jobs seem far less attractive or more concerning. I am a frontline fundraiser and a job I interviewed with last year, when I heard they received 90% of their income from the US gov’t my teeth immediately went on edge. I am in no way saying that your org is in bad financial shape – but I do know that the overall political changes and shifts in funds that are available have made some jobs seem less attractive after closer examination. Perhaps unfairly, but it made a huge difference for me when I was job hunting last year.

  17. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    People get to say no. That’s how hiring works. That’s not to say it doesn’t sting. Of course it does. Especially after they showed enthusiasm and seemed excited. But they were interviewing. Of course they’re going to show enthusiasm if they’re interested. It would be extremely concerning if they weren’t and I highly doubt you would have flown them out if that had been the case.

    There are many, many, many, many reasons someone could turn down a job after visiting. They could decide it’s a great area to visit……but don’t want to live there. Or that, perhaps, the flying back and forth to visit family would no longer be feasible. Maybe they weren’t thrilled with the schools. Or the lack of frozen yogurt shops (or that there were too many). The traffic could have been worse than they ever imagined.

    Starting a new job is a big decision. Moving is a big decision. The two together are colossal. You want someone who has definitely thought it through and weighed the pros and cons. Don’t hold people financially hostage for not accepting an offer. That’s not a way to lure in more serious candidates, that’s a way to frighten them off.

    1. OP*

      We are not going to hold anyone financially hostage. I wish I hadn’t given that example and I wish I hadn’t written in in the first place. I was frustrated at the time but if I can be a cautionary tale about what happens when you click “send” in a moment of frustration, I’m happy to be that.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I’m sorry you feel that way. Your letter is interesting and reflects a topic that people are really curious about. I’m sure other people who have the same question will benefit from reading Alison’s response. And maybe even glean some usefulness from the commentariat.

      2. serenity*

        OP, I’m sorry you feel that way too but you are showing a great deal of defensiveness which seems really unwarranted given the thoughtful feedback you’ve gotten here. You clearly don’t like being told that perhaps you are taking two rejections too personally, or that you’re perhaps thinking candidates are obligated to accept your offer if you’ve flown them out to interview them and maybe that feeling is coming across to them. That’s too bad.

  18. Falling Diphthong*

    I’m having trouble reconciling the talent pool in our local area is not very deep and a diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate. The latter says this is a desirable area to live, the former that no one with mid-level job skills already lives there?

    Offering things like a tour with a real estate agent indicates that you realize that’s useful information for candidates–information that might cause them to decide not to move there. So might any number of other discoveries on a trip. (A friend of mine was driven to all the local churches, and in a last ditch hail mary the prospective employer offered that there was a synagogue nearby, too.)

    1. Antilles*

      I don’t think the two things in your first paragraph are contradictory. A city can be great in general but not really deep in the hyper-specific talent area that you’re looking for – especially in specific technical jobs. Industries tend to cluster (e.g., Silicon Valley and Seattle for the tech industry, Texas for oil/gas, etc), so if your firm can be located in a great city generally but which doesn’t have much local availability of highly skilled professionals.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I live in a city that satisfies both of OP’s statements. These places exist—I promise!

    3. Larval Doctor*

      I work in a field where every city in the world meets the criteria “talent pool in our local area is not very deep.” That sometimes happens in super-specialized fields. In my field of medicine, 25 people are trained a year. My department has 9 people. We’d like a tenth. Let’s be generous and assume an average 40 year career post-training, so 10 people is a full 1% of the national talent pool in our city — we’re not 1% of the US population! (And most people are mid-30’s when they finish training, so that’s very generous.)

    4. OOF*

      As a fundraiser and hiring manager, I can assure you: our talent pool is shallow everywhere. There are simply not enough good development professionals around. I live in a big, beautiful city and some searches absolutely require a national scope.

  19. Laura*

    I’m imaging the thoughts of a candidate who came here (northern Utah) and was all excited for winter sports, but they moved from a place like D.C. where the whole city shuts down if there are a few flakes of snow, and when they got here, they realized that they are expected to drive in several inches of snow. You just get up early, leave for work early enough to get there on time (I leave about half an hour early for a 10-minute drive and have still been late). If you have an hour commute, you’d have to leaver 2-3 hours early. The city doesn’t shut down. There are occasional snow days for schools, but only a few, but, even on those days, you’re expected to make arrangements for your kids and still go to work…if every parent took snow days off, no one would work and, like I said, the city doesn’t shut down.

    Maybe your beautiful weather comes with too much traffic, or the cost of living is too high, or the schools they saw had metal detectors. Maybe your staff is too old, too young, too conservative, too liberal, too loud, too quiet.

    But it’s also distinctly possible they got a better offer from another company. OP wasn’t interviewing only one candidate; she admitted it. It’s not likely the candidates told all other companies they *might* have an offer–it would be really stupid, in fact.

    1. KitKat*

      This is a good point- it sounds like OP is pretty good about being clear about the job, but I wonder if they are so in love with their “diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate” that they are not as clearly conveying the drawbacks of their city.

      I love my city too, but it’s not for everyone, and if you’re looking at relocating candidates, being upfront about the pros and cons of the area might help.

      1. CityMouse*

        Yeah, OPs description fits, say, Miami (diverse, good year round weather). I used to live there and there can be a roughness to that city not included in that description. Many cities can be the same.

  20. Names are for Chumps*

    One factor I would be considering, if the job/move didn’t work out in 6 months; would I have to relocate again? If fund raising had so limited a pool there surely any real prospective associates would find themselves on the road again. Steep price of buying a house and losing friends is a definite cincern.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      That’s a good point. I’ve never relocated for a job, but if I were to consider it the bar would be SO high. I’d have to feel really, really confident that I’d be happy there — both in the job, and in the region.

    2. It's all Fun and Dev*

      Such a good point – this is literally my situation. I moved across the country for a fundraising job in a one-horse town (it’s a college town, and I work at the college). Now that I know this isn’t the right place for me, there isn’t a single chance of staying here. That’s fine for me since it’s just me and my partner, no kiddos to worry about, but I am certainly shying away of other places like this for my next role. As a fundraiser I want to be sure I’m moving to an area with at least several possible employers, but as a human person I want to make sure it’s a place I’m happy living for the foreseeable future.

  21. k.k*

    I don’t think you should read too much into people citing “personal reasons” for turning the job down. I know that I, and I suspect most people, have it ingrained in them that during the interview process you’re not supposed to say anything negative or much about your personal life. If there is something about your company or interview that was a big turn off, they won’t want to say so and risk burning a bridge. And if it is something personal (spouse doesn’t want to move, health issue, realized they just don’t like your city), they’re trying to keep it professional and not risk coming off as TMI.

  22. Alton*

    Another factor to keep in mind, I think, is that relocating is a major decision, and unless you’re already very familiar with the area you’d be moving to, flying in for an interview can help you get a better idea of what the area is like.

    Vague “personal reasons” could mean that after considering it more or discussing it with their family, they realized they weren’t comfortable with the move.

    I also think it’s important to remember that people who are actively job hunting might be fielding multiple interviews and offers. The person who accepted a promotion at their old job might have been prepared to take your offer, but then their boss offered them a better deal in order to keep them.

  23. thesoundofmusic*

    One thing I don’t think you mentioned is having a frank discussion about salary. And I mean frank. Before we fly people out, we actually say, based on what we are seeing on your resume, we think an offer to you would fall between X and Y,and here’s why. if they ask, we tell them we would consider re-evaluating that range provided you can give us more insight into your KSA to justify a higher salary,and here’s what we would have to see. Are you still interested knowing that the offer is likely to fall within the range I quoted?

    We do that especially when the advertised range is wide–because almost every candidate thinks they can negotiate an offer at the top end of the range, regardless of their experience. It has really helped us. Every candidate I have ever talked to has appreciated it, and it’s been better received than you might imagine, even if the candidate backs out because of it. And we have had a lot of successful hires.

    1. Sara*

      As well as combining it with standard of living in that area. I once interviewed in DC and they were very up front about how staying at my current salary (which was also their range) would essentially be a pay cut.

    2. Zillah*

      The OP seems to be very up front about salary early in the process – it’s referenced in the letter.

  24. Sara*

    I think when you’re flying people out, the prospect of moving and a new job is a very exciting interview process. When I interviewed out of town, I was thrilled someone finally responded to one of my many applications AND were willing to fly me out to meet me! But I ended up turning it down because after the interview -which went well! And I liked the people and the company – I realized that uprooting my life wasn’t necessarily the best option at the time. My nephew had just been born and even though it was a promotion/raise, the standard of living in that city was higher.

    There are a lot of factors to not accepting a job. It sucks that you put in a lot of time trying to screen these people, but its not always fool-proof. A lot of the big thoughts and decisions don’t come until you have an offer in hand and you need to be practical.

  25. essEss*

    Also think about the impression of the physical work environment. Is the office located in an area where the candidate would feel unsafe – rundown building, dark parking lots, broken lights, etc… versus a place where the employee would feel safe entering/leaving the office? Is it in a place where it is difficult to reach when coming to the office (packed streets, limited/no parking/far away from public transit, if applicable)? What are the other resources/buildings in the neighborhood around the office (any place to go for lunch)? Is the office comfortable (cubes vs open seating vs ‘hoteling’)? Did the current employees that they saw working in the office look happy/smiling/friendly or did everyone look grumpy/miserable? When the candidate arrived, were they greeted and treated as though they were expected? Or did everyone scramble to look for the person they were supposed to interview with and the candidate end up sitting and waiting for a long time past the interview time because they were an afterthought and the person doing the interviewing was busy doing other things? Were the computers/furniture/office resources rundown and out-of-date or are they well-maintained? These are all things that influence final decisions and would not be apparent until a live visit.

  26. Stranger than fiction*

    Once my BF was about to be flown to the northern part of our state but declined before he did so. His reason that he did not share with the corp recruiter? He found out a former coworker of ours worked there in the aame department. This guy, besides being lazy when we worked with him, had mildly sexually harassed me and the company had found oodles or porn on his computer after he was laid off. The recruiter lady was dumbfounded but he didn’t want it to get back to the person and it to become a whole thing, as their industry is one where everyone knows each other.

  27. Data Analyst*

    I think you’re taking this too personally. As to whether people are doing this to scam a free trip, it seems unlikely. Even for the weirdos who enjoy interviewing (weirdos here is said with love), it’s a substantial time commitment that I don’t think many people enter into lightly. Personal anecdote: I was contacted by a recruiter from Amazon and they were talking about an in person interview. I was almost positive I didn’t want to work there, and briefly thought “Hm, I love Seattle, would it be worth it to take the interview just to have a couple days to be out there?” but then realized “wait, no, because I’d have to use PTO and then do the multiple hours of interviewing…NOT worth it!” and while I don’t presume to know everyone’s thought process I figure a lot of people would make that same value calculation.
    Also, the feeling that they should be “as serious about you as you are about them” is a nice thought, but of course it wouldn’t be in someone’s best interest to say “I’m waiting to hear back about Dream Job but I really can’t tell what my chances are, so if they reject me I think I’d be okay with taking this job instead, it seems pretty good”…which, just by the nature of the job hunting process, is going to be the case for a lot of people.

    1. Enya*

      Exactly. I doubt many people would go through with an out of town interview just for a free trip,especially since these trips are usually only a few days. It’s not worth the aggravation. I certainly wouldn’t do it unless I was serious about wanting the job. I can’t think of one person I know who would do such a dishonest thing. I’m sure there are people who would, but I really think they’re in the minority.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I just can’t imagine having the kind of mindset where my first thought would be “They’re not serious job hunters!” or “They’re trying to scam me/us!” rather than “What is wrong with our org/this position that is turning off candidates at the last minute?”

    2. nonegiven*

      My son took the interview. It was the first one he got, he was determined to go where he had to, to get a job. I’m glad he ended up with a job closer. Double his house payment to rent a studio in the other places he interviewed, with at least an hour commute, if not more.

  28. Hamilton*

    Hi OP-when I’ve interviewed for jobs where I’ve had to fly, several organizations have said similar to what you mentioned that I will be reimbursed fully if a) I am not offered the job or b) I am offered the job and accept. They make clear though that if offered the job and I don’t accept, I won’t be reimbursed. This to me doesn’t seem unreasonable, and I’ve always understood from an employer perspective why they do this. I think it’s fair to set something like this up if you’re eating costs you can’t really afford to as an organization.

    1. It's all Fun and Dev*

      I really feel strongly though that this is a bad practice – it’s an incredibly adversarial way to start the employer-employee relationship, not to mention it takes away any negotiating power the candidate might have had. I can’t imagine starting a new job under these circumstances and not feeling somewhat bitter and that my employer doesn’t value me, and it would certainly impact my loyalty to and longevity with that employer.

      1. Cranky Dude*

        Agreed. Very early in her career my wife interviewed in Seattle at a private school, and they had the same policy. We had been talking about moving out that way (from the East Coast), and given our young ages and inexperience, the policy didn’t ring any alarm bells. Then we visited, talked with a real estate agent, and I talked with some potential employers, and we realized it would be very difficult financially to make this move (and we had no idea what sort of salary package she would be offered.) So I guess it was lucky that she didn’t receive an offer, and got all our interview travel expenses reimbursed.

    2. Recruit-o-rama*

      I fly people around the country for interviews all the time. Sometimes they say no, sometimes we do, sometimes it just doesn’t work out, we always reimburse. This is the cost of doing business. This is a horrible idea. Full stop

    3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      Even though this might be a prohibitive cost for a candidate that is between jobs, or terribly underpaid in their current position? Sounds like an excellent way to drive off people who might be perfect for your org, but can’t chance taking that kind of financial hit on a tight budget.
      It also sounds like something that, ethically, is only a step or two away from coercion or blackmail.

  29. David*

    I’m going to echo a lot of what is being said here – Just as you as an employer have the right to not offer a job to a candidate for whatever (non-protected) reason, candidates have the right to turn down offers.

    [As an aside, I hear organizations/people complain that candidates are “entitled,” but this kind of sounds like the employer is acting the same way – “we flew you out here on our dime so we expect you to take our job”]

    I think it is very reasonable for candidates to change their minds once they fly out and meet everyone in person and see the area. Interviewing should be a two way street and candidates do not have all of the data to make the decision until they have an offer in hand, especially if there is relocation involved.

    It is also possible that candidates are also interviewing elsewhere and they got a “better offer.”

    There’s also the uncertainty with moving to a new locale and if the job is going to work out in the long run (i.e. risk).

    I would also like to point out that it is likely that you don’t offer everyone that you fly out gets a job either. They have a “cost” to show up at the interview as well – time off from work, time away from home so special arrangements have to be made, etc. so the employer isn’t the only one with skin in the game.

    You and your company may give specific and timely feedback as to why a candidate didn’t get the job, but remember other companies do not.

    I guess my point is that this is par for the course and the cost of doing business – you’re going to do things and spend money on stuff that does not pan out.

  30. JamieS*

    I’m curious why OP said they thought they were intentionally used/misled. Was that just frustration talking or were there specific details, other than the vague reason, that led to that conclusion?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah. sometimes it’s hard not to go to a negative place in our heads and we get there quickly.

      I think the tie into a moral or ethical question is a stretch. Yep, it would be wrong for them to waste your company’s time and money. Okay so we have that as an established truth, now what? They have made an ethical or moral mistake, what happens next?
      Nothing happens next. Additionally making this judgement does not help you going forward to find a successful candidate.
      Sometimes in frustration we can end up on a dead end road. It’s not helpful to know if people were unethical. What you need is an employee, not a judgement on someone’s scruples. I know, I have done this myself, I can get caught on something that has no ability to give me better results from what I have been getting.

      I do have a tip to share. You can tell a lot about a person by the questions they think of to ask and what they think of to mention to you. “I just happened to notice that your x’s and y’s are not done yet. I wanted to be sure you know I am very familiar with the x and y processing and I can get you caught up on that.” This is a thinking person’s comment. They are processing all that they see and they are picturing themselves as employees.
      People who are just wasting time cannot sustain this level of thinking, they run out of ideas quickly because they were never invested to begin with.
      You are saying these people were enthusiastic, I believe you. And I would like to encourage you to believe them when they say the cannot accept for personal reasons. You know, you may what to change that question or add a question like, “If you could recommend one change to your interview process what would that change be?” Your answers might be surprising, “the real estate person showed us houses that were way above what we could afford on the salary you are offering.” yikes. But other answers may be pure gold, “I don’t know why it never came up on the phone but I really cannot handle the 14 hour work days that are required here.” People might be willing to talk about the interview process itself when they are not willing to talk about their personal reasons.

  31. TootsNYC*

    I wonder if the real problem is that you are getting such a vague response, and that’s it is unsatisfying AND the vagueness feels like its a betrayal of an unspoken agreement.

    If they said, “Now that I’ve seen Your City, I don’t think it will work for my family,” that would be one thing.

    If they don’t like something about the people or culture, they could say “it won’t be a good fit.”

    But maybe they don’t want to give reasons that you can argue with.

    They cant say salary, benefits, etc., even if those turn out to be part of the underlying reason (we usually don’t suggest negotiating salary until after you have an actual offer).

    So, just as a job candidate could, you could reach out later and say, “is there anything you could share with me that might make us a more appealing employer?” (Someone upstream mentioned this too)

    1. OP*

      This is pretty much exactly how I’ve been phrasing it: “is there any feedback you’d be willing to share about what factored into your decision? Your insight would be invaluable as we continue to recruit for this position.” I’ve never tried to argue with a candidate who turned down an offer, either — just ask them to share whatever feedback they feel comfortable sharing. That’s all. I wrote in in a moment of frustration and now I’m wishing I hadn’t bothered.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey, if you’re finding the comments frustrating, there’s no requirement that you participate in them! We always appreciate it when someone does, but this is supposed to be useful for you. If the comments aren’t, you can just read the original post (or not even that, for that matter!) and not engage in the comments. I don’t want you to be frustrated by the site.

        1. Observer*

          I agree with you, Allison, but if I was an employee at the OP’s company, these comments and reactions have been very enlightening. Not trying to pile on, but man, I would not like knowing how much personal feels and moments of frustration play into HR’s thought processes, regardless of how many of those thoughts end up turning into actions. I wonder if OP could use this to reflect if they themselves are in the right career? HR is a tough job that becomes even tougher when you carry personal attachments to people or notions.

          1. Observer (1)*

            Hello – it looks like there are two of us here today.

            I’ve been using this name for a while, and posted several times on this one before seeing this.

            I’d just like anyone who is reading this to know that there are actually two of us. I’ll be using a differentiator for the rest of my posts.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Good. I am not crazy. I thought your writing “sounded” different and I was trying to figure out why.
              You have a particular way of saying things and you use that way all the time. (I want to be sure you know I mean that as a compliment.)

              OTH, I am amazed that we don’t have more people picking random names and finding the name already in use. There are quite a few people who comment here regularly.

      2. Nesprin*

        In all fairness, your candidates may not be able to comfortably articulate what led them to say no, and especially not to you on the phone.
        I’ve turned down offers when I got weird vibes that I’m not sure I could put into words. Like, the recruiter was pushing filling the position with any warm body, instead of finding a good fit or my prospective coworkers were all a little weird or my prospective manager tried to look down my shirt, or the physical location was in a weird location, or the ratio of churches to restaurants in the neighborhood was not something I could cope with.

      3. Observer (1)*

        Shrug. As Allison says, you do not HAVE to read the comments. But, I do think that you’ve gotten some good feedback that you should seriously consider.

        It’s TOTALLY your choice, though.

      4. Safetykats*

        OP, I don’t know how much interaction candidates have with you face-to-face during their trip. You might have better luck getting honest feedback from someone with whom they spent more time – and also perhaps from someone perceived as being less involved in the hiring process or decision making. I always set on-site interviewees up with a peer level contact – someone they are more likely to feel they can talk to without being judged. It can be astonishing what they will say to someone they think is not involved in the decision. If you’re not getting candid and honest feedback from your candidates, I would try going after that feedback a little less formally, and via someone they may feel like they have a bit of a relationship with.

      5. Washi*

        For the record, I totally understand your frustration! It’s annoying when you’ve done all the right things and a candidate turns down your offer with a vague answer and doesn’t want to give feedback. It’s annoying when you write a detailed letter into AAM and you feel like some of the commenters aren’t taking you at your word or reading your letter carefully.

        I’m wondering if you’re a bit of a perfectionist? I definitely am, and I can see myself in a lot of your responses in wanting to control every variable and therefore control the outcome. It’s something that’s hard to let go of because I feel like my intense attention to detail is part of what makes me good at my job and what makes me…me. But at some point I realized that the constant pursuit of perfection was actually hurting me, that I was over-identifying with outcomes such that any work failure = I am a failure, any flaw in my process = I am flawed. And I didn’t want to live like that. Now I work on doing a good enough job, and then letting go. The result is that I feel less defensive and actually feel more competent, not less!

      6. Cheryl Blossom*

        I think you’re expecting people to be more up-front about their reasons than a lot of them feel comfortable with. Vague “personal reason” might be all I’m willing to offer to an employer for why I’m turning them down. It doesn’t mean it’s personal or that I’m scamming them; it means that I don’t want to go in-depth about my family situation, my finances, whatever. I’m deeply private and I would totally not want to tell an employer that I’m not going to move because it would be too hard on my cat, or whatever.

      7. CM*

        Hi OP, you mentioned that you were going to ask for more feedback from candidates, and I wonder if you’d get better responses if you were more specific and candid and said, “Since interviewing is a big investment of time and money for us, we try to only fly out candidates who we’re very serious about and are very serious about us. So of course, it’s disappointing when someone we’re excited about turns down our offer. I’m trying to improve our hiring processes. Do you have any advice for how we could have managed this process better? Is there anything that you wish you had known or that would have affected your decision before you flew out to interview?”

  32. Oxford Coma*

    Occam’s Razor, OP. If you have an abnormally high number of refusals, is it more likely that your candidates wanted a free vacation, or that your salary and benefits are crap?

    I don’t think you’ve hit a “high number of refusals” yet, but bear it in mind.

    1. OP*

      A significant investment has been made in bringing our salaries/benefits to a point where they are in line (or even better) than industry standard.

      1. JessaB*

        The issue here though is industry standard may not be enough to live the way the prospective employee wants to. The recent past has been very hospitable to employers because of high unemployment, that’s no longer the case, but I don’t see salaries have picked up because of it. And yes people should be paid by industry standards, but that also has to be adjusted for where you live. Industry standard could be 10k less than they need to get an apartment where you are.

        The advice is not to tell prospective employers that “Look I need x a month to pay my rent and my car and my kid’s school and my food,” because that’s not the calculus the company is making. But it partly needs to be. If industry standard isn’t a living wage where your company is, people who can’t afford it, aren’t going to accept the job.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          There are many industries where “industry standard” is not a desirable rate of pay, it won’t attract great candidates.

    2. Dee*

      That second part’s a big leap. As Alison and commenters pointed out, there are so many reasons that a candidate might end up turning down an offer.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        It may not be the case, but it’s a far more likely scenario than “all these seemingly interested/qualified candidates just took advantage of our interview process for a free trip”. It’s definitely something the OP here might want to consider in depth *before* assuming malicious intent on the part of interviewees. I’m guessing this is what the poster was trying to point out.

    3. Safetykats*

      I don’t think a 25% success rate in a competitive field constitutes an abnormally high rate of refusal. Quite the contrary.

  33. Observer*

    Why is it ok for you to fly someone in make them take the time and expense (yes, there is an expense, even if you pay for the hotel and flight) etc. and then decide that you are not going to make an offer, but it’s not ok for them to turn you down?

    To be very honest, if this attitude is coming through, that might be a reason why you are getting turned down. Do you REALLY think that people of the caliber you are recruiting are going to use you to get a free trip where they can squeeze in an hour or two of sightseeing?

    If you decide to make payment of interview costs contingent on acceptance of your offer, you can be sure that you will be cutting your potential talent pool down significantly. Most prospects will read this, correctly, imo, as a red flag.

    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      “Do you REALLY think that people of the caliber you are recruiting are going to use you to get a free trip where they can squeeze in an hour or two of sightseeing?”


  34. Jar*

    I don’t understand why OP is assuming that both candidates had no intention of accepting the job and were only looking for a trip … what exactly is this based on? At this point, the candidates have invested hours and hours in the opportunity, for nothing really. OP, perhaps you need to examine your recruiting methods, determine if you’re targeting the ‘right’ person and take a look at your organization and how it is coming across – something is a turnoff here. OP’s expectations may be off here. Is it the location? The culture? The offer? The team? It seems that you have competition for the resources you are seeking.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        That’s too bad — I hope you can get some value from Alison’s advice and commenters’ reflections.

      2. SoCalHR*

        OP – no one knows who you are personally – if some of these comments seem harsh to the reality of the situation, that’s fine. Just assess them objectively and write them off as inapplicable. In reality though, there may be organizations out there with the same questions that these comments actually apply to, so you are helping them. I encourage you to not be “regretful” given that the post is still helpful overall. :)

      3. SoCalHR*

        Also, I don’t think you need to feel personally defensive and respond to every comment to justify yourself.

      4. Mb13*

        Why? Becaus some of your bad attitude that you presented in the letter is being called out?

        No one here knows you, or know how you acted during the interviews/hiring process. People here want to help and all we have to go off is what you wrote in your letter and our own personal experince. Its not surprising that a lot of people have noticed you bad attitude and are pointing it out as a possible reason. But also people are pointing out other very likely reasons why the candidates rejected you.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          And the bad attitude is getting doubled down on in the comments.
          If even the tiniest whiff of the attitude/entitlement that is showing here is coming across to interview candidates, I can absolutely understand why applicants are running for the hills.

          1. EchoChamber*

            These comments seem awfully unkind. OP admitted they were frustrated when they wrote to Allison, and I can see how they’d be frustrated now reading a bunch of comments that reiterate what Allison already said but in a much less pleasant tone. I’ve also noticed a lot of people say “and not to pile on…” and then proceed to pile on. So I think there’s room for you both to be a bit more understanding with your comments.

      5. serenity*

        You are really being petty here, and it sounds like it’s because you’re not hearing what you wanted to hear.

  35. Bend & Snap*

    One of my Facebook friends recently posted a question: Can I ask to go Dutch after a date when the woman turns down an offer of a second date?

    Which reminds me of this. You’re investing to find the best candidate, not giving people a perk with strings. Same thing with the date example. Paying for a date doesn’t obligate the other person for anything.

    Incidentally, the question-asker unfriended me after I expressed that opinion.

  36. lost academic*

    What lots of people have said, but to add:

    1) Two is very small even if it’s been from two searches.
    2) They ARE interviewing you. Something about the interview/process/job/etc made them say no. Some of that may be in your control and you can follow up with them to find more why.
    3) I see you were very frustrated, but it seems to be coming out in a bad way – especially with professionals, finding the TIME to take a weekend and a workday to interview is serious! Your comments make me think you immediately jumped from “this is the person we want!” to “they’re just scamming me for a free trip to MyCity!”. You may need to unpack a little why you’re feeling that way, or if it already hasn’t, it’s going to be obvious to your applicant pool, which will not help matters.
    4) I often interview people who already have jobs, and I’ve been that person too. I am serious in every way if I go to any in person interview, but that doesn’t mean you can make me an offer I will accept – and I can’t make that decision till I get it. That’s the nature of hiring good people.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      re: #2: Right! The OP’s focus should be on figuring out what is going on between the phone screen and the offer that’s turning applicants off, rather than on figuring out ways to crack down on applicants who may not be taking the process as seriously as she hopes.

    2. OP*

      1.) It’s now three, up from two since I first wrote in.
      2.) Yes, this is the tone I set when I start the interview day with them — I want them to make the right choice. I have also tried to follow up to find out particulars, and at least one candidate was forthcoming with me about the reasons they declined the offer — and those reasons had nothing to do with us.
      3.) I wrote in in a moment of frustration — and it was before I had information about why the (two at the time) candidates had turned us down. I wish I had never clicked “send.”
      4.) I understand this completely — but for myself, I just won’t go that far in an interview process unless I’m at least reasonably certain I would accept an offer if one came. But that’s just me — “reasonably certain” looks different for everyone, and I get that.

      1. Observer (1)*

        And even “reasonably certain” doesn’t mean “Definitely will take the job no matter what happens.”

        Also, in the case of the one who had a job change after they turned you down, that is absolutely NOT an indicator that they were not “reasonably certain” they would take the job. There are a lot of ways this could have played out.

        The first one that came to my mind was a variation of a scenario that gets discussed here a lot. Some companies put a lot of roadblocks in the way of people rising and / or moving around within the organization. In some cases, it’s the case of one manager who won’t “let” an employee be moved into another department. As is generally noted here when that kind of thing comes up, that’s a recipe for someone looking elsewhere. So, if your candidate had been told “We don’t do moves without the permission of your current manager, who is not going to let you move because they need you too much.” they may have decided that it’s time for them to start seriously job hunting. And, then your offer came, which looked really good and which they might have been expecting to accept. Except that they mentioned it to someone in the org, who decided that “This is stupid. Either we keep Candidate in SOME capacity and retain his talent, most of our investment and all of his institutional knowledge of we lose him – no option to stay with Manager.” and made a counter offer happen.

        1. It's all Fun and Dev*

          I agree – “reasonably certain I’d take the job” doesn’t mean “there is no offer they can make I wouldn’t accept”. It’s possible that their salary calculation changed as they learned more about the role/team/org/location, and the offer came in so much lower they didn’t expect to be able to negotiate up to where they’d need to be.

          After all, final candidates are usually ones the hiring manager is “reasonably certain” would be a good choice, but under no circumstances does that mean they will 100% definitely hire the candidate. A final interview is just that, an interview.

      2. Naruto*

        It’s possible that even though they’re making it sound like it’s something on their end, it’s actually something on your end — at least as one factor among many. The less badly they want this particular job, the more any countervailing factors will weigh in their decision-making process.

        1. It's all Fun and Dev*

          That’s a good point. And conversely, the more they want to work with your org, the less weight they will put on any negatives. Sometimes that’s good – you get the candidate you want, yay! – but sometimes it leads to a candidate taking a job that ends up being a poor fit. OP, I think as long as you are doing your best to be honest and transparent about both the pros and cons of the specific role and the organization in general, and allowing them time to get a real feel for the city they’d be moving to, you are doing everything you can to make sure you get not just A candidate, but THE BEST candidate for your team.

      3. Safetykats*

        OP, this is a good piece of information. I think a lot of candidates approach onsite interviewing very differently than you think. You sound like you’re saying you wouldn’t even accept an onsite interview unless you were very certain you would take the job. But part of the point of onsite interviews is to figure out the reality of the location and the people. I’m likely to take an interview trip because I have a high interest in the job – but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever boarded a plane thinking “I am definitely taking this job if I get an offer.” And I have turned down offers after an interview trip – simply because the location or office culture turned out to be something I decided wasn’t likely to work for me.

        I understand your frustration, especially considering your thought process about onsite interviews. But honestly, I think your assumption that accepting the trip means they are very likely to accept the job is just incorrect. I think that accepting the trip means they are interested enough to consider uprooting their life and moving to an area that may be very different from their previous experience. And that is a high level of interest – but it’s far from a commitment, if only because moving is hard for a lot of people.

        (Full disclosure, I moved a lot in my 20s and 30s and always viewed it as a big adventure. Now that I’m married, it would take a lot more to convince me to do it again.)

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Re: Your last paragraph

          Same, only mine had a lot to do with the instability of severe undiagnosed ADHD. I don’t ever want to have to move again.

      4. Lora*

        Oh, whoa, this: ” I just won’t go that far in an interview process unless I’m at least reasonably certain I would accept an offer if one came” is not typical.

        OP, most experienced people I know approach any interviews as “well, it sounds okay, let’s see how it goes.” They are deeply suspicious of anything that sounds good, knowing that every job has drawbacks.

        I really think you need to dial back your expectations on this point.

      5. lost academic*

        I understand, and you’ve been very patient on these comments making sure people realize where you were coming from – there’s nothing wrong with being frustrated because it means you have to in some cases start the entire process over again and that’s a lot of work! But we’re all trying to make sure that you get a message of not jumping to conclusions that aren’t accurate for the population at hand.

        I think especially on (4): I don’t know how far you are into your career or how many lateral moves you’ve made, but there’s a big difference to me to how many people approach opportunities based on where they are. It’s much harder to make a decision when you’re leaving one situation to take another because it’s a lot of “bird in the hand” weighing, and that’s before you mix in family and a spouse’s career and relocation. You also just can’t appropriately weigh anything till that offer comes in because it’s just way too premature and you can spend a ton of time on what’ifs. Until you’ve made me an offer, it’s all about “do I want to continue the conversation with you”.

      6. einahpets*

        On point #4 — you mentioned the stages, but how big is your interview process before the in-person interview?

        What I’ve typically experienced is a 30 minute call with HR to screen me and a 30-45 minute call with the hiring manager, before be invited to interview. In both of those, I’m typically reciting my recent job history, answering technical questions, and maybe getting a chance to ask a few questions about the position. But it isn’t enough time for me to be certain I want to take the job — I need to meet more of the team I’d be working with, find out how the team works together, etc.

        If you are frustrated / worried that people are coming out not knowing if they want three position or not, have you considered other ways to beef up the interview process beforehand, like a panel phone interview or Skype? I’m not saying that will guarantee that someone will accept if they make it to that part of the process, but it might help?

      7. Close Bracket*

        > I just won’t go that far in an interview process unless I’m at least reasonably certain I would accept an offer if one came.

        Here is another perspective:

        I almost always have to travel for my interviews bc I am in a specialized field. Before I get to the in person interview, all I’ve had to go on is one half hour phone interview where I didn’t get to ask any questions. I can’t possibly be certain to any degree that I would accept an offer based off that! I need that full day interview where I see the facility and meet my team members and management.

        Another thing to keep in mind, and this is going to sound hostile, but it’s not, it’s just blunt: everyone is not you. You can’t expect other people to approach things the way you do bc they are not you. Some of them will have an approach similar to yours, some of them will not. That’s just part of dealing with other humans.

        I hope you fill your position.

      8. Cheryl Blossom*

        I could be “reasonably certain” I’m going to accept an offer, and still get turned off because I don’t think the company culture is a good fit, or that I would like living in a particular city, or just because I got an offer somewhere else.

      9. Us, Too*

        I think your issue is #4. I have relocated for jobs multiple times (across country) and interviewed even more times. I don’t think of it this way at all. If there is even a REMOTE chance I would take the job, I go to the interview. Why? Because the only way to really gauge my interest is to do so in person. And I’ll give a few examples. When I was interviewing for my current job, I was also being recruited for another one. Both companies were very high profile in my field and huge “resume-builder” type companies. But I strongly preferred one (on paper) to the other because it was in a cheaper location that seemed more family-friendly and the job itself seemed to be higher opportunity. So, imagine my shock when I get to the “preferred” location and I absolutely hated it. Things about that area that I could Google seemed to manifest differently in person. Anyway, I figured I’d give the interview a chance since the job itself was so amazing sounding and the company was awesome on paper, too. So I get to the interview and REALLY, REALLY don’t like the people I talked with. I saw HUGE red flags all over the place. For example, several people I talked to had left the company and then come back and when I asked one person why his response was “Well, I guess it’s mostly because I needed the money.” I AM NOT JOKING. THESE WERE HIS ACTUAL WORDS. Sure, we all need money to live, but is this the best you can do in an interview? UGH. There were other issues as well. And to add insult to injury the job itself was NOT what I thought it was. As I left I decided to call the recruiter on Monday and withdraw my candidacy. As it happens, they called me and we parted ways mutually. Clearly a poor fit in both directions. :)

        Contrast that to the job I thought wouldn’t be as good a fit. It turns out I really loved the people I talked to, the company’s benefits were FANTASTIC, the weather was amazing even in winter and the job itself was a high opportunity one. So I ended up accepting it when they made an offer.

        But all this is totally different than what I would have predicted on paper. I had to go to see.

        (Note: I have turned down dozens of preliminary inquiries by recruiters if I knew I’d turn them down. But if there’s a chance… I talk to them.)

  37. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    It seems so unlikely to me that folks would go through with an interview just to get a couple of days in your city, no matter how lovely it is. I’d try to let go of any resentment over that relatively implausible scenario and see if that helps with your frustration in general.

  38. Bea*

    If someone is looking for a new job, they are often in many ponds and interviewing multiple places. I had offers take too long to come back and I was unable to accept because life has changed over the course of time. What may be a reasonable time to you isn’t the same for others. You have a lot of people involved in the decision making, you must have some time during which someone gets offered a promotion, raise, their partner gets sent to another office or decides they hate your city, a pregnancy test comes up positive and moving away from family is a huge burden suddenly. So many things happen between an interview and an offer, it’s not personal or using a company for a vacation.

    When I was relocating I didn’t get to do anything around the city, it certainly wasn’t a vacation since I was chest deep in interview mode anxiety. I went from my last interview to my hotel and crashed until I woke up and went back home the next day.

    Also I find it telling that you think City is so fantastic and perfect…but it’s not their home. I can think of multiple cities that are “wonderful” to millions that I visited and never wanted a thing to do with afterwards. I still count my blessings my job transfer to SoCal fell through over a decade ago.

    1. einahpets*

      Yeah, in my recent search I got to finally cancel an interview with one company that took over a month to schedule an in person interview with me, after asking for my availability for the next week every week, for the whole month.

      I had an awesome offer in hand from another company.

      Dragging out the process with someone you say you want to interview? It tells me that you are either interviewing other candidates (and I’m a back-up) or that filling this position (and providing support to the new employee when hired) is not a priority.

    2. Cheryl Blossom*

      Also I find it telling that you think City is so fantastic and perfect…but it’s not their home. I can think of multiple cities that are “wonderful” to millions that I visited and never wanted a thing to do with afterwards. I still count my blessings my job transfer to SoCal fell through over a decade ago.

      THIS. The city I live in is considered undesirable by a lot of people, but I love it. OTOH, while lots of people and companies might tell me their cities are super great, I might not find the city’s culture to be a good fit for me, personally.

    3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      Ha! I live in SoCal, and I love it but I grew up here so it’s a lot different- I’m very used to it. But I know it’s not for everyone!

  39. Kate*

    As someone who does a LOT of this kind of hiring, this is just part of the deal when you are conducting a nation or international search.

    9/10, if you have come this far and the candidates cite personal reasons for declining, it’s because their spouse got cold feet about moving when an offer actually turned up.

    1. Christi*

      My husband is currently interviewing for a position in one of those “diverse fabulous cities” that also comes with an insanely high cost of living. I am really, really not excited about a potential move.

    2. Wheezy Weasel*

      Yes. My wife and have vastly different communication styles. I like to talk things over and game-plan them in my head. She only wants to deal with certainties. At her request, I will not discuss any job offers with her until I actually have an offer in hand. This is imperfectly aligned to my communication style and may someday inconvenience an employer, but I rather like staying married :)

  40. Plensonymous*

    The comment above about the ill-advised tour of area churches, and then a synagogue, made me think of this: I’m sure you trust the real estate person you are working with, but as you are being reflexive about your hiring practices, you may also want to check in on how/what your agent is representing as the state of your business and the nature of the area. I was once on a real estate tour while considering a faculty position at a large university and the agent let loose on all kinds of gossip about the dept I was interviewing in, which raised tons of red flags for me. I’ve also heard peers talk about real estate agents who were trying to pry too much info out of candidates (some of which you would probably give a real estate agent if you were actually buying, but don’t want to give while you are on an interview–marital status, kids, religion, etc.), and others for whom the real estate agent’s heteronormative, cisgendered, Christian, racist assumptions offended and completely turned the candidate off (and which they took as representative of the entire area, which was sort of true of the larger state, but not of the city in which the job was situated). In other words, make sure you are using an agent who will accurately represent your company and area. If you happen to be targeting folks who are coming from a more diverse area than the city you are in (or vice versa), this could be a real issue just in general–candidates might already be coming in wary based on what they know of the area. Of course, if it’s the reality in your area that its not diverse and not welcoming, I wouldn’t try to hide that. All this to say, a real estate tour can be really nice for candidates, but it has the potential to seriously backfire, so I’d be very careful that you trust the agent who is representing you and it might be worth double-checking that your practices are all as you would like them to be on that point.

    1. Lora*

      Yeah, similar thing happened to me in RTP.

      Just as well, really, they closed the plant within two years of opening it. Partly because they couldn’t get staff…

    2. JessaB*

      OH yeh, I never thought about it but the outside contractors could be saying things that you have no control over. Maybe you might want to find a ringer that you are “interviewing,” and send them on the tour as if they’re from out of town (sort of like a secret shopper on your outside vendors.) You might find out some important stuff. That they’re either saying or NOT saying that would change people’s minds. I mean they could have specific ideas about what makes a good living area or what good things to do are that just don’t turn on the prospective employee.

      The bit about the “oh and we have a synagogue,” comes to mind. Or unintentional redlining when showing places to live, in either direction, either too cheap or too dear.

    3. C.*

      This happened to some people I know while summer associate-ing at a firm. They went on a real estate tour and everything they were being shown was houses they could never afford on a first (or even fifth) year associate salary. Even though the firm has a really great reputation and they really liked it, it left such a bad taste in their mouths. I know someone mentioned it to the hiring manager and they didn’t do it again the next year.

  41. Irene Adler*

    Just a thought: have you checked into what your on-line presence looks like to these candidates? Maybe you have negative Glassdoor reviews that are turning folks off?

  42. Peter*

    The only time I have been interviewed for jobs and turned them down, it’s because they had a long recruitment process and I ended up getting another tempting offer by the time they reached a decision. I wonder if that happened in one or both of the cases described above.

    I might well have taken the offers over the job I accepted, so it definitely wasn’t lack of enthusiasm. It’s entirely “The other firm has taken a while, so the chances are I’m not interested and in any case I can’t turn down an actual offer for a job I really want in favour of a potential one”.

  43. nnn*

    I don’t know if this has been covered already, but can the work be done remotely, so people don’t have to relocate?

    Also, depending on the nature of your geographical area, even work that can be done mostly remotely but requires only an occasional in-person presence might make the job more attractive. For example, if better/more affordable housing is an hour’s commute away from the office, that might make the job unattractive if you have to go to the office every day, but not if you only have to go to the office once a month.

  44. a different Vicki*

    “Personal reasons” can cover a lot of things that they wouldn’t bother to be specific about, like “my spouse’s promotion at her company in our home city came through while I was interviewing with you” and “when I talked to my parents about the move, they admitted that the trip to your city would make it very hard for them to visit.”

    That’s in addition to things that they might think aren’t your business, or don’t want to have talked about (like relationships other than a monogamous heterosexual marriage, or a partner’s chronic medical issues).

  45. Naruto*

    I’m never going to tell a job that I might or might not want anything to indicate lack of interest until I’m certain I don’t want the job — at which point, if I don’t want it, I’ll reject the offer or withdraw my application. But if I act like I don’t want the job before I’ve made up my mind, that’s going to sabotage me and I expect the employer will decide it doesn’t want to hire me, instead.

    Job interviews aren’t fun. No one is flying out to San Francisco for a night, with a job interview the next day, in order to get a free “vacation.”

    I think what’s probably happening is that you’re interviewing people who are seriously interested in the job. Then, later, after they’ve had time to collect more information, they decide it’s not the right fit for them. That could be because of issues on your end, or it could be because of circumstances on their end that having nothing to do with your company.

    Basically I think you just really need to reset your expectations.

  46. Stellaaaaa*

    Another thought: how are the schools in your city? People won’t want to uproot their families and move to a city where the public schools aren’t great, and people without kids may be reluctant to invest in real estate when they know they’ll have to move/get a new job once they’re ready for kids.

    I see that this has already been asked, but it’s worth asking again. I live near a small city that gets a lot of national coverage for being up-and-coming, artsy, vibrant, etc….but then the local business owners wonder why no one’s buying their real estate. It’s because people who can afford those townhouses aren’t going to buy in a city where they can’t send their kids to school. Additionally, the highly praised vibrant nightlife isn’t actually awesome if you’re a working professional who doesn’t want to hear drunk “artists” wandering around and yelling every night.

    Sooo….yeah, this is another comment wondering if your realtor is emphasizing the correct things, or if your salary range justifies this kind of move to someone who’s old enough to have accumulated the experience you’re looking for.

  47. J.B.*

    OP – you seem pretty frustrated by the comments. I know that things tend to be repetitive but think that most of what has been said is pretty reasonable – relocation is tough, the interview needs to go both ways, etc. I’m wondering how big of a factor your city is – sort of sounds like it might be a well sought after area, what about the cost of living? (My husband was super enthused about a job in Portland. I strongly discouraged it due to distance from family, and the income would need to be a lot more than where we currently live for the same standard of living.)

    I wonder if you might benefit from hiring an outside search firm. Not forever, but they might help you work through this a time or two. And maybe the new hire you’ve made would have some ideas as well about what the pluses and minuses are.

  48. Brooke H*

    OP, I’m sorry you are struggling with this! I am in the middle of a job search that is requiring a national search and I’m very stressed out and exhausted by the travel and preparation for interviews where I know there are several awesome candidates, and that I am taking days off of work that may not result in an offer or an offer that ultimately works for me. I think sometimes people realize staying where they are might be the best for them.

    Don’t give up, the right candidate is out there, and if someone turned down an offer, they likely realized they were not the right fit, and you don’t want an unhappy employee. If there is anything to change on your end, certainly reflect on that and go for it; but you want to find the best fit possible so don’t change practices that you think show your office accurately. (I’d love a housing tour on interviews and have not had that at all).

  49. Lina*

    That lady spent more time writing a letter expressing she had no time to fill out a reference questionnaire than she would have if she just filled out the questionnaire.

      1. nonegiven*

        There was a letter about being a reference for someone and instead of a 10 minute phone call the company sent a link to an online reference questionnaire to fill out and they weren’t sure they had time for that. “I don’t want to do Toastmasters with my boss!” It was revisiting questions and answers from Allison’s archives at Inc. It was the post right above this one.

  50. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    I was one of those candidates interviewing long distance. I turned down an offer because during the interview, they were relentless about talking about opportunities for advancement – and I didn’t want that. My career path wasn’t that direction, and I knew it. Turns out that they liked me BECAUSE I wasn’t hyper-competitive, and they thought I would fit in very nicely with the rest of team, some of whom were much more ambitious. But during that whole interview process, while they were getting the sense that I didn’t want to go that direction, they never changed the focus to discuss the other side, where I could stay in the technical, non-mgmt role where I was happiest.

    1. JessaB*

      Talk about stupidly sending the wrong message to a candidate. Geez they missed the mark on that one. And it’s easy to do. You get stuck in a mindset and don’t realise that you need to change gears and that maybe you and the candidate might be really happy together.

  51. KG, Ph.D.*

    This a bit off-topic, but it’s always interesting to see how things vary from field to field. In academia, all faculty positions are subject to a national search, and it’s the norm to fly out ~3 candidates for separate, day-long, on-campus interviews. It’s also not uncommon for your top choice to turn down your offer after receiving a more appealing offer elsewhere. I helped with a faculty search last year where this happened; we flew a candidate out from the east coast for a campus visit at our west coast university, and he had several other interviews in similarly far-flung locales. He ended up turning down our offer, and we were a bit bummed, but our second choice was excellent as well, so we went with her (and she’s fantastic to work with so far!). Again, I realize that national searches and flying people out for interviews is not the norm in all industries, but if you ARE doing that, you need to be comfortable with the idea that your candidates might turn you down.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Amen to that. My partner will go on the job market next year and we’ve watched a bunch of our friends go through the process. Many of their interviews have involved partner travel as well. I’m going to remember this thread if my partner starts with, “But… they flew me out, they took us to dinner, they really seem to like me, so…” Nope. All par for the course.

  52. Tina Belcher*

    “we’re in a diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate”
    “anyone who interviews with us in person is connected with a relocation firm, offered a real estate tour with a local realtor, etc”

    Have you considered evaluating your city through the eyes of someone…not from your city, who’s not in love with the area?

    Everyone I know who’s from San Francisco LOVES San Francisco, for example. It is a great city! But when I lived there, I was friends with a lot of transplants, who all quickly noted that we paid less to live in similar cities (NYC, Boston, etc,) with far less crime, better mass transit, and cheaper housing. Is there anything like that going on in your city? Something that the locals are used to, but might be off-putting to transplants?

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is a really good point. I know several people who live in Chicago and LOVE IT. I know even more people who have visited Chicago and come away saying they with never, ever, ever live there.

    2. Epiphyta*

      My brother’s in the Triangle, my sister’s in DFW, and I’m outside Seattle. We’re all happy where we are, and delighted to visit one another, but by the end of it we each head to the airport going “Nope nope nopety nope”.

    3. Us, Too*

      OMG, yes to this! I live in the Bay Area now and there’s a lot of amazing things about it. But there’s a lot of stuff that is just unbelievably screwed up as well. I’m pretty candid with out-of-the-area candidates I speak to who ask me about it. It’s hard to explain to someone not from here what it’s like here. It’s just… DIFFERENT. REALLY, REALLY different – and I’ve worked in tech the majority of my career.

    4. Political staffer*

      Climate is a subjective term. I know people who would LOVE to live in Miami year round and love the sun. But then there’s people like me who hate summer weather. If someone tried to sell me on a position in Miami based on the weather, I wouldn’t even apply for it.

      Nice weather to you is not necessarily nice for someone else. (Says the winter person).

  53. Bookworm*

    Honestly, LW, you need to chill. Moving can be a huge thing for a candidate. I interviewed for two jobs in the last month that would have required out of state moves. I was reluctant because they would be to places where I’d have no or only tenuous ties. What if the job didn’t work out? What if I found I really hated the area? What if I found I was not a match for the climate? What if I have family obligations or ties to where I am currently located that can’t be easily transferred or ended or changed?

    I respect the frustration and the effort spent in investing (as a candidate I’d be doing my own version of that investment) but there are plenty of reasons why these candidates may not have wanted to accept the offer. As others have said, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you. Don’t take this too personally.

  54. Editrix*

    Speaking as one of the “personal reasons” that an offer exactly like these was rejected once upon a time, I can tell you what happened from my perspective: My husband was heavily pursued for a good job at a good company in a city across the country that we’d heard fantastic things about but had never visited. We paid out of pocket for me to fly out with him for the interview, because we knew that my opinion of moving there would be as much a factor as his, and that it couldn’t be a one-way decision. The company put us up in a great hotel, gave a great interview, and then sent us out on the town with someone from the company to show us around. She asked us what we were interested in, and then proceeded to show us… the opposite of all that. Like, *really* the opposite. Everything she took us to see was terribly tone-deaf to what we’d expressed interest in, seasonally inappropriate (it was the dead of winter and we’d said we were happy “indoors” types who were excited about the bookstore culture there… she took us to her favorite parks and gardens. Which were dead and frozen.), and honestly, depressing. Oh, and not a single glimpse of residential neighborhoods/housing – which, you know, would have made sense to give us a feel for where we would be moving. We flew back with no sense of the place as “home” or as a place we could make “home,” and in fact, I flew back feeling absolutely sick with the thought of moving there.

    Since it wasn’t my job offer and wasn’t my interview, I don’t know what feedback my husband gave about why he turned down the offer, but I have thought often about how that trip could have been turned around, and how, with a more tuned-in host, we might be living there today.

  55. Undine*

    It’s natural to be frustrated on either side of the process. You see the monetary investment you are making, but your candidates are making a significant in time and effort. Anyone who is take one or two days off work, spend the weekend viewing real estate, sleep in a hotel for four nights and take their shoes off for TSA two times — that person is serious.

  56. Observer*

    OP, I don’t want to pile on, but I’ve been thinking about one aspect of your responses here. You say in a couple of different spots that you wrote this email, with some items that even you admit were over the top, and sent it out of a sense of deep frustration, and that you now wish you hadn’t sent it. That seems like a very high level of frustration over what is a fairly standard albeit admittedly difficult part of the job. Either that, or you reacted pretty poorly to a more reasonable level of frustration. If this is how you generally react, you might want to rethink what you are doing.

    If you find yourself saying the equivalent of “I said / did that in in a moment of frustration. I now wish I hadn’t.” on more than VERY, VERY rare occasions you are either in the wrong field or don’t handle frustration in a healthy and functional way.

    1. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*

      I was trying and most likely failing to get at this point in one of my replies (because brain fog), so chiming in here to say: ALL OF THIS.

      1. OP*

        “I said/did that in a moment of frustration” is indeed a very uncommon thing for me to say. One of the things that some of the comments here have confirmed for me is that it seems like there can be a genuine lack of faith in the positive intent of others… on both sides!… particularly when it comes to recruitment/interviewing/hiring. Applicants can be mistrustful of the people and processes involved in hiring, and those people and processes can (intentionally or not) signal mistrust of applicants. Perhaps a better way to have phrased my original inquiry is, “How can I do a better job of a) establishing trust and transparency in the recruitment/hiring process and b) demonstrate positive intent?” Just as it’s troubling for candidates to hear nothing back from a hiring manager after an interview that seemed to go well, it can be troubling for hiring managers to have an offer turned down when all signs previously pointed to yes. When I wrote to Alison, I was feeling that disconnect, and I came across as someone who takes rejection personally and has unreasonable expectations, when my concern stemmed from a much larger question.

        I certainly want candidates to feel like they can be reasonably open about why they’re turning down an offer. And on the flip side of that, I want to be sure we’re providing as realistic a picture as possible of what it’s like to work here to ensure we get the right fit. To that end, I’ve been giving some thought to the ways we can re-structure not only our interview process but the questions we ask and the timing of when we ask them, etc. It’s all still pretty nascent but being able to think about this in bigger terms has been quite helpful.

        1. Us, Too*

          One thing to be aware of with respect to feedback: I don’t think your candidates are going to necessarily feel comfortable being completely honest with you. For example, I would NEVER have told my recruiter that the staff members I spoke to were the issue because they were crazy, workaholics who only cared about money and stabbing each other in the back. I’d have said nothing or made something else vague up. And here’s why: I can’t be sure that I won’t need to work there someday, and I don’t want to burn bridges. :(

          If you aren’t getting useful feedback from candidates, I’d suggest you consider “shadowing” in the interviews to see what you see first hand, and then observe with a jaded/cynical POV.

          1. OP*

            Very true — it’s another example of the two-way street. Many companies don’t offer candidates very specific feedback, either, because of the potential liability, and I can see why a candidate would hesitate to be honest because of that very real fear of burning a bridge.

            I continue to wonder if there’s a way to make the entire process less… I don’t know… fear-driven? Maybe there isn’t.

  57. einahpets*

    Yeah, I’ve rejected job offers twice this year. Entering the interview process for NOT mean I know for certain I want to work for a company.

    One time I knew right after the interview that it wasn’t the right fit, and if they’d asked for references I would have declined at that point. The HR person was very frustrated that I rejected, which could was a bit of a red flag in itself to me — I’m not going to be guilted into taking an offer from you if I know it isn’t the right fit for me, sorry. I’ll likely never apply there again.

    In the other case, it was a good offer / job, but a better fit was presented elsewhere. That HR and hiring manager were very polite about it, and asked for feedback, which I was willing to give. If someday the right position opens up there, I’d definitely apply again.

  58. Shinobi*

    One of the things that has become a big relocation consideration for me with regards to relocating for a job is not just the city itself, but the amount of other opportunities in that city. The first time I relocated it was to a major city, I stayed at that job for 5 years, and now I’ve been at another place for 7, but if I wanted a different role, there are tons of opportunities. The same isn’t always true of every market. You are asking people to take a very big step, moving, for your company, and if they don’t really love the people they will be working with, and there are minimal other opportunities, they’re going to have a rough time. They could end up stuck in a city they moved to for a job with a job they hate an unhappy spouse and no other opportunities. It’s a really big risk.

    I don’t know how much focus your organization places on employee development, but that might be something to consider as well. Are there no entry level people internally that could be moved into your department? Is there a training process for getting those entry level people to a place where they can be a part of the talent pool that you need? How are you as a company investing in the people that you hire?

    As a person looking for a job, that would be a concern for me as well. Would joining your team be a “dead end” in that I’d be working as a level 1 Xyz and then maybe a level 2 XYZ but with no real room to grow or advance? In a market with a limited talent pool it seems like making sure you have strong development programs and a promote from within strategy would be something you’d want to emphasize.

    This might also be a good opportunity for you as the hiring manager to talk to your team candidly about how the team dynamic is working. It’s possible that they are picking up on something in person that isn’t clear from the phone interviews. It’s possible that your team dynamic isn’t coming across appropriately, or isn’t as healthy as you might think. (Perhaps from so many years of being understaffed.)

  59. NotMsFrizzle*

    Just wanted to add that I *really* appreciate the emphasis on how an interview is a 2-way street throughout so much of advice here! I wish I had understood that when I first started working – I’ve had a lot of miserable jobs that were a very bad fit and it would have saved me and my employers a lot frustration.

  60. Paternoster Square*

    To the many excellent posts about, I would add one thing for OP to think about. It sounds as if your company is somewhere on the West Coast, given your description of beautiful year-round weather. If so, it may be that candidates are turning down offers due to the housing situation in the Bay Area and, to a lesser extent, Los Angeles/San Diego. In SF itself, renting even a one-bedroom apartment is thousands of dollars, and only slightly less elsewhere in the Bay Area. Purchasing is out of the question for most new arrivals. SoCal is better only in relative terms. This is definitely deterring people from relocating here.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      But people may not feel comfortable sharing this type of info unprompted. So maybe it’s something to work into the conversation?

  61. Overeducated*

    OP, I’ve done this. My spouse and I were both simultaneously searching for work. The job I was interested in took 6-7 months for the hiring process, and by the point I got the offer, my spouse had received and accepted another, in another state. I had to cite “personal reasons.” In no way was I sure I wouldn’t take the job when I went out to interview! Later i turned down another job for going silent for almost 2 months after the in person interview, at which point I had accepted another job. Maybe look at your timelines, though they may not be entirely in your control, I know.

    1. Editrix*

      I mean, I wouldn’t call that “personal reasons” – is there something wrong with saying that you’ve accepted another job? That seems like useful info for a company to have, if their timelines are contributing to their difficulties in that area because they’re losing their best prospects to other offers.

      1. Cheryl Blossom*

        I can’t speak for Overeducated, but personally, I don’t care if I’m giving the company useful info, harsh as that may sound. I might share info if I’m comfortable with it, but as I noted above, I’m a pretty private person and might just fall back on “personal reasons” if I don’t think it’s any of the company’s business.

  62. Tuesday Next*

    I recently got an amazing offer from a fantastic company. I would have loved to accept, in fact I felt pretty tearful about turning it down. But it required a significant relocation (to another country) which wouldn’t have been good for my family. The same offer in the city that I already live in would have been a no-brainer.

    I had made my interest in the role very clear throughout, but also my concerns about the move.

    I wasn’t flown in for a face to face interview (too far, too expensive), but the company (and I) put significant time and effort into the interview process.

    What I’m trying to say, OP, is that you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of relocating on the decision, and that the candidate often can’t tell for definite until they’ve been there in person to assess the company, the people and the city.

    Also that seemingly small and insignificant factors may be deal breakers, and that they may not be comfortable sharing that.

    One of the *many* reasons that I decided against this position is because of the weather. Cold and rainy a lot of the time. My SO would have been incredibly miserable. But that’s not something I would share with the hiring manager. It’s too personal and sounds trivial. Other reasons were too personal to share here. So then you end up with “personal reasons” which is understandably frustrating for you.

  63. Kirk Tentaprice*

    Hang on – a year-round climate is considered a good thing? I’m from the UK, and if the weather stays the same for five minutes I start getting a bit twitchy.

    What do people find to discuss?

  64. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    I had a chance to observe this situation first hand recently, when my boss was “courting” a strong, desirable candidate from across the country. The candidate was flown in. The offer was made. But the candidate, who was indeed very seriously interested, turned down the offer. It wasn’t until the offer was made that the situation became real for the candidate, and the candidate was suddenly faced with the real proposition of moving his family (with young children) across the country, selling his house, buying a new house, and generally upsetting the entire applecart of his life, his family’s life, for a new job that was an unknown and a risk. He decided against that upheaval.

  65. Kelsi*

    Here’s another thought, OP: you don’t want to make someone feel obligated to accept! If someone is having doubts, but accepts the job because they need the full reimbursement, they’re far more likely to leave in the near future.

    It may suck in the short term, but in the long term, you want people who WANT to do this job!

  66. Khlovia*

    OP, try this reframe on for size:

    1. An interview which ends with you thinking, “Yep, this is definitely our person” and making the offer, and the interviewee saying, “Yippee! Where do I sign? Lend me your pen!” is, obviously, a SUCCESSFUL interview.

    2. An interview which ends with you thinking, “Oh, ouch, this is not our person after all, what a disappointment,” and not extending an offer–is *also* a SUCCESSFUL interview, because you rescued your company from a mistake.

    3. An interview which ends with you thinking, “Yep, this is definitely our person” and making the offer, and the interviewee fidgeting uncomfortably and saying, “Yeah, well, probably not, because I just realized Reasons, sorry,” is ALSO a SUCCESSFUL interview, because the interviewee not only rescued you both, but left the role available for that guy in #1 above to walk in next Tuesday.

    So I think you are a very successful interviewer, and I think the process you describe is excellent, and I think you should appreciate both of those things more. A reframe of the reframe: You are a salesperson selling a job to a prospective job-buyer. As all salespeople know, every “No” gets you closer to your next “Yes”. Hey, at least you’re not flogging encyclopedias door-to-door.

    Definitely follow all the top-notch advice given by Alison and all the other commenters (examine your interview experience from the POV of the interviewee, looking for aspects that might need tweaking; dial back your expectations and emotional involvement for the sake of your own health; and get a license plate that says STUFHAPNS). But I’d just like to say that if I were a colleague of yours, while I would definitely be bringing you several cups of chamomile tea every day, I would be pleased to know that there was someone on my team who put that much dedication and energy into their work. I would feel confident that if I were facing any unusual obstacle, I’d have someone available down the hall who would unhesitatingly help me plow through it, climb over it, tunnel under it, or sneak around it.

  67. Hank Stevens*

    Things can happen when you finally get to a face to face interview or visit a corporate headquarter. It’s a lot different than a phone interview. I’ve turned down two jobs in my career where all expenses were paid and I did not get a job where I had to pay for the trip! I was not looking for a free vacation. One time I flew to Detroit in the middle of winter and the other was in Southern California, but it was a same day in and out. I think it’s the cost of doing business.

  68. Nedra*

    I was flown out for an interview I was really excited for once and realized on the spot that I just didn’t feel comfortable with the position when I met the people I’d be working with in person. I actually felt sick to my stomach when I got the job offer. But when they offered me the position I felt guilty for having taken their free trip and then turning down the job (also, my husband wanted to move to the new city and I needed a job, so…) so I accepted it.

    Huge mistake. I only stayed there a year before the organization and I both knew it was a bad fit.

    I agree with everything Alison said about it needing to be acceptable that it is a two-way evaluation.

  69. Candace*

    Free trip to your beautiful city? I do not know how others feel, but I never consider an interview a vacation. I find them exhausting, and if I’m lucky I have an hour to see the place, unless I take more time off.

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