May 22, 2023

Uncovering the Truth: Why Top Executives Decline Job Offers

By: Jeff Schwartz

When an executive rejects a job opportunity with your company, it serves as an excellent reminder that candidates aren’t the only ones that need to bring their A-game to the table. In today’s market, executive candidates have a choice of opportunities and a new set of priorities in mind. With a few changes to your approach, executive candidates will be less likely to reject your job offer. Keep reading to learn the five reasons why top executives decline job offers.

Uncovering the Truth: Why Top Executives Decline Job Offers

Rejection is a hard pill to swallow

As a hiring manager, navigating job offer rejections is a perplexing experience. You often need clarification regarding why a candidate is turning down a job offer. The rejection can be even more acute when it involves an executive candidate with the qualifications, professional accomplishments, and the emotional intelligence needed to succeed. What causes executive job offer rejections, and how can you avert similar outcomes in the future?

Let’s answer those two questions in this post so that you’re prepared with the necessary tools to enhance the executive recruitment processes of your organization. Remember, we are always in a better position to succeed when we address potential issues before they obstruct our goals. This is especially important when the task involves filling key leadership roles. 

  1. Cultural Mismatch
    Now more than ever, the cultural fit of an organization plays a significant role for executives considering job offers. Candidates expect to join a company with values that align with their own and seek a positive work environment where they can thrive. Cultural fit issues manifest in various ways, including conflicting priorities, differing leadership styles, or different management practices. For instance, a candidate who values collaboration and teamwork isn’t the best fit for a company that values individual contributions. Hiring managers that are upfront about their corporate culture and values early on during the hiring process provides all parties with an opportunity to assess the actual viability of the relationship. It’s critical to offer executive candidates a chance to ask questions about the company’s culture and values. This transparency prevents cultural mismatches for everyone.

    A post by ClearRock titled “Job Rejections Due to Lack of Cultural ‘Fit’” states, “Some companies almost ensure the failure of newly hired and promoted managers because they have an unrealistic or outdated understanding of their culture. If a company is experiencing a higher-than-usual failure rate for newly hired and promoted managers, they may be hiring and promoting people based on an erroneous perception of their culture.”

    After realizing what a poor cultural fit can lead to, the rejection by an executive candidate might start to seem like more of a blessing in disguise. If they did accept the offer while knowing there wasn’t a solid cultural fit, there’s a good chance you’d be looking to fill the role again in the not-too-distant future. The rejection also allows your team to review your current interview process to make changes that could bring up a candidate’s reservations about company culture earlier in the process.
  2. Limited Growth Opportunities
    Most executives are interested in accepting a new position that offers plenty of opportunities to advance their careers. Candidates need to see a balance between what they can offer the organization and what the company has to offer.

    Suppose you’ve recently had an executive candidate reject an offer because they couldn’t delineate any advancement opportunities. In that case, this represents a great time to figure out how best to spotlight growth and development opportunities during the hiring process. By outlining potential career paths and any steps needed to achieve those goals, you’ll showcase to the candidate that the company values its leadership team and the benefits of retaining employees.

    In SHRM’s recent article titled “Developing Employee Career Paths and Ladders,” it states, “Research by WorldatWork shows that organizations that do not invest in training and development of their human capital lose valuable employees to their competition. Employers can easily differentiate themselves from competitors by investing in their employees’ career development. Even a relatively small employer investment has a positive impact on loyalty.” As you can see, your organization must showcase its commitment to career advancement early in the interview process. 
  3. Inadequate Compensation
    Everyone has bills to pay, mouths to feed, and retirements to fund. Your company’s compensation package will be essential when executive candidates weigh an offer with your organization. Keep in mind, it’s different strokes for different folks when we’re discussing compensation. Startups frequently utilize stock and the stock’s potential future upside as their primary currency versus a standard offering by a larger company. When an offer seems a bit light, there’s a good chance it will be rejected. A well-balanced benefits package that includes stock option grants, deferred compensation, long-term incentive plans, retirement packages, and executive perks will make your company stand out amongst competitors, increasing the likelihood that a candidate will accept your offer.

    If you put executive candidates through a long compensation negotiation process, there’s a good chance they might reject your offer. Get ahead of this by doing your due diligence regarding comparable compensation packages within your industry. In his Investopedia blog post titled “Evaluating Executive Compensation,” Justin Kuepper states, “Another popular way to evaluate executive compensation is to compare one executive to other industry peers. While market leaders typically have CEOs who are paid slightly more than their industries, the majority of executives should be paid on par with their peers.”
  4. Unclear Job Responsibilities
    When it comes to job responsibilities, everyone wants clarity, especially executive candidates. Asking someone to take on a key role at your organization comes with the responsibility of ensuring that every candidate clearly understands the company’s expectations for the position.

    Like everything in life (and the points in this post), preparation is critical. First, the job description must accurately account for the job’s responsibilities. It will also benefit you to offer the candidate several opportunities to ask questions about the role’s responsibilities during the hiring process. Open communication is vital. And also, make sure that the various people interviewing the candidate know the job responsibilities so the candidate recognizes that the organization is aligned with the expectations for the role. Having a clearly defined path builds confidence and goes a long way to ensure that your preferred candidate accepts your offer.
  5. Poor Hiring Experience
    We’ve all gone through different hiring experiences, some good and some not-so-good. Some critical factors provide a candidate with positive thoughts and feelings, including a well-organized and efficient process, clear timelines, and frequent updates.

    In its blog post titled “The Case for Providing a Positive Candidate Experience,” states, “When you offer an exceptional candidate experience, job seekers talk about it with others and write about it online. This generates positive awareness for both your employer and consumer brand, which can lead to more job applicants and even more customers. In fact, Software Advice found that 71 percent of candidates are more likely to buy from a company that treated them with respect throughout the recruiting process.”

    This rings especially true for your executive candidates, who expect to be courted in a style they are accustomed to.


You can significantly decrease the likelihood of an executive candidate rejecting your offer by having open conversations on crucial topics like company culture, growth opportunities, compensation, and job responsibilities. When this is coupled with a professional and efficient hiring experience, your company can significantly minimize the possibility that a future-ready executive candidate will reject your offer.

Remember to  leverage a modern executive search platform to complement your company’s hiring process. By harnessing cutting-edge technology, these platforms will provide you with powerful data-driven insights, enabling you to identify and evaluate candidates effectively.

If you found this post informative, you’ll definitely benefit from reading our post on the 5 Ways Modern Executive Search Produces Results Fast.

Network Your Way to the Perfect Executive Role

Join SucceedSmart's esteemed executive network and connect with hiring managers and senior leaders.

Struggling to find Highly Qualified Executives?

Join SucceedSmart & gain access to thousands of future-ready leaders.