candidates keep turning down our job offers

A reader asks:

My team has been expanding after a long period of being under-resourced and under-staffed, but the talent pool in our local area is not very deep. As a result, I usually have to conduct national searches for most positions. This means that I’ve had to work hard to identify serious applicants who would be likely to say yes if offered a position, given that we invest a lot of money 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), formal reference checks, and, if everything looks good, a verbal offer. 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 can do the work, would fit in well with our team and culture, and are as serious about us as we are about them. But twice in less than a year I’ve gone through this process with two separate candidates for two separate searches, only to have my offers turned down. In both instances, the candidates had expressed enthusiasm for the position and our region of the country (we’re in a diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate) and yet when I made the offers, they declined for vague “personal reasons.” If they had questions or concerns about the job 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?

What are the ethics of them accepting in-person, out-of-town interviews if they had no intention of accepting the position? 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 disingenuous.

What suggestions do you have for sussing out how serious out-of-town candidates really are? 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. (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 if compensation is the issue.)

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    There is a lot of gross entitlement in this letter, as if by accepting a late stage interview that involves travel on the prospective company’s dime, the company now owns you. It reads like classic “but I’m a nice guy” ranting about how it’s outrageous women refuse to sleep with them after they paid for a dinner.

    Nope! Also, if you are having to stage a national search to get a desirable candidate, guess what? These are desirable candidates, which means other companies will want to hire them!

    1. PB Bunny Watson*

      Perfect analogy. I knew the vibe felt icky, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. You nailed it.

      1. JelloStapler*

        Exactly- I could not put my finger on it but this is perfect. If this attitude is coming off in that in-person interview, it may be turning off the candidates.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      This is the employer side of, “I had a great interview, but they didn’t offer me the job. What went wrong?” And Alison’s answer is usually some version of, “You’re not the only applicant, and a great interview doesn’t mean other people didn’t also have great interviews.”

      The same is true for employers: you aren’t the only employer. If you really like a candidate, chances are that other employers do, too.

    3. goducks*

      Yes. Also, surely the LW would bristle at a candidate who suggested that because they expended a bunch of time and energy into interviewing, possibly using PTO time to travel and other inconveniences means the company owes them an offer. It goes both ways.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes, exactly. This is the kind of one sided thinking that leads employers to believe they deserve thanks for employing people.

    4. anonymous73*

      Yup, and unless they’re clamoring to relocate, most will stay local unless this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

      1. Loulou*

        I don’t think we can conclude that from the letter. If the candidates were applying for the job, that’s a strong sign they were willing to relocate. There are plenty of fields where it’s normal to relocate for a lot less than the opportunity of a lifetime.

        1. goducks*

          Considering what a PITA moving is for most people (especially if they have spouses and kids), people tend to only make the jump if the offer is seriously good, when they might be willing to take a job offer that’s just ok if they don’t need to disrupt their whole life. This is especially true if the candidate isn’t actively seeking to move to the new city.
          Whenever an offer is going to someone who needs to relocate to take the job, the odds of them declining the offer shoot way up, because they also need to factor in everything that comes with a move.

          1. Traveller*

            Considering what a PITA moving is for most people (especially if they have spouses and kids), people tend to only make the jump if the offer is seriously good, when they might be willing to take a job offer that’s just ok if they don’t need to disrupt their whole life.

            I think what you mean is “I, goducks, would only make the jump if the offer is seriously good.”

            I’ve taken jobs *precisely* because they gave me the chance to move to a new city that was on my bucket list. I have worked in NY, SF, London, Singapore, and I’m now looking at Abu Dhabi.

            1. Avril Ludgateau*

              Traveller, I think you are more the exception, while goducks is the rule. Statistically most people remain within like 30 miles of their hometown. That doesn’t mean you don’t exist. But it does mean that for most applicants, indeed, the offer does have to be “seriously good” to entice a move.

              I’m also apt to speculate, based on the locales you’ve mentioned, that you work in a field/role that is broadly well-compensated in the first place, such that it affords you mobility and choice. I’m somehow guessing this is not the case for the OP. If that job in Abu Dhabi were offering you the equivalent of minimum wage, would you uproot your life and take it, even if the relocation itself would put you in the red?

              1. STLBlues*

                Sorry April, but I disagree with your take for two reasons.

                1. People who have applied to a role requiring a cross-country move have already self-selected into the smaller population that would be theoretically willing to make a move. Sure, anyone can get cold feet and back out – but you can’t assume this is the average population of people who remain close to their home town. These two candidates were, instead, part of the population that saw a job a very long distance away and thought “yea, that could be great. I’ll apply.”

                2. Since the candidates were given ideas of salary and benefits before the interview, there’s no reason to think that they were being wildly lowballed (ie. minimum wage in Abu Dhabi) at a late stage.

                I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with the candidates who went on the interview and decided to pass. As Alison pointed out, that’s 50% of what those two-way interviews should be for. Suggesting, though, that they must have turned it down because “most” people don’t want to move is a red herring. These candidates, by definition, aren’t most people.

        2. Rosalind Franklin*

          “Willing to” and “wanting to” are different though. I’m willing to relocate for an amazing opportunity, but the bar is MUCH higher for me to jump if it means moving – if I have a local opportunity at the same time, I’m probably going to go with the local one.

      2. Spero*

        I disagree. They might be willing to relocate…IF the city has some specific elements. For ex the employer mentions diverse and great weather, but how are the schools? Or perhaps there is general diversity, but not a big Muslim community – which they didn’t realize from internet searches alone but found out when they went to the mosque on their interview visit. Or it needs to be gay friendly, which they didn’t feel comfortable asking the interviewer about due to potential discrimination. The list is long!!

    5. Starlike*

      Yep. We had a situation once where my husband was invited to one of these interviews, and I flew out on our own dime to see if the city was a good fit for us. They had a company recruiter give us a tour of the city, and it was just AWFUL. She didn’t listen to a word we said about what we were actually interested in, and instead took us to see things like “this is the rose garden, it’s all dead now but it’s really nice in winter” and “this is where I walk my dogs” (a field), and through parts of town that were… let’s just say, not the most winning. To this day, I think that we’d probably be living there if she’d just dropped me off at the bookstore the city is famous for and let me be, or stopped when we drove past an artisan fair so we could get to know the actual vibe of the area, or even taken us to parts of town we might be likely to live in. As it was, I left with such a bad feeling for the place and it’s a running joke now that we’ll show out-of-towners the dead rose garden when they visit. The company was quite piqued when we declined the job offer.

      1. kitryan*

        This is a bit amusing, since I’m pretty positive I know which city this is and if I’m right, I actually moved there for a job myself, sight unseen, and lived there for 6 years.
        For most of that time I lived and worked about 3-6 blocks from the bookstore the city is famous for and loved it.
        I *also* almost didn’t get that job because the hiring manager was nervous about hiring someone who was relocating for the job as they might not like it there and want to move away soon.
        It does sound like the recruiter really didn’t sell the place as there’s lots to like about it!

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Now I wanna know! I suspect it’s my hometown of Portland, and the bookstore is Powell’s, but lots of places have wonderful bookshops.

        1. rosyglasses*

          I was thinking the same thing! I was like – I bet the Rose Garden and Powell’s is what she was talking about LOL

        2. PeanutButter*

          When I was a kid, my family would fill the back of my mom’s minivan with our used books, go on a road trip up I5, and return in the evening with the back of the van filled with DIFFERENT used books. Powell’s is awesome!

        3. ferrina*

          My mind went straight to Powell’s. I’m not even from Oregon (living on the other side of the country now), and Powell’s is a pilgrimage that I make every time I’m in the same time zone.

        4. AnonToday*

          I thought of Portland as soon as I saw “bookstore” and I’ve only visited the city twice.

      3. tamarack etc.*

        Yeah, depending on whether the 2 turned-down offers are a large or a small percentage of offers made, I think the OP might like to troubleshoot some of the key experience the candidates get. Are the hotel, the realtor, or some of the hiring managers maybe offputting in a way the OP had not figured out? Maybe feedback from the candidates that accept the offer, or a generic feedback form that all finalists get, might ferret out something.

        But none of these might be at fault, either. Especially if it’s, like, 2 out of 10.

      4. JJLib*

        That kind of recruiter issue happened to me about 5 years ago when I flew out (fully compensated) for an academic interview. A staff member in that department gave me a city tour but we couldn’t stop briefly at the bookstore she mentioned because we instead had to drive to her house to see if a package had been delivered. I didn’t get an offer–in fact, I don’t think they ever filled that position. So all’s well that ends well. Except, I love visiting bookstores and I’ll probably never be back to that city again. Sigh.

    6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Can you imagine if a candidate called OP and said, “You flew me out to interview me. Why would you do this if you weren’t going to hire me? Don’t interview people if you are not going to hire them.”

    7. Cj*

      This absolutely comes off as entitled. Especially the comment about the job candidate getting a free trip to a desirable destination. It’s usually a one or two-day trip, you’re using up your PTO, and stuck in a cramped airplane seat for several hours.

      The OP mentions that salary and benefits are brought up early in the process, but until they fly you out, you meet with the realtor, and see neighborhoods that you could for a on that salary, that means nothing.

      The salary they bring up early on could also be a range that is within several thousands of dollars. Like between $80,000 and $120,000. Or $150,000 to $225,000.

      1. ferrina*

        I also assumed this would be a one or two day trip. Not enough time for a “free trip”- this is business travel (which LW should know is a very different breed of travel).

      2. Hi, Hello, Good Morning*

        Except I know people that do this – even for just one or two days because “Heck, it’s a free trip to Chicago” or “Hey, I get to see a bit of Boston”. They’ll tell their friends right out “No, I would never move to X, but I just want to see it”.

    8. Sam Yao*

      Every. single. time. somebody says “needless to say,” whatever follows that is very much YMMV.

    9. AmandaPanda*

      I also agree that the employer is really grossly entitled in this letter. I worked a previous job where we hired physicians to interview from all over the country. We would have them fly out and meet with the team/hospital leadership. One of the reasons someone travels to your area of employment, they get there (check out schools, neighborhoods, etc) and they hate it. Sometimes something looks good on paper, but they dont like it when they get there and actually start looking around in person. Sometimes the partner/spouse just cant move to the area. You also have to understand as an employer, that maybe they interviewed and they just couldnt see themselves working there with the team. While there are folks who abuse the “free trip” it usually is few and far between. I would be first looking into the interview group and ensuring that everyone is behaving professionally during the interview. Also ensuring that the candidate gets shown the community and see if its a good fit for them.

      1. AnonToday*

        My grad school was at a very rural college, and they had a *terrible* time hiring new faculty. Partly because people didn’t realize *how* rural it was until they visited, but mostly because their hiring process was so slow that the top candidates had usually accepted an offer somewhere else by the time my school offered them the position. I think my department had a search that ended up with *nobody* who was still interested and available by the time they got the offer. My advisor was really frustrated that the combination of red tape and procrastination by committee members was putting us at an even worse disadvantage than we were in already because of the rural location. (Minimum 5 hour drive to a major metro area.)

    10. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I thought it was interesting that they’re in a “diverse city” that apparently is so attractive OP is suspicious people are interviewing just for a free trip but the talent pool in the area isn’t very deep. Hmmmm. Not saying that’s impossible but when I initially saw “talent pool isn’t very deep” I assumed it was somewhere more rural.

  2. Tinkerbell*

    In this economy, assume every amazing candidate you get has three other offers on the table.

      1. PollyQ*

        It was already an employees’ market in many areas then, especially compared to a few years earlier.

    1. bluephone*

      I’d like to know what magical economy/timeline you’re in because I’ve been discreetly job hunting (while still employed) for a while now and haven’t even once gotten to an offer stage. It’s very likely that the problem is solely with me but honestly, outside of big box retail and food service (fields that have always been known for high turnover and poor employee retention), I’m not seeing the same “it’s a job candidate’s world out there and jobs are theirs for the taking!!!!”

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        As a hiring manager I definitely am. Any candidate that gets to the final stage of our process is usually juggling 2-3 offers. And that’s what we’re hearing from other places in our networks as well. It’s probably very industry/job specific but in many places this is not at all magical.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          I agree. I got multiple offers and finally decided on one the beginning of May. I’m in a management position (and had been previously, as well) and recruitment and retention are bigger issues than they were in times past.

        2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          I accepted an offer a few weeks ago and had to turn down two jobs that otherwise were a good fit and even a few months ago I would have been very happy with. The offer I took wise was significantly higher salary than the other two, and there were some details about the job itself that were the best fit for me overall. Had I not been offered that one, I would have been happy with either of the others.

          But I’m agree this is probably very industry and job type specific, I feel fortunate to get one when I did.

      2. Det. Charles Boyle*

        Same. I’ve been applying for jobs since March. Feeling discouraged. I’ve gotten a few interviews but… And now it looks like a recession is looming.

        1. SloanGhost*

          Same =(
          Like I’m definitely getting more nibbles than the last time I was looking but I’m pretty early career and nothing is panning out. Holding out hope tho.

          1. ferrina*

            My company is constantly looking for folks with 4-7 years of experience in our field- it’s a really hard range to hire for. Folks that have experience but aren’t looking to lead a team/be in a prestigious role. If you’re a few years in, I’d revamp that resume to highlight the times that you performed tasks in the next level up (the level you’re presumably hiring for). See if you can take a few stretch responsibilities in your current role (that you can then add to your resume in a few months).
            Don’t know if this will help, but this is what I’ve generally seen for getting that next step up. Good luck!

      3. Fikly*

        It’s unfortunately extremely industry and even position dependent right now as to which jobs are an employee’s market, and which are an employer’s market. However, all the buzz is that it’s an employee’s market, which leaves everyone struggling to find a job feeling like it’s them, when it’s almost certainly not.

        A lot of places are still hurting very badly, and we’re plunging headfirst into a bad recession, if not a full blown depression, and that does terrible things for hiring.

      4. Esmeralda*

        Higher education, academic adjacent. Every institution in our state system has been bleeding professionals. They can make a ton more money outside of education / government employment. Often better benefits. Often more flexibility (yeah yeah, you were able to do your jobs at an extremely high level for the last two years working from home, but now you have to be back to butts in seats 9-5 M-F).

        And the people who haven’t gone are stuck covering for the missing staff.

        I had a….moment a couple months ago. I was applying for promotions at my institution. There was just one more load of crap handed out by our grandboss…I called a friend and said, whatchu got that’s remote or hybrid? I had a screening interview later that week with their employer, an interview the following week, an offer the week after. Couldn’t make it work, parted on friendly terms (asked to get in touch if my situation changed), then I got offered a promotion at my institution.

        I’m good, but I don’t walk on water. That’s an anecdote. But the people bailing out of higher ed is not an anecdote, it’s a big fact.

      5. AnonToday*

        It might not be you. I’ve been reading/hearing some stuff about how the economic recovery is “patchy” and while some sectors of the economy are booming, others aren’t.

  3. PB Bunny Watson*

    I agree with Alison… OP is reading too much into this. There are any number of reasons someone might end up not taking an offer. And it could be a vibe or something they learn that makes the job less attractive for them in spite of the location and the salary.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, it’s quite a leap to assume the candidates were never truly interested in the job. Most likely they were seriously interested but after consideration they decided it wasn’t right for them. You know, like the exact purpose of an interview.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes! I don’t think I’ve done a ton of interviews where I came out thinking, “Oh no, definitely not” but the number is not zero.

      2. Me ... Just Me*

        Last year, I was flown in for a 2 day interview with my husband, hotel room, rental car all on the company’s dime. We had tentatively discussed salary in that they said their range was in the range I was looking for. After spending a day or two in the small town (which was lovely), I realized that the cost of living was much, much higher than I had at first realized or accounted for. And, even though I thought the job a good one that I could definitely succeed at, it didn’t have some of the things that would have made it “the one”. Still, I was excited by the opportunity. As expected, I received an offer shortly after I returned home. It just wasn’t enough — despite being in my range, it was at the lower edge, and when I tallied everything up, it just wasn’t worth it to make such a huge move for the money. If any of the three had been different: pay, cost of living, or my excitement for the job — I probably would have accepted. I declined the offer and let them know that it was too low, given the cost of living there. They said that was the highest they could go and we left it on fairly good terms (though, I suspect, they were upset about the money they paid to interview me). They called again a few weeks later, to up the offer, but by then I had accepted another position.

        1. Rainy*

          Their second choice wouldn’t accept the proposed salary either, seems like.

          Hopefully when they re-posted the job they bumped the salary.

        2. Avril Ludgateau*

          “That’s the highest we can go” … “They called again a few weeks later, to up the offer.”

          So it wasn’t actually the highest they could go, was it. Here’s hoping they learned something from that!

  4. Pickle Pizza*

    I’m wondering how the job offer conversations have gone and if LW has pointedly asked the candidates for feedback on why they are declining the offers. It may be for reasons that LW hasn’t even considered.

    1. MsM*

      Honestly, if OP gives off the “no answer you could provide would possibly satisfy me” vibes on display in this letter, I don’t blame them for keeping it vague.

  5. Richard Hershberger*

    How great would a city have to be, that spending a day there in a job interview would be a treat?

    Or, more seriously, “a diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate” plus a small local talent pool reads to me as a desirable location with some geographic constraint on growth, which is another way of saying “very, very expensive.” Yes, the salary was disclosed earlier, but that real estate tour may be what drives home how much less that salary will take the candidate. Also, this sort of place may have limited opportunities for a partner coming along and looking to get a job there.

    Finally, jumping straight from “They turned down the offer” to “They were scamming us all along” is a bad look. I wonder if some of this attitude wasn’t leaking out in the interview.

    1. cherub*

      I went through something similar on the candidate side – I traveled for an interview in an amazing city, knew the salary roughly beforehand, knew that the city was expensive, and then the real estate tour really hit home for me that I was not going to be able to sustain my current lifestyle on the offered salary and they were gonna have to at least double the salary to make it even worth considering. I didn’t think that was likely, and combined with having another very attractive offer in a more affordable city, I turned down the offer in the expensive city citing personal reasons. But I was definitely not decided against the expensive city before visiting! Visiting is what hit home for me that it wasn’t right for me though.

      1. Smithy*

        Yeah – I also think that there’s only so much those COLA calculators really tell you.

        In one very small way, as an apartment dweller – when I moved from DC to NYC, wanting an apartment with a dishwasher meant that my selection was far smaller given how dishwashers just aren’t nearly as standard in apartments in NYC. And that was just one issue and significantly impacted my overall housing search. When it comes to relocating, different candidates are just going to bring so many different “this thing is important to me” – and that may make the increase in pay and opportunity seem worth it or not. And lots of those issues around what housing truly is available, how long the commute actually is, etc – you don’t know that until you actually look on the ground.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Given the small local talent pool, I wonder if applicants are also figuring out that it’s a one-company town—or at least, that if they want to leave this company at some point it’s going to be hard to get another job without moving again.

      If this weren’t a letter from the archives, I’d be suggesting that the LW look into whether remote work is an option. Seems like it would save a lot of expense all around (and vastly expand the potential talent pool).

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am picturing a place like Flagstaff. I lived there a couple of years in the 1990s. It is (or at least was) an amazing place to live–the only place in Arizona were I would willingly go. But it also is smallish and unable to grow (partly by being largely surrounded by national forest, and partly due to severe water constraints). To live there you had either to be independently wealthy or fall into a job there. I was in my twenties with a decent-paying job, but had an apartment with a roommate. I can totally see people jumping at the interview, then regretfully turning down the job in the face of practical reality.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I pictured somewhere in Florida with a large retirement/snowbird community. I can totally imagine wanting to move to Florida in theory (well, in 2018), but not actually wanting to go through with it.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Boulder, Colorado. I served on several search committees while I worked there. We lost a lot of candidates who came out to interview and then got a close look at the cost of housing.

          Some of them left skid marks.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yes. I was once offered relocation from my then-current company but it absolutely was not a nice location. The offer was sort of a consolation prize because the plant I worked at was closing down. So my choice was to either accept relocation or be unemployed. I had a chance to visit the new location a few times on work related trips, and this was one of my biggest concerns. If I got laid off or just wanted a different career path, would I have options in that town? Ultimately I decided I had better chances looking for a new job in my current location and turned down the offer.

      3. Epsilon Delta*

        I’m really curious if remote work is possible for OP’s employees, and if so, how that has changed the hiring equation!

      4. Barry*

        That’s what had occurred to me, which means that the relocation allowance only covers part of the risk.

        And this would apply to spouses, also.

      5. Sara without an H*

        Good point. Some of the applicants may have partners and would be reluctant to relocate to a place where those partners couldn’t find work, no matter how nice it might be otherwise.

    3. RegBarclay*

      That was my exact thought – not much of a talent pool but a fantastic area might be (in a US context) someplace like Hawaii or the US Virgin Islands. People might be excited about the prospect of moving there – I certainly would be! – until they really do the math. If that’s the issue, there isn’t much the LW can really do about that other than be as up front as possible about cost of living vs salary.

      1. Nesprin*

        I once interviewed in Basel Switzerland- coming from the Bay Area, I thought I understood high cost of living but no. Job sounded interesting enough to interview, and pay was good if not great.

    4. CeeKee*

      Yup, exactly. I can’t think of a single city so “beautiful” that I would play this much of a long game with a job application process just for this kind of “free trip” there.

      1. KRM*

        Yeah, nobody goes through multiple interview rounds for a job thinking “yeah this scam to get a free trip to city X is going perfectly!!!”. Interviews are a lot of work and preparation, esp if OP is hiring for a higher level position! People obviously are going to want to check out the city and real estate market when there to assess that as part of the job, but you don’t say they’re asking you to extend their stay a few days, or to come for a week when your process is 2 1/2 days. They’re just taking all the information they’ve acquired, including everything they learned while out for the interview, and realizing that it’s not right for them/their family/their future/etc. I mean, maybe they came out with their partner, and while they came back and said “you know this job would be pretty great for me” the partner says “I’ve been looking and talking and my opportunities in my field would be extremely limiting here” so they leave thinking “City A is better for us than this job in City L”. Job relocation decisions can have many complicated moving parts for people, so having 2 (only 2??) people turn you down in a year is not too surprising at all!

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I would assume it’s less of a long con to apply/interview/etc and more that people who might have taken themselves out of the process earlier if the location were less desirable have more incentive to stay in – or, perhaps their perception of the job is being skewed by the location. For example, “I don’t know if I want to be a llama herder, but it would be cool to move to Hawaii so maybe it would be worth it” – then they visit and realize that it doesn’t make sense. Something about actually going through an airport and a 4 hour flight might change your mind about moving across the country if you start thinking about how you’ll have to do that any time you want to visit your home town.

        Either way, not bad faith on the candidate’s part, but I can see why OP might be frustrated if people seem to have rosy colored glasses about the location that only come off once the offer comes in.

      3. goducks*

        I mean, if you want a free trip there is already the “hack” of the time-share trip. Which most people won’t do, because they know that the cost of the free trip is not getting to enjoy any bit of it because it’s all wrapped up in a hard-sell from the resort. This is the same level of effort/reward. Not many people would go through that.

      4. GammaGirl1908*

        Totally agree. If I want to go to, say, Carmel, CA for two days, I can just … go there. I don’t need a company to pay to fly me there.

        A national search usually means the candidates were recruited, not that they came to the company searching for a role. These candidates may not even be actively looking.

        LW is wildly underestimating both how very high the bar has to be to make someone move, and how that exponentially multiplies once the interviewee has a family to consider. That’s on top of any salary vs real estate vs cost of living vs spousal job considerations, and frankly the likelihood that these jobs are THAT special that someone would uproot their whole life for them. There likely are very similar jobs where the interviewee already lives.

        Marie can be a VP of marketing in Austin, where she already lives and where her wife is already happily employed and her kids are in school, without gambling on this new VP of marketing job in Carmel, where she knows no one and her wife’s industry is questionable and the kids would have to share a bedroom and they have earthquakes. It would be different if Marie and Carolyn were already open to moving to California, because Carolyn is already a director at Apple and can transfer to Cupertino, but that is not what we have here.

    5. mf*

      This is really important. Case in point, I live in Los Angeles, aka diverse city with a fabulous year-round climate. I make more money than if I lived/worked in a rural place or most places w/ cold weather.

      However, Los Angeles salaries are NOT commensurate with Los Angeles housing costs. If my husband and I lived in Kansas, we could easily buy a 5,000 sq ft house. In LA, we live in a 900 sq ft condo.

      We’re fine with this trade-off but not everyone is–especially folks who are contemplating moving from a lower COL area to a high COL area.

      1. SweetestCin*

        This is why a long ago job prospect was nuked in the early stages. We couldn’t make all of the tradeoffs work as a package in our minds.

        Even when the company that my spouse was interviewing with was extremely interested in learning my background (because this large company had a dire need for my skill set too) and expressed a large desire in hiring me as well.

        Even with what was on paper, a doubled salary, and doubled PTO.

        Relocating from the Midwest to a coastal big city would have been an astronomical cost increase for us for living expenses, the housing stock was not what we’re used to in size or amenities, the commutes would have been asinine, and the additional PTO would have been eaten up by traveling to see family for holidays. For what was essentially a lateral transfer for my spouse, and a step-back in position for me.

    6. Meep*

      I interviewed for a company in Reddington, California that flew me out. Beautiful town, not too small, not too big, and really close to skiing. Liked the company. However, as someone from outside of California, but close enough to visit if I choose, the salary would’ve had to be dazzling to waste time moving there. There was free public parking, but not enough incentive to move.

      I ended up not getting the job (a friend I recommended did) and they ended up contacting me a few times after, but I was never in the place it was appealing after setting down roots. We still remain on friendly terms at tradeshows, of course.

    7. mandatory anon*

      My college town is like this. We’ve been a bedroom community for anyplace between Seattle & Vancouver BC, plus a huge influx of real estate speculators and remote/tech workers and retired folks have taken their toll on services and prices. State university pay scales means starting at barely over min wage for most staff jobs, but if you can find anything to rent, costs are astronomical.
      That being said, we get applications from all over the country and quite a few from other countries, for all levels of positions.

      1. HiHello*

        Are you speaking of Pullman? Because I know way too many people that would die for the cougs haha. Although, Bellingham is actually between Seattle and Vancouver, BC.

        1. Starbuck*

          As someone else who lives along the Puget Sound, that is almost certainly Bellingham, which has gotten pretty nuts over the last 10 years and really bad over the past 2-3 (like pretty much everywhere on the Sound, including where I live).

      2. Bellinghamster*

        This has to be Bellingham. Can’t believe how absurdly expensive it’s gotten. The joke about 20 years ago was that this was the place Californians and Canadians met to buy & sell real estate.

    8. Rainy*

      I turned down a fly-out and withdrew from consideration (and it sounded like they were only flying out one person) a few years back for a job because the salary would have been okay if my spouse could have found a job immediately, but he looked at the postings that were up in the (small) town and said “well, maybe if I commuted to [large metro area an hour away]…” and I was like, well, that’s a no then.

      I did that commute the other way for grad school for two years, and it sucks. And I was reverse-commuting, he would have had awful traffic!

    9. Frally*

      Yeah, I really doubt people are going to interviews for jobs they don’t want just to get a free trip. I hate the whole flying experience, starting from the drive to the airport, and would only fly to an interview if I was really interested in it. I’m sure some people go for the free trip, but I bet those are few and far between, not the norm.

    10. nonegiven*

      Right after graduation, when my son was in the market, he was flown out by 4 companies all over the country. Every one was all day interviews with multiple people. He got there and had dinner after checking into the hotel. He got up, had his day of interviews, back to the hotel, dinner, and back on the plane headed home the next morning. He did get to have dinner with friends after his interviews once and the team he would work with on one other trip.

      He got 2 offers and took the one he liked best, the money was about the same.

  6. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Personal Reasons can be just that. I rescinded an acceptance a week later because my husbands grandmother and father died a couple of weeks apart leaving my husband to deal with 2 estates in 2 different states nowhere close to us, a mother halfway across the country with mental illness who was suddenly alone without income, and 2 younger siblings in college who had to negotiate emergency financial status changes. A job change and minor relocation was just too much in an industry that tends to work many hours especially in a site start up.

    I have also had the situation Alyson talks about where I am excited about the job until the final interview and something just rings off. I met my grandboss at an interview and everything in me screamed run and I ignored it because I was 28 and didn’t know to listen to that scream. That job only lasted 1 year and truthfully would have been less but I was determined to make it work.

    1. Jora Malli*

      I turned down a job offer a couple years ago because I received a medical diagnosis that was going to require a lot of immediate treatment and paid time off. I was already qualified for FMLA where I was and I knew all my medical providers were covered by my current insurance, so as excited as I was about the possible new job, I just couldn’t take it at the time. And I didn’t feel like explaining all of that to the new company so yeah, they got “my personal circumstances have changed.”

  7. After 33 years ...*

    I agree with everything Alison has written –
    but –
    we had the experience of a candidate who told us directly during the interview that they had no intention of ever considering our offer. They had only come to our interview for practice for the job they really wanted in another town, and to get a free trip to ours. They were very open about that …

    1. Purple Cat*

      Wow, but at least they didn’t leave you wondering what the “personal reasons” were.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Yes, we were not left to wonder and speculate. That happened a while ago, but every time I saw that person at a conference, I remembered.

    2. anonymous73*

      I hope you ended the interview and told them to leave. Unless you were already at the end…

    3. KHB*

      I once had an interview for a job that I very obviously was never going to get (I was completely unqualified, and in fact hadn’t even applied for it – the company pulled my name from the list of applicants for a different role they’d already rejected me for). I went along anyway because I figured it would be good interview practice. I assume the company already had an internal candidate in mind but was required by policy to go through the motions of making the search look competitive.

      These things work both ways. Your candidate was unusually honest about it, but he can’t have been the only one.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        The only one in my experience of 33 years (more, if I count grad school). The candidate was highly qualified, and we didn’t have an internal. Interviews for faculty positions involve multiple discussions over 2-3 days, along with a lecture and a teaching demonstration, so it’s a substantial time commitment by all concerned. Hence, practicing can be useful. The candidate let us know after we had gone through most of the process. We almost lost the hiring line as a result.
        As everyone has said, there are lots of good reasons to change your mind, but this case was unique.

          1. AnonToday*

            In academic hiring? Good grief!!!!

            It is so hard to get an interview for a faculty position, and the absolute audacity to take an interview slot from someone who wanted the job!

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yes, it does happen, but rarely. I sat in a panel interview once with a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in the job — an Executive Director position. She was clear she was only interviewing as a courtesy, or other political reasons, to the person who referred her — basically the flip side of a courtesy interview when the hiring manager knows they aren’t going to hire the person, they’re just interviewing as a favor.

      1. Shhhh*

        I’ve been in an interview where the candidate clearly didn’t want the job, too. I don’t know if he wanted it before the interview and decided it wasn’t for him during the day (I was in two meetings with him, but they both fell in the afternoon of a day-long interview) or never wanted it in the first place. I know he didn’t want the job because he was pretty rude during the meetings I was in, and in the end, it was mutual.

        I’ve also been someone who has gone to an out-of-state interview thinking I really wanted a job and realized when I was there that the city it was in wasn’t for me. The city was Tampa, which I liked the idea of while I was researching it…but once I was there, I just envisioned myself sitting in traffic with the sun beating down on me every day. I’m sure it’s a lovely place to live but it’s not for me.

        1. AnonToday*

          I went on a spring break tour to look at grad schools, and decided against one of them because temperatures were in the 90s IN APRIL. I can’t function in hot weather and didn’t want to relocate somewhere that I would be 100% dependent on air conditioning for over half the year. (I grew up in coastal Southern California and this was in the Central Valley.)

          Also, it seemed like half the students were wearing fraternity/sorority swag and that was just way too much potential fratitude to deal with. (I assumed I’d end up being their lab TA.)

    5. Golden*

      We had a few of those in grad school! People who were very upfront about the fact that they only accepted the interview weekend for a free trip to see their long distance girlfriend, travel, practice interviewing for more competitive schools, etc.

      Kind of sucks because those interview slots had hard invitation cutoffs, but the program largely accepted it as cost of doing business. There was one candidate who was so egregious about it that faculty contacted their mutual acquaintances (our field is small), but that was rare.

      1. bamcheeks*

        accepted it as cost of doing business

        the exact phrase that was in my head as I read LW’s letter. This isn’t an undue waste of LW’s budget, it’s just how much hiring costs and they need to adjust their expectations.

        1. pancakes*

          Yes, and if it starts to look like an unsustainably high cost, they can look into moving someplace where there’s a larger talent pool to draw from. I don’t have a sense from the letter whether this is an ongoing problem for every team or mostly just this one (maybe not even this one if it’s only happened twice?). “My team doesn’t have the budget for this” and “the company doesn’t have the budget for this” aren’t necessarily overlapping problems.

      2. Koalafied*

        I will say I would have been more likely to do this in that scenario. I only got invited to Wooing Weekend for two schools and was highly interested in both, but at age 22 graduating college with my part-time barely-over-minimum wage job, no responsibilities beyond a couple of low-maintenance cats, and a net worth of about $500, being wined and dined for a weekend all expenses paid was truly a thrill. Even in a podunk college town in the middle of nowhere.

        Plus, grad school weekend invites only go out to candidates who have already been offered a place, so there’s no real pressure on you if you go – the pressure is all on the department to outshine the other departments you might be visiting with. Whereas an out of town interview still carries all the stress of having to go through a job interview as one of the “costs” not covered by the company.

        As a 30-something who has enough money in my bank account to afford my own travel, a lot more responsibilities at home that require arrangements to be made (often expensive ones that would be out of pocket! I bet they’re not paying for childcare or pet boarding for these out of town candidates to come interview!), a lot of fun and exciting travel already under my belt, and less physical and mental energy, you pretty much have to twist my arm to get me to travel, well, anywhere. If I have to go to an interview while I’m there it’s already not worth the free airfare.

        1. Golden*

          Our candidates weren’t accepted/denied until after the interview weekends (maybe only 50% or so receive an offer), so grad school invites going out to those with a spot already isn’t universal!

          I think my school has transitioned more and more of the process to Zoom though, so maybe it’s going that way. It would save on a lot of costs, time, virus exposure, etc. to only bring people after an offer now that I think about it.

    6. Observer*

      we had the experience of a candidate who told us directly during the interview that they had no intention of ever considering our offer. They had only come to our interview for practice for the job they really wanted in another town, and to get a free trip to ours. They were very open about that …

      Wow! But that’s an outlier, even when you don’t need to travel. When they need to travel? TOTALLY not a reasonable first (or even second) guess about motivations.

  8. Caramel & Cheddar*

    This is an older letter, but I’m assuming that virtual interviews now play a much larger role in this kind of thing and might help the LW reduce the number of people they’re flying in, e.g. instead of inviting everyone you think is capable and fits in with the workplace, inviting only the person they plan to make an offer to as a final “meet the team and the city” kind of thing. If they don’t accept the offer, you can go back to the other applicants who fit the “can do the work / vibed with the team” criteria.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      My brother was interviewing in summer internships and he said that both he and several of his classmates got out-of-state positions without ever actually traveling to the state and it’s worked out, so I’d say this is true.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, that’s how I’ve been hiring as well – for years actually, including pre-COVID. We have always been fine hiring upcoming grads from all over the country because it’s pretty expected that you’ll move post-graduation. We’ve had a couple flakes at the post-offer-accepted stage but it’s rare and can happen with local people too.

    2. BlondeSpiders*

      I was thinking the same thing; this has to be an old letter. I can’t imagine paying to fly someone out for an interview when Teams and Zoom are right there!

      Furthermore, why is relocation necessary? Candidates want remote roles. If your business can’t adapt, you’ll keep getting declines for your “fabulous” offers.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        I’m in academia. On-site in-person interviews and teaching demonstrations are still required, even in 2022.

      2. Loulou*

        I strongly suspect at least some places are flying candidates out for all-day interviews again. And I don’t think I would relocate to a new place without the chance to see the area for myself (on the company’s dime).

      3. KHB*

        I agree that this is a pre-pandemic letter, and a lot has changed. But even now, some jobs really do need to be done in person. It’s not always a matter of the employer refusing to adapt.

        1. Jora Malli*

          Exactly. I cannot work a shift at the library’s customer service desk from my house, no matter how much I would like to.

        2. UKDancer*

          Also a fair number of people exist who don’t want to work remotely (or at least not all of the time). Some people probably would want to live near where they work so it makes sense for them to see the place.

      4. Maggie*

        I flew out for an interview this April (I did end up accepting). I didn’t see any of the city really, so I certainly don’t think that’s what’s going on with candidates. It was my first time being flown out for an interview, but it’s definitely happening. A lot of the job is interacting with people in person, so it makes sense that they needed to assess my in person skills. But certainly for remote roles, Teams could be enough.

      5. Starbuck*

        “Candidates want remote roles. If your business can’t adapt, you’ll keep getting declines for your “fabulous” offers.”

        That is only true in some specific bubbles though, not for everyone. It’s a privilege of having an office-work position but doesn’t extend to the vast majority of workers. I know this site is mostly white-collar focused but that’s only a fraction of the work world.

      6. Raboot*

        All the Inc letters are old, which Alison says right in the post. No need to play detective.

      7. amoeba*

        In my field, full day, on site interview are definitely still the norm, as is applying internationally (not academia, but science/R&D). And I’m really glad – the idea of accepting a position in a different city (or, very frequently, country) without ever having been there or met anybody in person is scary. And even just seeing the site, the labs, meeting a few prospective coworkers, going for lunch… it’s definitely part of the process and as far as I can see, it’s coming back now that travel is possible again.

    3. anonymous73*

      OP states that they have in person interviews for “finalists” so that tells me they’re already doing phone/video interviews to start.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Right, what I was saying is to *not* have in person interviews for finalists, plural. Have that round of interviews virtually and when you decide who your top candidate is, invite that person out. This might extend the hiring process a bit, but might temper the LW’s feeling that they’re doing too much for candidates who turn down their offers.

  9. Purple Cat*

    Does it even matter?
    Nope! It doesn’t matter “why” the candidates accepted the late-stage interview and then declined the position. It’s not personal. You are choosing to believe that they had made their decision before agreeing to move forward, but that’s extremely unlikely. It’s a waste of their own time along with the additional challenges of taking that time off work without arousing suspicions.

    Basically you want a candidate to be committed to you before you’ve committed to them and that’s patently unfair. If the candidate is a lock (on your end) before you fly them out then why aren’t you extending an offer at that point? It’s because they’re NOT a lock. And if there is ambiguity on your end, you need to accept it on the candidates end as well.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah this is a cost of doing business. Annoying, absolutely. But it is what it is.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      The “why” could matter if it’s a recurring theme that could have been prevented.

      For example, some detail about the company or location is off-putting to candidates but they don’t realize it until they show-up in person. In some cases it may be possible to alleviate the concern, or pre-screen for it.

      Though with only two rejections it’s probably too early to read much into it yet!

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah–if candidates are having a negative reaction to one particular person, or something about the physical location, that’s useful information. If it’s something outside the control of OP, like the city has an extreme car culture or something, they can still mention it some time during the process.

    3. Observer*

      It doesn’t matter “why” the candidates accepted the late-stage interview and then declined the position.

      Yes and no. In the moral and personal sense, it absolutely does not matter, and the OP would be better off not going round in circles about it.

      In a practical sense, it could be relevant though. Some of the reasons that people might decline the offer are actionable information. In some cases, directly as in pay scale, job duties, personalities that are being allowed to be “quirky” or “difficult”. In some cases, indirectly, such as awareness of issues that people wouldn’t necessarily know till they show up. eg If the city officially has a good public transit system, but in practice EVERYONE drives, that could be an issue that could influence people’s decision. Making sure to let people know lets them factor that in to the likelihood of accepting a job offer.

      1. AnonToday*

        Regarding transit–yes, my current city/county transit system advertises itself as being fantastic but in real life, it’s not all that. Besides the problems of trying to have a transit system in a metro area *specifically modeled after Los Angeles sprawl* it’s stigmatized as “only for people too poor to drive.” And people who really can’t afford to drive need cars if they need to get anywhere in a hurry, because most trips take 3X longer by bus or lightrail.

  10. Warrior Princess Xena*

    Of course candidates are going to express enthusiasm for the position and city. Every interview I’ve ever been in has included a “why do you want to work here” question, and I’ve always felt that if I gave my actual honest reasons the company wouldn’t be pleased. Most of the time I’ll say something like “I met so-and-so at a hiring event and they made a good impression” or “I really admired your work with Y” when the reality is closer to “you’re in the industry I’ve gotten a college degree in, you’re paying me more than McDonalds would, and your C-suite hasn’t shown up in the news for ethical rights violations”. I respect that a lot of people are passionate are working for a specific company, but that’s not a position everyone is lucky enough to be in and more commonly I’ve found that people are interested in specific industries or specific roles.

    1. River Otter*

      Pretty much yes, and also “I need money, you pay money.”
      All companies pay the same color of money, so as long as I am qualified for the job, which company it’s for is not particularly relevant to me.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes, absolutely. I always talk about how much I love the area because companies love that.
      They sprinkle it over their ice cream and gobble it up.

      And that’s not to say it isn’t true – I am really quite fond of the area I live and work. It just has nothing to do with why I applied for the job or what induced me to accept it.

    3. Crotchet*

      I came here to say this. Used to do a lot of regional/nationwide interviewing, and we most often had candidates who toed the partyline and said nice things about our city, the restaurants, and the company. We didn’t know if they were being honest, but they were being professionally courteous, just as we were when, as interviewers, we didn’t tell them, “Your teaching demo was boring and factually inaccurate, and you also failed to adequately answer the Provost’s questions about mission fit because you referenced the CLOSELY NAMED University of Blah’s mission statement and history… Did you even read our assistant’s email with all the attached mission documents before you came?” Very few are going to blow up on onsite/overnight interview by being honest or indicating they’re underwhelmed, on either side of things. Two candidates gave us the honest answers, to my memory, and it was super awkward…and we were left wondering why in the world anyone would actually admit “your city isn’t very exciting, and your company is smaller than I thought” during an interview.

    4. Zudz*

      >“you’re in the industry I’ve gotten a college degree in, you’re paying me more than McDonalds would, and your C-suite hasn’t shown up in the news for ethical rights violations”

      If someone said this to me during an interview I would probably laugh out loud. I can’t recommend it as a routine answer, of course.

      1. Bast*

        Frankly, if someone gave me this answer I’d laugh my butt off and strongly consider them. While I realize being a BSer is part of interviewing that many expect, I love when candidates show their personality. It’s so hard to get a glimpse of who someone is when they just give you textbook answers to everything… and I know I’m an outlier here but personality matters a lot to me.

    5. Guesstimate*

      There was a comic going around the various social medias about this I saw the other day:
      “Why are you interested in our company?”
      “Because you are hiring.”
      “What can you bring to the position?”
      “A new employee.”

      Honestly as an autistic worker the process of making up stuff just to blow smoke as part of the unsaid rules of the song and dance that is interview questions like this… it’s exhausting and I *wish* I could be so honest like that.

  11. irene adler*

    “are as serious about us as we are about them”

    How is this assessed in the candidate? I’ve been upbeat and serious about every job I interview for. Regardless of whether I am still interested in it.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Right? Like don’t mistake basic “job interview politeness” for a dog-like loyalty to a job that hasn’t even been offered yet.

    2. cubone*

      right? Also – who aims to express in an interview “I’m not that serious about this”?

      1. irene adler*

        This made me chuckle. Can you just imagine the interviewer’s reaction to a candidate making such a statement-directly to them? Probably wouldn’t know what to say next.

    3. River Otter*

      “are as serious about us as we are about them”

      And just how serious about them are you? Have you ever interviewed a candidate and decided not to make them an offer? Either side can decide it’s not a great fit post interview. It doesn’t mean they weren’t serious going in. It can mean either circumstances changed or something came up in the interview.
      An interview is not a commitment on either side, regardless of how serious either side is going in.

    4. Lacey*

      Right? The only time I’ve expressed that I wasn’t interested in a position mid-interview was when I was on unemployment and I would have to accept the offer if they made it. I knew after the first 10 minutes that working there would crush my soul, so when I was asked if I was still interested I said, “After learning more about the role, I think this is not quite what I am looking for” and we ended the interview early.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I mean, if LW really means that they consider accepting an in-person interview to be the same as accepting a job, they could always make the job offer before inviting them to meet in-person.

      But if that invitation actually means, “we’re 90% sure, just a few last things we need to check before we make the offer”— well, that goes both ways!

    6. turquoisecow*

      I personally felt like the OP was being a little dense saying the candidates were not “serious.”

      They took time out of their lives to fly out to see you after undergoing multiple remote video/phone interviews. You think they did that for fun?

      Just because they don’t want *this* job doesn’t mean they’re not serious about finding a job or doing a job.

  12. smirkette*

    I recently had a very disappointing experience interviewing for a position that seemed like a dream job…until I spoke with some of the people with whom I’d be working closely. They grilled me during interviews (which, okay, fine, but didn’t bode well for collaborative work or a collegial environment) and despite asking for work samples and portfolio, didn’t ask about or reference any of it, which was the final nail in the coffin. I don’t think they realized that interviews are a two-way street.

    I’m guessing that salary ranges have already been discussed since OP mentions realtors, etc.

    1. Bast*

      I worked a job like this for about 2 years. On paper it seemed like my dream job and then I got hired and realized the turn over was incredibly high and for good reason. Most people did not stay longer than a year. I was not from the area, and if I had been, I would have known the reputation this company had and may not have taken the position. It’s quite possible this company has a reputation in the area that Unsuspecting Candidate found out about. While this is just a guesswork, it would also explain why it’s hard to find local talent. In my Bad Reputation job, they started to hire more and more people from faraway and to work remotely, all people who had never heard of the business as they had burned through a lot of local talent.

  13. Fluffy Fish*

    OP you sure are making a lot of assumptions about people because they didn’t do what you wanted them to.

    First all, for the love of everything, it’s not your personal money. It’s the companies money. Stop taking it personally and viewing it as wasting your money. You are being a good steward by interviewing well-qualified candidates. That’s it. You can’t control whether people want to accept the job therefor that isn’t involved in being a good steward of your budget.

    Second – I assure you no one is going through a multistage interview process involving travel for shi*s and giggles. I promise you, even if you are located in the most magical city on earth, no one is taking time out of their life (and probably time off work) for a “free” trip. Unless it’s a week all expenses paid and you and I both know it’s not.

    Third – if you should be concerned about anything, it’s why highly qualified desirable candidates are going through all that, and declining. Sometimes it has zero to do with your offer – but a lot of times it will. So you need to assess that. And no that doesn’t mean the candidates owe you any kind of explanation. You need to assess it on your own. Is the cost of living so different that it would effectively be a pay cut for people? What’s the work culture like? Are your benefits really that great?

    Fourth – Trash the attitude that if a candidate declines they aren’t serious. It’s bizarre that you seem to think that if you from on high bestow a lowly candidate with an offer they should through themselves at your feet in gratitude and acceptance. It’s a business transaction. And as such it needs to be of benefit to both sides. Sometimes it is and sometimes its not – and sometimes its on the side that you have no control over.

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      I promise you, the candidates are picking up this person’s attitude and going, “Noo. Hell no.” It smacks of a very disrespectful disregard for the humanity of that workforce.

      Real heavy on “we’re family, ket us exploit you!”

    2. Esmeralda*

      OMG, so much #1.

      I had a hiring officer (a tenured faculty member, known as one of the cool younger profs) literally scream at me (search committee chair, for a non-faculty hire), in a hallway full of faculty offices full of other faculty, that I was an idiot and wasting money flying in a candidate who turned out not to be as sharp as they seemed on paper and on the phone. I said “that’s why we interview them in person, to see if they’re actually any good” and they stomped off.

  14. Lady_Lessa*

    While I’ve not turned down offers, I’ve been brought to distant places for final interviews a number of times. Often, I saw things that bothered me, and I was glad that I wasn’t offered the position, or else I would have turned it down.

    One example, I was at lunch with the man who would have been my boss, and others on the team. Somehow the conversation turned to astronomy, and I mentioned some of the fabulous pictures that I have seen as APOD’s. Some created, but some well designed and taken. (explained in the write ups). My would be boss categorically called them fake.
    Fortunately, I didn’t have enough of the right kind of experience.

    1. Beth*

      Ewww, yeah. I would not want to work for a boss who dissed APODs as “fake”. That’s one gigantic red flag.

  15. CoveredinBees*

    Every interview matters in attracting a candidate. I was super excited to get to the final round of interviews until I had an interview with the other two people who I’d be working with. As I started talking, based on my prior interview with the CEO (their boss) it became clear that I was stepping into the middle of a power struggle, disorganization, or something that I wanted no part of. They were none too nice about it either as if what the CEO told me was my fault.

    I’m not saying OP is doing something like this in the final round (but it is worth checking for anything off-putting) but I went into that final interview *thrilled* to be there. No bad faith, just saw things that made it clear it was a bad fit.

  16. Allornone*

    If OP happens to be in South Florida (diverse, great year-round climate), the housing market is probably getting in the way. Our real estate market is designed to attract wealthy internationals and snowbirds. The people that actually live and work in this city (Miami, specifically) are having a harder and harder time actually being able to live in this city.

    1. Stitch*

      Miami is also a lot to take in if you’ve never been. I’ve never lived anywhere like it.

      And boy does it get hot there.

      1. CeeKee*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t consider South Florida a place with a great year-round climate, but that’s also a matter of personal preference.

        1. Allornone*

          I absolutely hate the summers here. Hate, hate, oh dear god, seriously effing hate. So hot. So sticky. But a lot of folks seem to like it, so yeah, personal preference.

          “Winter” is just lovely though.

        2. Banana*

          For some people, “great year round climate” just means “it doesn’t snow here.”

          1. A Genuine Scientician*


            I grew up with snow. I live with snow now. I did not actually particularly like the weather the four years I live in Los Angeles; very little seasonal variation, very little precipitation, no (what I considered to be) real winter.

            I would absolutely not consider South Florida to be great year round weather. My father lives in Ft. Myers these days, and (pandemic excepted) when I visit for Christmas I find it uncomfortably hot and humid, in what is nearly certainly the nicest part of the year. I would loathe the summer there.

            If I were asked for a place with great year round climate, I guess I might pick the SF Bay Area? I lived there for three years and enjoyed it, though the lack of snow was a little grating. But that’s a) my preference (and in some ways I prefer the Great Lakes), and b) if they’re not paying me Tech Bro salaries I’m not moving there anyway.

        3. Crotchet*

          This. I would not personally consider anywhere with “great year-round climate” to be a perk worth mentioning, especially if it’s in a high humidity, high heat (er, high air conditioning), high population, high tourist, high COL area. If OP is using that as a perk (as in candidates would be so lucky to have the opportunity to live in Beach Town, USA and that’s part of the benefits), I’d rethink it, as it’s highly subjective and not a universal preference. For me, the job would need to be absolutely out of this world for me to consider moving anywhere in that region. I’ll keep my snow and my lakes.

          1. MEH Squared*

            Yuuuuup. I hate, hate, HATE hot weather with a passion (with 70 being when it starts to get uncomfortable for me) so anything with a sweltering, humid, scorching summer would be an automatic no-go. I, too, love my snow and my lakes (maybe we’re neighbors?) and could not live without at least the former.

        4. GammaGirl1908*

          Likewise. Between the hurricanes, the humidity, the heat, and the flying cockroaches? I was there for two years for grad school and skedaddled.

          Notably, the school had Wooing Weekend in February. I stepped on the plane in a snowstorm at home, and stepped off the plane in, well, Florida in February. But when I moved there in August? Woof.

      1. Allornone*

        Also very (sadly, disgustingly) true.

        I’m starting to wonder what I’m doing still living here.

        Okay, okay, I love my job and my long-term boyfriend. And I’m the only family my dad has left in this city and he needs someone close by. But dang. Florida as a whole definitely leaves something to be desired.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s why it’s wild to me to see a thread of people talking only about the weather there! I’ve long had the impression, too, that just as many snowbirds go for the low taxes as the weather. There are other places in the world with warm weather.

  17. KHB*

    Occasionally you see questions here of the form “Why did company X interview me if they weren’t going to hire me?” This is just the flip side of that, and it makes the same amount of sense. The purpose of an interview is for you to decide if you want to hire someone – and it’s for them to decide if they want to be hired by you.

    Going a bit further out on a limb, I’ll guess that if you have a pattern of candidates turning you down for “personal reasons” – and refusing to tell you any more when you ask nicely – there’s a good chance that something about the company (and/or you) is putting them off. If I’m turning down an offer because I like the company just fine but got an offer from someplace I like better, I’d happily tell them that if they asked. If I’m turning them down because the hiring manager creeps me out, I’m citing “personal reasons” and leaving it at that.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I think this letter was a few years ago, but right now I wouldn’t even consider it a “pattern” with just two. I was expecting OP to say 4 or 5 candidates had done this. Even a few years ago I don’t think I would leap to calling it a pattern after just two.

  18. Not A Girl Boss*

    I once considered relocating for a Fortune 50 Company. I had a distant network contact warn me “listen… when I worked there 10 years ago, the building was in dire straights. There was mold everywhere, and I had to keep a trash can on my desk because it rained onto my desk constantly, including the entire month the snow was melting.”
    I waived it off because honestly, what Fortune 50 company tolerates indoor rain? And that was 10 years ago, surely it was fixed? NOPE.
    As soon as I came for the in person interview I knew that there was no way I could spend my days in the 80s-carpeted retro dungeon, complete with water torture. And that was AFTER I battled my way through some unsafe streets that surrounded the complex.
    And yes, COL was higher which I didn’t fully appreciate until I realized that the ‘affordable’ housing I was looking at was in unsafe areas, something that can be hard to suss out from an internet search.

    1. Nephron*

      Based on job I just left I would suggest anyone interviewing always slip into bathrooms on multiple floors if possible. My building wasn’t terrible, but every bathroom on a 22 floor building had only 1 stall that was 100% functional, all others had a wonky door, weird wall/partition, or odd toilet. Many of them worked, but it was annoying. My floor also had 1 of 3 sinks that worked with a working soap dispenser. These things are not high priority, but will annoy you on a day that is bad or even a little annoying. It also shows you if the place is going to have good maintenance and upkeep. My employer owned the building and the actual leadership people in that building had private bathrooms.

  19. anonymous73*

    Assuming you are 100% up front with salary and benefits from the start, “personal reasons” is a fully valid reason to not want to relocate. Maybe something happened in the time between the visit and the offer, and it’s really none of your business what that something may be. If you have to go outside of your area to recruit for the position, you need to go in knowing you are taking the risk that it may not work out in ANY stage of the process. Hopefully this OP changed her attitude on this because it reeks of entitlement.

  20. Sharon*

    There is also the possibility that the candidate was very excited about the job, but when they sat down with their family to make a final decision, they decided the move wasn’t in the best interest of the family as a whole (spouse’s job, kids in school, ease of interaction with other family members, etc.)

    1. NYWeasel*

      Yup, we’ve decided against opportunities based on the family vs just the candidate’s thoughts.

  21. Stitch*

    I remember doing this kind of recruiting with my Dad when I was a kid. In person visits, dinners, real estate tours etc.

    Thing is, I’m pretty sure he did this whole shebang with six different employers (my Dad had a very niche and in demand medical specialty). I think he was offered jobs by all six of them.

    If you want a candidate chances are very very good someone else does too.

  22. Asenath*

    Well, sure, some of them could have accepted the interview offer for a free trip to your city. But I’d bet good money most of them were at least willing to accept an offer when they came for an interview, but they decided that they really didn’t want to move to the new city, something (or someone) in the final interview made them think that the job wasn’t that great after all, or one of their other applications for a job they prefer in a place they like better produced an offer. And don’t underestimate the importance of your location. I’ve spent most of my life in a smallish center, I wouldn’t live anywhere else, and some people who come here to work feel the same, But a great many people who think quite seriously that they might like to move here, at least for a few years or the length of a contract change their minds when they realize just how far it is from all their friends and relatives, what the weather is really like, or realize that the culture is not quite a fit and high cost of practically everything but housing isn’t the same as “can live very cheaply and save money”, especially when trips back home to visit family are factored in. And you know what a lot of us think? It’s far better to find this out after a paid-for interview trip than when they’re partway through a contract, absolutely miserable, and looking for a way out. That’s part of the purpose of bringing people in for interviews.

  23. Maybe Relevant*

    I turned down a job I was certain I would accept because of having flown in to town for the interview in a blue city in a red state. One of the things I checked out while in town were the places where my hobbies would take place (think if you were into bowling and checked out the local bowling lane options) which are slightly outside of the blue city limits. The blatant racism that I encountered at several of those places (as a cis-white woman they didn’t feel the need to hide it from me) made me realize that I couldn’t culturally be happy there.

    I countered with remote and flying to in-office as needed, including my first month in-office, and they declined. I turned them down.

  24. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

    There’s a lot of reasons why people turn down offers, and it’s usually not personal.

    However, I’ve been very excited about jobs and fully intended to accept…and then gotten to the site and the site and actually met the team and noped out because there was a very obvious That Guy who I would have to work very closely with, or I could immediately tell that the person who was going to be my boss was going to be a nightmare in a way that was not obvious in the first interviews. This would be more intense if the job involved a move to an expensive area. How’s your culture? What are people saying about your company on job sites like Glassdoor? What are your competitors offering, what are their reputations, how is the cost of living compared to the salary, etc?

    And, as others have said- it’s an old letter, but can you offer remote work? You would be able to expand your pool substantially if the problem is cost of living/people not wanting to move.

  25. Oakwood*

    Let’s state the obvious.

    If you’re having to fly in people from around the country to join your company, that means anyone that takes a job with your company and who later wants to leave your company is going to have to leave the city as well.

    You’d have to be a pretty special, wonderful, and fabulous company for anyone to take a job with you knowing you are their ONLY potential employer in the vicinity. They are locking themselves in with you for years (or even decades) on end.

    I suspect the problem isn’t the city. The problem is you. They see your company first hand (not virtually) and realize (at best) it’s not that special and (at worst) they wouldn’t risk tying themselves to you.

    If you are going to lure people out to the middle of employment nowhere, you’re going to have to not just be on your A game, but your A+ game.

    1. anonymous73*

      I wouldn’t make that assumption. The people that have left the role(s) in the past could have moved on to another company in the same area. Maybe this company just isn’t that attractive, which is why others have left for greener pastures and they can’t find new people in the area for that role. There could be any number of reasons why these people declined the offer.

    2. Loulou*

      “the problem isn’t the city, it’s you” seems to contradict your first paragraph — the problem could indeed be the city, for the reasons you point out.

    3. Crotchet*

      “You’d have to be a pretty special, wonderful, and fabulous company for anyone to take a job with you knowing you are their ONLY potential employer in the vicinity.” That’s a big assumption. National searches are common and not just for unicorn companies. I’m particularly thinking of healthcare and higher education that are known to do national searches and to fly candidates in for interviews. Sure, an employee may decide to move away if the company doesn’t work out, but in no world would University A or Hospital System X be the only potential employer in the vicinity. A lot of the national-fly-in people we interviewed/hired had a reason to want to move our way (often they did PhD programs somewhere else in the US and were waiting for the right chance to get a position closer to home), and there were plenty of other possible places to work (if the right opening came up). If anything, we got national people who wanted a foot in the door in our area or just a foot in the door anywhere, and then left to work at larger universities or even hospitals a few years later.

    4. PollyQ*

      Wow, that’s not at all obvious. Just because there aren’t enough qualified candidates at the moment in that location doesn’t mean they’re the ONLY potential employer. It may just mean that it’s a specialized role and the people currently doing it in that place don’t feel like changing jobs right now.

      My take is that a sample size of 4 (turned out they’d offered jobs to 4 people, 1 had taken it, and the other 3 turned them down) is much too small to draw ANY conclusions from. And in 2018, the US unemployment rate was below 4%, so by definition there was a great deal of competition for employees.

  26. Nightengale*

    They ghosted me but I would have turned down the job after the in-person interview

    I had had a number of phone interviews for a niche medical role
    I was very excited about the prospect of moving to the city where the job was located. I was trying to move to a city where I could take public transportation because I do not drive well, especially at night and that was limiting my life where I currently was living
    I got to the in-person interview and oddly they were not showing me the actual place I would be working, which is pretty important in my field
    Finally I got them to tell me they planned to put the new person at a satellite location a 60 minute drive away and hadn’t chosen from two possible locations yet. I would not have been working in the exciting city at all.
    I also learned I would be expected to do patient visits in half the time that is generally considered standard in our field.

    These were pretty personally specific deal-breakers, but an example of things that were not made clear until I got to the in-person interview.

  27. freddy*

    I think this hasn’t been said yet – but are you flying out multiple candidates for these final round interviews, LW? It sounds like maybe you put all your eggs in one candidate basket (boy, that metaphor got clunky), and then had no backup plan. You should always bring more than one candidate into the final round, because for any one of them, either they OR you may realize it’s not a good fit. In the past I’ve always had 3 as my goal, but from what I’m hearing on AAM right now, I wonder if more might not be smarter…

    1. Crotchet*

      Yep. We reviewed all submitted complete applications; whittled them down to phone interviews with usually 15 candidates; and, from there, narrowed the on-site fly-in list down to candidates 1, 2, and 3, with candidates 4, 5, 6 (if we were so lucky) on internal standby in case no one from the first three worked out. It was exhausting but we rarely had failed searches, so long as our applicant pool was decent. We always had at least three people on-site for the in-person final interview stage. HR required it, but it felt like good practice, as well.

  28. The OTHER Other.*

    The competition to find skilled candidates is higher than it has been for many years, and this LW needs people to relocate.

    I really doubt people are scheduling interviews in order to scam getaways to your wonderful city.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      This one’s from the archives–2018, I think. You’re not wrong overall, but it wasn’t as true four years ago as it is today.

  29. voyager1*

    Cost of living of your location could be it too. It is one thing to want to live in say NYC or Chicago or SFC, but it is another to start the processes of moving to one of those places.

  30. Junior Assistant Peon*

    My experience with a travel interview is that there isn’t much time for touristy stuff, so I doubt someone could milk an interview trip unless they fake illness at the last minute and spend the day sightseeing.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      It wouldn’t be unusual for the interviewee to ask to schedule the flight several days before or stay several days after to look into houses/apartments on the trip.

      But, yeah, an in-person interview is a lot of work and stress for a free trip.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        Good point. The time I did a travel interview was not a relo situation; I was visiting another company site to meet with some managers.

  31. TG*

    Honestly that seems like not a lot as Alison noted – I always wait to get to the final interview to solidify my decision plus what the verbal is.
    For example my current job I love but had to negotiate a few things when I get the verbal before I accepted officially.
    If people came in and interviewed well enough that you made the verbal than they prepared and did well so I don’t think they are “using it” as an excuse to travel.
    When all was said and done maybe something else was better.
    I’d just be sure to check in along the way and make sure your verbal is competitive and go from there.

  32. Girasol*

    After all the letters saying “Alison, I interviewed and I got turned down twice! What am I doing wrong??” here’s one for the other side. If interviewing is a two way street, why shouldn’t employers expect to be turned down as often as candidates are, and usually after the interviews that they thought had gone so well? We spent too many years in the “you’re lucky to have a job” job market. Employers are too accustomed to offering a job and having anyone say, “Yes, yes, OMG, yes!” It’s kinda refreshing to see that turn around, at least a little.

  33. Lattes are for lovers*

    I have turned down two offers within the last few months for a few reasons: major red flags and overall compensation.

    Job A sounded great until a bunch of red flags popped up late in the interview process. When I reached out to the Hiring Manager to withdraw my candidacy, he did ask me specifically why and I was honest. He acknowledged the red flags and that there wasnt anything he could do to negate them.

    In Job B, it was a compensation issue. I was very clear from the beginning about my salary expectations. Imagine my surprise when they offered me quite a bit less than my current salary. Not only that, they pushed me to leave my current role very quickly, which would involve me giving almost no notice to my current employer. Also, i found out during the offer stage that several employees on this team had left recently, which made me feel like there were some serious issues going on.

    1. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

      Thank you for the link! I always like to read the original post, and they are sometimes hard to find.

  34. Kella*

    I know this is an older letter but I hope that the OP was able to reflect on why, when turned down by an applicant, they jumped to assuming negative things about the applicant’s intentions instead of wondering if there could be something about the job or company that turned the applicant off. Obviously, as Alison said, it could be neither. It could be something totally unrelated.

    But I was really struck by how OP’s first two proposed explanations for the applicants’ behavior were “did they just want a free trip to our beautiful city? Were they trying to leverage retention offers from their current employers?” This shows a pretty significant disconnect between OP and what applicants are handling on their end.

    If the applicant doesn’t current have a job, they may not have a lot of money to spend. And even if the travel is free, that doesn’t mean food or tourist activities are. If the applicant *does* have a job, then they’re likely asking for time off at late notice, using their PTO, not to mention the additional energy and time spent on planning, packing, dealing with airports and airplanes, and navigating a new place. Candidates are absolutely investing in those trips too. And it’s mildly concerning that OP doesn’t see that. If there was an overall attitude of entitlement to candidates’ time and resources, that could be one source of applicants turning down OP’s offers.

  35. Kayem*

    I think what really bothers me about the letter is the instant lean towards it being a problem of the candidates and their sense of ethics. I’ve had final round interviews requiring me to travel across the country (a couple times at my own expense) and I did not go there thinking it was a free trip with no intention of accepting an offer. In one case, I knew I would not fit in with the work culture as soon as I was shown around the office and met other employees.

    Once it was because I discovered that despite ticking all the right boxes on my list of what I want, living in that location would have made me absolutely miserable, which I didn’t realize until I got there. A lot of people loved living in that location, but I would not be one of them and no amount of faking it was going to make that happen. I’m not going to explain that in detail to a hiring manager, so vague “personal reasons” is the explanation.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. I’ve had a job come up that was perfect on paper but visiting the location made me realise I wouldn’t want to live there. I went for one job based in a lovely city in a more southern part of Europe and got bitten to death by the local mosquitos and didn’t like the residential areas. I thought I was going to love it but I took a job in Brussels instead because the weather, housing options and lack of mozzies suited me better. Sometimes you have to see somewhere to work out whether you’re going to want to live there. On paper the Southern European option should be more desirable but it just didn’t work for me.

  36. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    Oh wow. I just read this one (the original) on a “surprise me” bounce on Friday, so I was super thrown off to see it again today before I noticed it was done as a blast from the past.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      That happened to me, too. A little disorienting, before I realized it was an Inc. post.

      I was glad to have a rational explanation for the deja vu feeling!

  37. Catty Wampus*

    “and are as serious about us as we are about them.”
    I know this is an older post, but still thought this was worth replying to. How serious are you about them? If you bring them in for an in person interview does that mean you’ve already decided to offer them a position? Or are you “serious enough about them” that you want another/closer look before you decide whether to make an offer? If it’s the latter then I think you have to assume that their interest in your company is exactly the same as your company’s interest in them – they are also serious enough to want another/closer look, but that doesn’t mean they have (or should be expected to have) already made a decision to accept an offer anymore than you have decided to make one at that point.

    1. Observer*

      That was one of the things that stuck out to a lot of commenters – why would the OP think that flying out to an interview is a guarantee that they would accept a job, when it’s not a guarantee that the employer would offer a job?

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Maybe the applicant’s level of interest was equal to the company’s interest: They made the cut for the applicant to come visit them instead of interviewing elsewhere that week. Maybe they were in the “top three” of potential employers?

  38. Observer*

    I remembered this one and went back to re-read it. The OP was highly defensive about this situation and it took them a while to come off their high frustration level. It also took a while for them to start actually listening to what people were saying.

    The comments that the OP left really did support the idea that they had an overly high level of entitlement to start with and they had a fundamental failure to understand that the process is a two way street.

  39. Ms.Aggie*

    Academia, I’m guessing – a “prestigious” institution in a small and expensive college town with limited employment options for partners, high housing costs, and a modest starting salary.

    Time to up your starting salary, make partner hires, and shift to remote final visits.

  40. kiki*

    When a job offer comes with a move requirement, there’s just a lot of information for a candidate to weigh that they won’t possibly know until towards the end of the process. Sometimes someone is very excited to move to a city until they get there and realize, “huh, this isn’t what I thought.” This is multiplied if the candidate has a partner or family. The candidate may be really excited and their partner was too until they got there and realized new city doesn’t have X that current city does. Or the type of house they can reasonably afford isn’t close to the beach or fun things and the areas they can live are lackluster in person. Moves are big decisions, so seeing some uncertainty and cold feet from candidates is part of the territory for moving.

  41. 867-5309*

    OP, We run into this. Someone is excited and feels ready but when the rubber meets the road, they aren’t just can’t make the move. One person on our team was supposed to relocate this summer and his wife was on board, and then suddenly she was not and now he is navigating that.

    1. Dragon*

      This happened with a journalist, though with a work assignment instead of a job offer.

      With his wife’s agreement, he asked to go abroad as a foreign correspondent. He was well-traveled, and requested a country from which they had adopted a child. So they had lived there a few weeks during the adoption process.

      For multiple reasons including unexpected moving complications, in the end they didn’t go. Another was the wife decided she couldn’t live the expat life after all. Their plan had been that if they moved abroad, she wouldn’t work. This was pre-Internet, and her profession involved direct people contact.

      I sensed they hadn’t really addressed that if she didn’t work, what would she do while husband was at work and the kids were in school.

  42. A Genuine Scientician*

    I’ve twice turned down offers after I was flown out to interview for them. (National searches are the standard in my field — I’m a college professor).

    One place the issue could have been avoided if they’d told me about the salary and the resources up front. The salary was pitifully low. The budget for equipment and supplies to start my lab was so low that more than one professor I’m friends with asked me if they had forgotten a 0 when telling me the amount. I simply could not do the work that I proposed with that start up, and I was not willing to work the hours it would have taken to do something else for the very low salary they were offering. And I’d have been moving to a less desirable to me location in the process.

    The other money was a problem — the university was offering ~$10k less than the high school a mile away was in my subject — but it wasn’t the primary factor. The primary factor was my brother being murdered the week before my final interview, and that driving home to me how much I valued having the local support network I’d built over the previous few years, and how much harder it would have been if I were in a new location where I knew almost no one. Combined with my 1 year only contract position being converted into something permanent, that was enough for me to want to stay where I was/am. Sometimes things change, in ways the candidate honestly can’t predict.

    But also, if you’re not telling them the salary range prior to making an offer at a particular number, you cannot possibly expect people will only fly out for an interview if they’re sure they’ll accept an offer. They shouldn’t have to make that commitment anyway — as Alison points out, they can learn things at the interview that would be deal breakers for them — but even in 2022 lots of employers are being very opaque about salary, and that’s going to cause problems.

    1. Crotchet*

      What you described was the primary reason candidates who interviewed at my small university declined offers. We usually had one last breakfast with each candidate with just one or two of the hiring committee members, and I found that was often the time when candidates would be very honest and unguarded, since they’d been on campus for 1.5-2 days, had become familiar with the committee, were tired, had likely made up their minds, and may not have perceived the breakfast as an interview time. In a final one-on-one or one-on-two setting, so many said, “What your website describes about campus isn’t exactly what I saw…” and “what was described in terms of lab equipment doesn’t appear to actually be what you have… How’s the budget?” One or two flat-out asked about pay increases and raises, which is exactly what you said: our tenure-track profs were paid less than or equal to local K-12 educators, from teachers to counselors to psychologists to IT, but, unlike K-12 educators, were expected to officially work on weekends (often recruiting events) as well as teach until 8-10PM and come back in at 8AM for office hours or morning classes. That made a huge difference for a lot of the candidates, and, looking back, we tended to hire a lot more local applicants than national applicants, unless the national applicant had a pressing reason to work in our area.

      As I think about it, having more time on-site allowed for more honesty and time to identify deal breakers. And the people who are flying in typically have more time on-site and with interviewers.

  43. Cj*

    This absolutely comes off as entitled. Especially the comment about the job candidate getting a free trip to a desirable destination. It’s usually a one or two-day trip, you’re using up your PTO, and stuck in a cramped airplane seat for several hours.

    The OP mentions that salary and benefits are brought up early in the process, but until they fly you out, you meet with the realtor, and see neighborhoods that you could for a on that salary, that means nothing.

    The salary they bring up early on could also be a range that is within several thousands of dollars. Like between $80,000 and $120,000. Or $150,000 to $225,000.

    1. Jack Bruce*

      Exactly! The times I’ve been flown out for (academic) interviews were near-constant interviews, lunches, and dinners. I barely even saw the town except on the realtor tours and was exhausted the entire time. Definitely not a free vacation, but I had to use PTO anyway.

  44. From the other side*

    I once turned down a job offer from a job in a different state after several Zoom interviews and then an in-person visit. Each conversation went really well and I know someone else who worked there. I knew the salary and benefits would be great. But when I got there two things happened: One, despite asking several times about the schedule (this was in marketing for a private school), they mentioned that I would have to be taking sports pictures at night. I had explicitly mentioned my desire to get away from evening obligations and everyone (boss and co-workers) all said, “Oh, it’s not that many night events.” Suddenly that became “well, except for the guy you’re replacing. He stays and photographs sports events most nights.” This was after a conversation about how I don’t enjoy sports, I like features and news and everything except for sports event coverage. Two, I met a lot of the higher level administrators and I realized my personality, formed by two decades in small newsrooms, would probably chafe with theirs. They were very nice … but I just couldn’t imagine myself happily turning their mission statement into materials to sell people on a pricey school. I really, really thought I could do it. My husband questioned me from the beginning and, it turned out, he was right.
    Did I tell the guy offering me the job that? Nope. I regretfully declined and said it wasn’t the right job for me. He wasn’t a bad person … I just didn’t want to work with him. (He also seemed kind of … humorless.)

  45. Bobbo*

    Personally I’m a huge flirt. I get a lot of unsolicited offers and I’ve interviewed at a bunch of places and turned them down at different stages in the process. Maybe if I meet someone really interesting… But I’m happily married to my job.

  46. RJ*

    It’s very important to not take a letter from the archives at face value since there are often a lot of additional factors in play. I’m glad that the original story with OP’s comments was linked upthread because the first thing I thought when I read it through was ‘pre pandemic job hiring expectations’. The second was to see OP’s frustration where others saw entitlement and to remember how much of a strain it is when you’re not getting proper, balanced HR support in your hiring practices. This was happening to a much larger extent at OldJob until a complete revamp of HR took place to streamline the process. It made a world of difference at OldJob and did the same for OP.

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that even in the original letter and the OP’s responses, there was a lot of entitlement. They basically had the idea that since their hiring practices seemed pretty good – they always get back to people and only fly out people who they think have a very high chance of being given an offer, it’s bad faith on the part of job candidates to turn down any offer. And it just doesn’t work that way. Even in an employer’s market, it doesn’t work that way.

  47. Currently Bill*

    “But twice in less than a year I’ve gone through this process with two separate candidates for two separate searches, only to have my offers turned down. ”

    Twice in one year may be worth raising an eyebrow, but I’m not sure that’s enough to really discern a pattern, especially when there are so many excellent reasons for a candidate to decline relo once they have all the facts.

    I’d be reluctant to try to fix a problem that may not actually be a problem. The OP needs A LOT more data and probably needs to be declined a couple more times before trying to solve it.

    At the very least, the OP needs to know what their acceptance rate was for the previous several years to understand if 2 is a lot of declines.

  48. Sarah*

    The entitlement in this post must have leaked through to the candidates. They knew the salary, were willing to relocate, and I’m sure it’s a lovely city. But twice now, the candidates have declined the offer of employment. Sounds to me like the problem is within the company, not with the candidates or hiring process. The hiring manager needs to ask herself “what went wrong in the final interview?” Was the interviewer a jerk? What is the office culture like? If it’s negative, is it strikingly obvious?

    Does it pay enough so the candidate can live in good housing, close to the job? What expectations/benefits were not articulated until the final stage? Is the compensation really competitive on a National scale?

  49. Mary*

    I work in a niche role in a highly desirable market. When I was directly out of school, I interviewed for one of the premiere places I could have worked. The CEO was really off-putting to me in the final interview, but I didn’t get an offer so it was ultimately irrelevant. Years later I interviewed again with the same org and was 99% sure I was going to accept an offer until I met with the CEO and was once again totally turned off. I was in a position to say no and take another job, which I did. The place has since had several enormous problems stemming from the CEO, so even though people were shocked I turned it down at the time, it was clearly the right choice.

    Everyone’s comments about interviews being a two way streets are spot on

  50. LilPinkSock*

    LW, you know how you sometimes get applicants that are intriguing on paper, and once you work through your hiring process, it becomes evident that they’re not The One after all? That goes both ways. It’s entirely possible that something is tripping their “no thank you” triggers during the in-person phase. Or they get another offer that is more appealing. Or there’s a personal factor that makes your amazing city not a good fit for them personally. Whatever the case, it’s a huge bummer that this has happened to you multiple times, but I’d consider reviewing the offer and making sure it’s as great as you think…and stop being so uncharitable towards candidates who 48 hours earlier were oh-so-amazing.

  51. toolittletoolate*

    Are you being extremely clear about the salary range? I find a lot of companies “think” they are being clear, when in fact they are not. And, if you give a range, a finalist candidate will expect to be offered at the high end of the range, regardless of whether their skill sets warrant it. And expect a candidate to ask for at least 10% above the top range as a negotiation. Qualifying the candidate in terms of salary is extremely important.

    And, just wondering,,,,is your organization in a “destination” location? Could it be that candidates are more interested in the paid for travel to the interview than the interview? I’ve seen that happen with clients in vacation destinations.

    And the opposite might be true—your location isn’t appealing. You have to be honest with yourself about that…if it’s not an appealing place to live, then you have to sweeten the pot in other ways.

    This might be worth hiring a good recruiter to help you with your next search. Get one who’s honest and willing to tell you the upfront about what’s positive and negative about your company and help you figure out a package that will attract a good candidate.


    The real estate tour is great for helping someone make a realistic decision if they want to relocate, but it might be the reason that people are realizing that relocating won’t actually allow them to buy the house they imagine moving to a lower cost of living area would in the current market. It’s good that they’re not bamboozling people, but that also means they’re going to hear no thanks more often. Many companies will provide a housing allowance for a few months, but then leave the employee and their family to their own devices on finding their permanent home after they have already fully moved and the person has already started the job.

    1. moonstone*

      Yeah. I definitely encourage interviewing out of towners, but it’s worth noting that needing to move for a job will make the decision to take the job a much higher stakes decision than if the job were local, so a higher chance a candidate will say no if they don’t think the job is worth moving for.

  53. moonstone*

    People aren’t obligated to a accept a job offer just because they interviewed in person…what a weird reaction. If multiple people are turning down offers, it’s usually a sign that there is something wrong with your offer, or you’re just unlucky.

  54. Typical*

    I have a friend who turned down an offer with all of the above (big raise, relocation package, etc.) because when he and his wife visited for the in-person interview, they quickly realized they couldn’t handle living in such a racist community.

  55. Dust Bunny*

    My brother got offered a job that was, on paper, a slight step up from the one he has now but would have been a lot more prestigious in terms of the culture within his discipline, and was located in an area that was more desirable in basically every respect than the one in which he and his family currently live.

    However, when they looked into opportunities in the same area for his wife, there was zilch (or, rather, there were some but nothing like she currently has). She said she could find something and would make the best of it but he turned it down because he didn’t want her to have to give up the career she’s built in their current area.

    The fact that it’s a great opportunity for the applicant doesn’t mean it’s a great opportunity for everyone else associated with the applicant.

  56. no one scrolls this far down*

    I had an interview early in the pandemic and I really vibed with the woman interviewing me. We did a whole tour of the place etc etc and then at the end, she said “but we don’t offer health benefits” after saying there was no mask policy either. This wasn’t the type of job that allowed for a WFH set up.

    I’m just saying, your candidate could have been genuinely enthusiastic but then something happened during the last interview that made them decline. Perhaps some introspection is required?

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