You sourced a candidate who impressed the hiring manager, has all the skills for the job and fits with your company’s values. But, before you can extend an offer, the candidate changes their mind about the position.

If this situation sounds familiar, you may need to reevaluate your hiring process. HR industry thought leader and professor of management at San Francisco State University, Dr. John Sullivan, says the cost to candidate withdrawal is real; the lost investment is a drain on team resources. To prevent candidates from dropping out of the hiring process or rejecting your offer, start by understanding the top reasons a candidate withdraws. These include confusing job applications, long hiring processes, poor interview experiences, a lack of candidate communication and failing to collect candidate feedback. Read below to understand causes of drop-out, and find ways to ensure the candidate continues through the hiring pipeline, and ultimately, accepts your offer.

Your online application is too complicated

Don’t miss the opportunity to provide a positive experience at the candidate’s first interaction with your company — the job application. Repetitive, long or confusing job forms can lead candidates to drop out before providing their information. Sullivan reports that at Fortune 500 firms, 9 out of ten potential applicants drop out because they encountered a frustrating application process. To convert more candidates, talent acquisition teams can make it easy to apply from a mobile device, provide candidates a time estimate for completion at the beginning of the process and offer desktop resume parsing functionality to save candidates from manually entering repetitive information.

You’re missing a customer support mindset

“Treat applicants like customers and be more responsive.”

Candidates who don’t hear from your company in a timely manner are likely to lose interest. The 2016 Candidate Experience Research Report found 47 percent of candidates were left waiting two or more months for a response after submitting an application. Keep candidates engaged by following the lead of your customer support team and implementing a plan for customer communication. “Treat applicants like customers and be more responsive,” Sullivan says.

Leverage candidate relationship management software to acknowledge every application and thank candidates for applying. Establish a team-wide protocol to respond to candidates within 24 hours and proactively reach out with updates on the hiring timeline or interview schedules. To create a positive experience and prevent drop-off, never leave candidates wondering about their status with your company.

Your interview experience needs improvement

“If [the candidate] had an unexciting interview or feels like they are being treated poorly because of a lack of feedback, or even a rude recruiter or disinterested hiring manager, the best will exit quickly.”

Candidates may also withdraw from the hiring process due to a poor experience with your company. “If [the candidate] had an unexciting interview or feels like they are being treated poorly because of a lack of feedback, or even a rude recruiter or disinterested hiring manager, the best will exit quickly,” Sullivan says.

Train staff: To make sure candidates leave their first interview excited about the opportunity, host an interview training with hiring teams. At the session, review behavioral interview questions, how to answer candidates authentically and the importance of nonverbal communication.

Build candidate enthusiasm: Before the interview, provide candidates the names and titles of people they will meet, include directions to the office and send an email to build excitement. On the interview day, designate a person to greet each candidate with a warm welcome and give an office tour. Creating a positive interview experience will ensure the candidate is excited about an offer. Even if they don’t accept, they may think of your company for future opportunities, or share their experience on third-party review sites.

Download our free guide to learn how to improve your interview process and hire more top talent, faster.

Your hiring process is drawn out

The primary cause of candidate drop-out is a long hiring process.

Sullivan asserts that the primary cause of candidate drop-out is a long hiring process (SHRM found the average time to fill is 42 days) and suggests making hiring decisions within 10 days to avoid losing candidates to a competitor. “The very best candidates are being pursued by several firms, so they are likely to have one or more offers within 10 days,” Sullivan says. Companies can create a faster process by reducing the number of interviews or holding all interviews on a single day. If scheduling conflicts slow down hiring, consider implementing scheduling technology to eliminate phone tag and back-and-forth emails, and get to the offer stage faster.

You don’t collect candidate feedback

You usher hundreds of candidates through the hiring process. Why not ask them what they think about their experience? Sullivan suggests surveying candidates to understand what is working and what isn’t. Provide candidates with the option to review their experience with your company by sending a short survey at the end of the hiring process. Evaluate that feedback to understand where you are providing a positive experience and where you can refocus, to continually improve and keep candidates interested, from first phone screen to final offer.


To meet hiring goals on budget and on deadline, evaluate your hiring process for causes of candidate drop-out. By addressing the top reasons candidates withdraw, you can keep candidates engaged, spend less time sourcing for new candidates and increase your number of accepted offers.

About Dr. John Sullivan
Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought leader from Silicon Valley. He is currently a professor of management at San Francisco State University.