AGR Blog

How to beat students reneging on job offers


Brian Sinclair, Head of Student Recruitment at Cognizant shares his strategy for beating broken promises in student recruitment.

The AGR’s latest poll showed that more than half of graduate employers had jobs left unfilled last year and that “while one in five offers were declined, students’ reneging on job offers continues to be a concern”.

Over the last few years I’ve seen an increase in candidates’ ability to secure multiple offers.  Whether that’s a sign of a brighter, smarter and more talented candidate is a debate for another day.  I’d like to focus on how we can successfully tackle last minute refusals and offer reneging.

Graduate recruitment is like a game of ‘Capture the Flag’.  The flag is the talent, the defenders are the distractions a graduate has in his or her world and, once captured, your challenge is to stop the flag getting stolen out of your grip by a competitor.  However, it’s not a game; it’s a battle.  A post-offer battle for talent. 

So, how do recruiters win this war?

A normal recruitment process talks about candidate management, i.e. managing the applicant through the selection process up until offer.  Then everything enters the vague area of on-boarding, security clearance and reference-checking before the candidate eventually pops up at your induction.  Unfortunately, though, for many graduates these days, signing up and turning up are two different things.  Offer acceptance does not guarantee induction attendance.

Therefore, if you have a long lead-time between offer and proposed start date, I believe recruiters need to focus more on candidate maintenance.

What does candidate maintenance look like?  Here are a few examples of candidate maintenance for those with a firm offer:

  • Assign a buddy from the receiving unit and ensure they make contact and form a relationship. The better the relationship the more chance the candidate will join your company because it’s harder to turn down a friend.
  • Invite them in to a specific BU and/or location networking event or even a staff party. Avoid grouping by university, as the events need to be forward looking, focusing the graduate on what they will be doing when they join and whom they will be doing it with.
  • Include them in your internal communications, so they are informed on all of the great things that your company is doing. It’s likely there’ll be something that will inspire and entice them to join.  It will also enable them to become fluent in your office and corporate language before they start.
  • Send more personalised content in the form of a Christmas, Passover or birthday card. Or maybe an exam preparation pack.  Avoid being over-personal or friendly as there’s a fine line between candidate engagement and stalking.

In short, the reneging decision can be made at any time between offer and their start day so you, the recruiter, need to maintain the candidate’s attention until you get them across the line to the induction.

Capturing the flag is only half the game; keeping hold if it until you get back to your home base is how you win.


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