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Find retention answers from ‘Ones who got away’

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in Firing,Hiring,Human Resources

Issue: Hold informal "exit interviews" with applicants who turn down job offers from your organization.

Benefits: The answers can help gauge the effectiveness of your hiring process and increase your applicant capture rate.

Action: Review the following advice to know which questions to ask and how to ask them.

While employee surveys and exit interviews are great tools for measuring your organization's strengths and weaknesses, why wait until someone is already hired (or about to leave) before asking critical questions?

You can gain valuable feedback from candidates who turned down job offers from your organization. In many cases, the feedback is more candid than that from exit interviews with departing employees.

Typical exit interview questions tend to focus on compensation, managerial style and work environment. Questions to "nonjoining" candidates should do the same. Examples:

  • What is your impression of this organization's work environment and culture? 
  • Did the compensation package meet your expectations? How could it have improved? 
  • What was your impression of the manager who interviewed you? 
  • What deciding factor made you reject our offer? 

Always dig below the surface. It's easy for candidates to say they received a "better offer" from another employer. Find out exactly what that means. A better base salary? Better benefits? A flexible schedule? Uncover the core issues for these candidates and how they differ according to age or job role.

Ask about the interview process itself. Did candidates feel the interviewing managers were prepared? Did hiring managers effectively communicate the job's scope and how it aligns with the organization's strategy? If not, your candidates may be receiving mixed messages throughout the hiring process. Whether a candidate meets with one person or 10, everyone should be reading from the same page.

Compare expectations to reality. Ask how candidates' expectations of the organization measured against the reality they found when interviewing. Their answers can reveal a great deal about your reputation in the job market.

Did they arrive expecting a fast-paced, entrepreneurial enterprise, only to find a highly structured and risk-averse organization? If a disparity like that exists, look closer at the ways your employees com-municate your organization's culture and recommend revisions, if necessary.

Eavesdrop at an online water cooler. At online job site Vault,, you can scan the Electronic WaterCooler message boards to find out what employees think about their employers. Even if your organization isn't mentioned, the comments provide insights into what people expect from the recruitment experience.

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