As an executive assistant recruiter, I sometimes see executive assistants decline job offers. For the employer, this can be disappointing, because you’ve dedicated time and resources to the recruitment process. It can also be dismaying if you’ve found the ideal candidate but they’re not willing to accept the employment offer.
Australia’s top executive assistants are specialist experts and therefore tend to be strategic and analytical about their next move. They intend to ensure the position is right for both them and their employer. As such, they intend to be discerning during the job application process, to determine whether the role really is right for them. If they have any doubts, they would rather not ‘try it and see’ but instead prefer to decline the job offer quickly so all parties can move on.
When you’re recruiting high-level executive assistants, there’s a decision being made on both sides. You’re choosing your ideal candidate, and the candidates are determining whether they’d get the career satisfaction they’re hoping for with your organisation. Many employers are well aware of this and do their best to sell the role during interviews. Understanding why top executive assistants decline job offers can help you prepare for this possible eventuality.
It’s rarely about salary
Of course, top executive assistants should be paid handsomely for their specialist set of skills. (see our guide to executive assistant salaries for more on this.) But working with hundreds of EAs every year, I find that it’s not often about salary. While a generous salary is naturally appealing, it’s not often a reason executive assistance will decline a job offer. After all, EAs are usually well aware of the salary offer before submitting an application. Therefore, a low salary is more likely to result in a disappointing number of quality applications, rather than rejections of job offers.
Consequently, it can often be tied to more personal reasons, which can vary greatly from case to case. I’ve listed the most common reasons that I’ve observed during my 20-year career as an executive assistant recruiter.
1. Personality fit
The relationship between executive and assistant is dynamic, close-knit and unlike any other in the organisation. When that relationship is strong, open, and aligned, it’s harmonious and easy. However, if there’s a case of different working styles, communication modes, personality or even sense of humour, it just doesn’t work and can’t be forced.
Executive assistants want to establish a professional connection with their leaders. Another layer of complexity is added if there is some kind of personality fit. Sometimes two individuals just don’t gel, and it’s not anyone’s fault. EAs worry that when this is the case, it’s them who will be expected to change their approach to fit in with the leader. Understandably, some aren’t willing to do so, and would prefer to seek alternative employment opportunities elsewhere.
2. Disconnect with the company, culture or industry
Many executive assistants want to feel a connection to the kind of company they work for. For example, a creative, dynamic EA who would thrive in the arts or advertising may struggle in the conservative professional services arena (and vice versa). It’s only during the interview process when the EA gets a feel for the team, the culture and the industry that their gut might tell them it’s not quite right. Perhaps the company culture doesn’t suit their personality or the industry doesn’t align with their values. Top EAs know their values and they want to work with a company that shares a similar perspective.
3. Lack of opportunity to act as a business partner
Many leading Australian executive assistants expect to be treated as a senior member of a company’s leadership team. They have the skills and experience to provide strategic advice and input, assisting the leader make decisions and focus on their KPIs and broader company objectives. Highly capable EAs expect to be encouraged to take primary responsibility for particular projects or areas of focus. In addition, they expect to be given the responsibility to act on behalf of their leader — at an appropriate time in the duration of their employment. If these opportunities to play a senior role in the direction and culture of the organisation are limited or absent, it’s likely that executive assistants will decline the position and wait until a more challenging, senior role becomes available.
4. Poor experience at the company interview stage
According to CareerPlug, 58% of US-based job seekers decline an offer due to a poor experience with the potential employer during the hiring process. And anecdotally, Australian EAs tell me similar stories. If EAs don’t form a favourable impression during the recruitment process, they question how they will be treated as employees. EAs have told me that inadequate communication, being late for appointments, or disrespectful behaviour has resulted in them deciding the employer was not the right place for them to work. Luckily, here at Altitude EA, we’ve never encountered this problem with our clients. However, it does remind employers that they should strive to create a positive impression with candidates, just as much as candidates are attempting to impress employers.
What can you do if your ideal candidate declines the job offer?
If this happens to you, you can assess the situation to determine how you’d like to move forward. You may decide to accept the decision and move on with other candidates. However, it is always useful to get feedback from the EA regarding the reasons they declined the role.
There may be an opportunity to clarify any incorrect assumptions or reassure the candidate about any points of concern. If there is any feedback about company culture, values or the hiring process, it’s important for you to be aware of any problems that may cause other candidates to feel the same way. You can evaluate your hiring procedure to ensure it remains respectful of candidates at all times.
Can you offer more money?
The answer is, of course, it depends. If the candidate far outshines the pool of applicants, you may wish to consider offering an increased salary to motivate them to reconsider. Consider any other benefits you may be able to offer as well:
If you really feel the candidate is the perfect match for your organisation, it can’t hurt to offer additional inducements to encourage them to reconsider.
However, if the candidate is resolute, it’s important to respect their decision. If they feel it isn’t a good fit, it’s likely that they would leave quickly, so you are often better off moving forward with a candidate who is more enthusiastic about the position and able to commit to your organisation long-term.
Are you looking to hire an EA, or are you an EA wanting to grow your career?
Contact Anastasia for an obligation-free discussion on 0421 16 55 96.