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The Great Reneging: Why Students Renege and How to Prevent It

by | Dec 29, 2021 | Post Offer Engagement

The Great Resignation is the newest buzzword in recruitment, referencing the high levels of workers quitting their jobs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But, there’s another issue coinciding with The Great Resignation, and that’s The Great Reneging.

What is Reneging?

Reneging is when a candidate accepts a job offer via verbal or written agreement, but later declines the offer. The Great Reneging is the trend of increasing reneges on internship and entry-level job offers by college students.

While reneging is not exactly resigning, it is caused by similar reasons as The Great Resignation. Both phenomenons are growing due to the low levels of loyalty (from talent and employers), and high competition in the job market. Specifically for campus recruiters, reneging adds additional stress by doubling the amount of time, effort, and resources that are spent on recruiting interns and early career talent. 

So, Why Are Students Reneging On Offers?

Students are back on campus after a year and a half of virtual learning. Now, they are faced with the challenge of finding their routines again on campus, managing their social lives, continuing their education, and working part-time jobs. Then on top of that… finding the perfect internship or full-time job.

Right now, since the majority of campus recruiting is virtual — there is less chance of ever putting “a face to a name” as the bulk of communication occurs through a computer screen. The decrease in personal connections between recruiters and candidates makes reneging easier (and more likely) to occur. Students experience less guilt because they do not feel attached to a company or recruitment team, and therefore the student doesn’t feel that they are personally letting anyone down.

When Do Reneges Happen?

Reneging occurs at any point after accepting the offer. With internship programs, the average time between the internship offer and the internship start date is 8 months. This leaves 8 months for interns to second-guess their decision to join your program.

From Scholars’ research and conversations with college students, the most common time that  reneging happens is during the two weeks after accepting the internship offer, the two weeks before the internship start date, and during the weeks after the holiday season. 

In the two weeks after accepting the internship offer, students continue to engage in the recruitment process with other companies’ internship programs. A recent Scholars survey revealed that 56.2% of students are still open to talking to other companies after accepting an internship offer.

Then, during the two weeks before an internship start date, students begin to get cold feet about their internship and second-guess their decision.

Additionally, recruiters see reneging occur at a higher rate right after the holiday season in the months of January and February. Typically, internship program offers go out in November and December, before the holidays begin, and students spend the holidays contemplating the significant career decision that they just made. Along with students’ internal contemplation, there are campus recruiting events at the start of the semester. Both of those circumstances cause the influx of reneges coming in after the holiday season.

What Happens When a Student Reneges?

When a new hire reneges, it has lasting effects on the company, both internally and externally from an employer brand perspective.

Internal Effects of Reneging

The campus recruiting team will have low morale. The team put time, money, and energy into recruiting that candidate, which now goes to waste. The recruiting strategy is shifted to backfill those roles. There may be a drop in productivity, depending on the role and if the role is able to be filled.

External Effects of Reneging

Externally, students talk. Students share why they rejected an offer with their classmates and friends on campus. Whether it’s true or not, students think their classmate reneged because of something that was wrong with the company.

You will never be able to prevent 100% of reneges, however, if reneges continue to happen consistently, it changes college students’ perception of your company and your internship program. 

The Top 5 Reasons Students Renege

Reneging is on the rise for the last 5 years and now reneging is at an all-time high. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) hosted a discussion where companies discussed their renege rates. Historically, those rates were typically around four to five percent, but now the average has doubled to eight percent. 

At Scholars, we’ve seen some companies with reneging rates as high as 20 percent! Which begs the question, why are reneges skyrocketing?

  1. The offer was accepted as a backup plan

As aforementioned, the majority of students will continue the recruitment process with other companies after accepting an offer. Students accept the initial internship offer as a backup plan to ensure they have something to put on their resumé but continue to actively pursue other companies. 

  1. Another company made a better offer

Right now with The Great Resignation, companies are competitive with their internship offers. If another company offers better pay, more benefits, the opportunity to work remotely, etc, then an intern will consider reneging on their initial internship offer acceptance. 

  1. Their dream company offered them a position 

If a student is continuing to interview at other companies after accepting an offer, and they receive an offer from their dream company, then they will most likely renege on the initial offer. 

  1. The time between the offer and acceptance deadline was too fast

If an offer is sent out, and the deadline to accept is too quick, a student has a higher chance of making an impulsive decision by accepting the offer when they do not really want to move forward. Instead, ensure candidates have sufficient time to weigh their options. The best time frame to give students is two weeks. Then if they choose to decline the offer, it can go to the next person qualified for the position.

  1. The time between the hiring date and start date was too long

Since there are 8 months on average between the hire date and start date for internships, there are more opportunities for reneges. While the time frame cannot change, the communication that a company has with an intern during that time can be certainly improved upon. 

Most companies send out between one and three automated emails to communicate with future interns during the post-offer time period. However, most college students want to hear from an employer four to six times before their start date. 

This lack of personalized communication can also lead to a growing list of questions and potential disinterest in the role. Nurture your candidates by giving them resources, a place to ask questions, and one-on-one meetings before the internship begins.

How to Decrease Your Renege Rate


The best way to begin determining a renege prevention strategy for your company is to find your company’s historical renege rate. This is a simple calculation of the total number of reneges divided by accepted offers. If possible, you’ll want to gather three to five years of data in order to understand the full picture and create benchmarks for your team.

Strategies for Decreasing Renege Rates

  1. Build Loyalty

Employee loyalty is at an all-time low. Build loyalty by utilizing virtual tools to organize communication, but make sure the communication is personalized (emails should come directly from real people, not from [email protected]). The communication should include frequent 1:1 video call meetings to build personal relationships — when new hires are familiar with their future co-workers, they are less likely to renege on a job offer. 

  1. Be Responsive

Allow for easy options to ask questions directly to the appropriate employee; have a dedicated space or time for new hires to ask questions as they come up. Interns especially have a difficult time coming forward with questions, so build out a place for frequently asked questions and answers. 

  1. Outline Expectations

Do not leave new hires guessing what they need to do! Every company has a different onboarding process. Share with interns and other new hires what that process looks like and the timing of it. Provide the milestones and due dates that new hires are expected to complete specific onboarding tasks. Include team members to have one-on-one meetings with, important websites to follow, and human resources to-do items.

Companies see an 82% improvement in new hire retention when providing an engaging onboarding experience.

Glassdoor

Decrease Your Renege Rates with Scholars

When a renege occurs, it’s natural to get caught up in the increase of workload, going over on budgets, and shifting recruitment strategies. But, like The Great Resignation, there are ways to prevent and reduce reneging! Scholars understands the reasons why reneging occurs and developed a strategy for preventing reneging by utilizing these tools.

  1. Automated communication

When you have 8 months of communication, make it automated. Communicate with future interns at a minimum every three weeks during that time. This will prevent lags in communication and troubles on the first day. 

  1. Candidate portal

Build up a candidate portal that benefits the future intern and the recruiting team. Create a portal with personalized content for candidates to schedule meetings, meet their team, and find relevant content tailored to their internship. The content in the portal prepares them for day 1 and allows them to feel welcomed to the company even before starting! 

  1. Candidate analytics 

Track candidate engagement to understand which candidates are the most engaged and see which candidates are at risk of reneging. These metrics provide insight into when candidates begin to lose interest and helps your company prevent reneges from happening in the first place.

 

The Great Reneging and The Great Resignation will have lasting impacts on the future of work as we know it. Ensure that your company and campus recruiting team are aware, prepared, and ready to face the challenges of today’s job market and recruiting space. 

 

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

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Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.

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