You’ve slogged through dozens of resumes, set up and conducted multiple rounds of interviews and, finally, you’ve extended an offer to the perfect candidate. Except she decides to go with another company’s offer instead.  

Most companies just face the music and let things lie there. But Ben Dattner, an organizational development consultant writing on the Harvard Business Review website, says you should be conducting “declined offer” interviews.

Finding your weak spots

Facing rejection isn’t comfortable, but Dattner says these interviews help pinpoint what controllable issues you can fix, such as a troubled image/brand or how the interview process is structured.

In other words, there’s more value in asking what went wrong than just letting a candidate walk — even if the factors he or she mentions are beyond your control.

It’s the same reasoning behind exit interviews: You can’t solve a problem you don’t know you have.

Because candidates are critiquing you, make sure the interview is done either through a third party, like on a review site such as Glassdoor, or anonymously through an online survey. You’ll get more honest answers that way.

Dattner advises asking these kinds of open-ended, non-leading questions:

  • What were your concerns about working for us?
  • What was the most important factor in making your decision?
  • Do you have feedback for HR, the hiring manager, or on our hiring process in general?
  • What are your suggestions for how we could better suit candidates like you in the future?

Here’s Dattner’s overall rationale for conducting these types of interviews:

While academic institutions often gather feedback from students who are accepted but do not matriculate in order to improve student recruitment and retention and to better compete with rival institutions, doing so with job candidates in a systematic and consistent manner is rare in the corporate world. As with other kinds of selling and marketing, you may learn as much, if not more, from the feedback of customers who choose not to buy as you learn from those who do.

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