What Percentage of Candidates Withdraw From a Job Interview Process?

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Interviewing is a lot like dating, with being stood up becoming a more common experience for employers.
Interviewing is a lot like dating, with being stood up becoming a more common experience for employers. (Image: Allen Simon/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Job hunting, and headhunting, tends to be a dog-eat-dog world. Human resource managers, recruiters and executive search agencies contend daily with people who don’t show up for interviews and don’t even bother to call. A few are fortunate to get a formal notice that the candidate is no longer interested. The percentage of candidates who withdraw from the job interview process varies by industry, position type and level of experience. For example, candidates in fields with high demand often land lucrative offers making later scheduled interviews dispensable in their eyes. Neophytes who haven’t learned job search etiquette are also apt to be no-shows. In addition, lengthy delays on getting back to candidates can cause even the top contenders to bow out. Withdrawals, no-shows and no-calls are unfortunate annoyances of the HR industry — even presidential candidates withdraw — but companies can institute measures to lower their risk of being stood up.

Expert Estimates on No-Shows

With sound planning, confirmation and follow-up procedures and zero reconsideration policies, some companies enjoy minimal interview absenteeism, says former Silicon Valley talent officer John Sullivan. Other companies have habitual no-shows, exceeding 15 percent. His estimates are cautious. CareerBuilder.com reported in 2008 that recruiters regularly saw 50 percent of candidates in information technology positions fail to show up. A food producer reported 10 percent withdrawals, while a waste removal company reported a 50 percent dropout rate in just one five-month period.

Why the Disappearing Act?

Less is known about the percentage of candidates who politely withdraw with a message to the hiring company, but considering only about 10 percent ever send a thank-you note following a completed interview, formal withdrawals are likely lower than that. Despite being a common practice, dropping out of the interview often boils down to the old adage: you snooze, you lose. Companies hold out too long and candidates accept other job offers, reports the Society for Human Resources Management. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported this problem with a school district, citing 70 percent of withdrawers who said they would have accepted a teaching job if the offer had come earlier.

In a booming economy, CareerBuilder reports that few candidates are at the whims of dawdling hiring managers. A communications professional search firm reported that 40 percent of candidates withdraw following an interview during which they formed negative impressions of the company. However, the highest levels of withdrawals come from people in entry-level and junior positions; mid-to-senior level prospectives rarely fail to show.

Command Some Respect

Sullivan says modern-day recruiting processes were put in place when employees were desperate for jobs and could treat candidates with a bit of “arrogance.” He says employers can lessen their chances of encountering a no-show with a change of attitude and careful planning. By preparing your interviewee for what to expect during the interview, who they will meet with, and what they need to bring, you will help breed a bit of familiarity and encourage them to show up. Plan interviews with a working candidate in mind. A candidate who’s looking for a job while employed can’t show up for an interview tomorrow at 11 a.m. Most of all, make it clear that they can reschedule if they have emergencies, or that you won’t allow another interview if they fail to show up the first time without calling.

The Soft Sell

Recruiters also need to “sell” the company and excite and show the candidate that the interview is worth their time. Promote the company, its benefits and future plans to hook the candidate’s interest. If necessary, change your hiring practices to involve a short pre-screen interview over the phone to gauge whether the candidate should come in.

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