UK Markets closed

Why are job seekers turning down offers?

Male indian hr, recruiter or employer holding cv having online virtual job interview meeting with african candidate on video call. Distance remote recruitment conference chat. Over shoulder view.
Businesses have said few people are actually applying to fill job vacancies. Photo: Getty

Job vacancies have hit a record high in the UK and employers in certain industries are struggling to hire staff. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of vacancies in the three months to August rose above one million for the first time since records began in 2001.

Some companies in the food industry, which has already seen a shortage of lorry drivers, have been unable to provide normal service in recent weeks.

Despite this, recruiters have said candidates are turning down interviews and job offers. Speaking to the BBC, Tracey Waterfield, from the Leicester Employment Hub, said people were rejecting new positions. Other businesses have said few people are actually applying to fill job vacancies – with some receiving just a handful of applications at most.

Read more: Employers also need to embrace right to request flexible working

But with Britain facing a surge of job vacancies, why are candidates turning down offers?

“I don't think that this is just a job seeker issue. I believe it is an employer issue,” says Jane Ferré, an executive career coach and mentor. “Many are offering ‘flexible working’ on their advertisements or as part of initial conversations. But when it comes to getting clarification about what this means exactly, this is not quite as flexible as the employers made out.

“People have had lots of time to think and to get clear about what they want from their next role and are not prepared to accept anything that does not 100% match with their wants and needs.”

Since trialling remote working during the pandemic, many people are keen to continue working flexibly. According to a poll of 1,000 UK workers, conducted by EY as part of its 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, four in five wanted flexibility where they worked. Furthermore, 47% went as far as to say they would consider changing their jobs if flexible working wasn’t an option.

When asked about what sort of flexibility employees wanted, 39% said they would like more choice in when they work and 43% wanted choice in where they worked.

“Covid has made everyone assess what they want from their job moving forward. Some people call this being ‘fussy’ but I prefer to use the word uncompromising,” says Ferré. “In March 2020, those who could complied with lockdown instructions and started to work from home."

“They went out of their way to make working from home a success and made it work for themselves at the same time,” she says. “They figured out a way to get things done as well as using the additional time – that was previously spent commuting – to create a different life for themselves.”

Read more: How recruitment 'ghosting' is impacting mental health of job applicants

Now, Ferré says, many employers are trying to "shoehorn" people back into pre-Covid ways of working. “This is mainly because they are still paying for expensive office space,” she explains. “People are not prepared to put up with it any more – they won't accept a job if it is not right for them.”

Poor hiring practices may be another reason why people are turning down job offers. Often, candidates have to go through a lengthy process of multiple interviews, written tests and more to land a new job, which can be discouraging.

“Organisations are moving too slowly and taking too long to make hiring decisions,” says Ferré.

“Good people are always in high demand. If you add in another stage to the selection process, as an organisation you are demonstrating that you are risk averse or that the hiring manager wants everyone else to sign off on their choice. In the time that you are trying to align diaries, your competitor has made an offer to the same candidate.”

Yet although some businesses may be struggling to fill vacancies, it’s important for job seekers not to take jobs they don’t want. If a position isn’t perfect and doesn’t have any benefits, there may be no real reason to accept the role unless you need a steady wage.

Accepting the wrong role can leave employees feeling trapped, demoralised and disengaged with their work. And if workers end up quitting, employers may suffer from a high turnover of staff too – which can be costly. Therefore, it’s important to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of a job offer before making the right decision.

Watch: The Biggest Job Interview Mistakes