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The Process of Making a Job Offer - Part 2: Establishing a Common Vision Print

By Scott Cadwalader, Managing Partner, Diligent Partners

job_tall_graphicIn the second of our three part series, we explore further how a job offer process can increase your probability of making a successful hire by unearthing your candidate's true motivations and expectations.

I'm repeatedly amazed at how most employers -- and, yes, even recruiters -- go about determining whether that candidate sitting across the desk has "the right stuff." During the interview, or even while reading the candidate's resume, their thought process must go like this: Hmm, it says here that he has eighteen years of IT management experience in large scale discrete manufacturing environments... Was a Big 5 manager "centrally involved in GM's evolution to JIT/MRP approaches." Wow. If he could do that for GM... Led application development at Levi Strauss for five years, then was chief technologist for Whirlpool for another three... CIO at Bristol-Myers and CIO at Procter & Gamble! Jeez. One success after another. If he could run IS in those companies, what could he do here? He's looking for a smaller multinational company where he can make a more direct impact on the bottom line...He's GOLDEN! With our business plan and our executive program, he's certain to want to come on board!

Don't Trust Sound Bites.

The problem is that you cannot qualify someone by what their resume says any more than can you gain true insight into what makes them tick by asking, "Why do you want this job?" If you don't probe below the surface, you deserve to get burned. And odds are, you will. Few employers do a good job of qualifying a candidate's actual past performance. Fewer still try to understand a candidate's true career motivations or expectations. Here, we'll look at how to do the latter.

The Job Offer Life Cycle (Figure 1) roughly involves three phases. The first phase, Establish a Common Vision, is largely conducted during the interview process itself while you are determining whether the candidate is qualified to do the job itself. By "Common Vision," I mean an understanding shared by you and the candidate of his or her true motivations and expectations of what you have to offer.

Start High, Dive Low and Dig, Dig, Dig

You don't need the psychiatric insights of Dr. Laura or Frasier Crane to peel back the layers of your candidate's onion. Don't even try -- you're not there to reveal whether or not this person puts kittens in microwaves. Instead, conduct an iterative line of questions that will flesh out your candidate's motivations and expectations. Begin at 30,000 feet and work your way down.

Career Objective. During the interview process, while qualifying a candidate's capabilities, the moment may come when can christen your candidate as "qualified." Ask the candidate, "What is your Career Objective in the next 3-5 years?" If a junior or middle manager responds that he wants to become a CIO, hit the reset button and ratchet his vision back within a 3 or 5 year horizon. Collaborate on a realistic Career Objective, and begin to think how your company can help prepare that person to achieve that goal. Don't sell. Elicit a response. Expand on it so the objective is clearly formed and understood. In most cases, the Career Objective will be the cornerstone of a candidate's motivation to join your company.

Job Issues. With the candidate's Career Objective as your foundation, you now need to probe for what the candidate is either running from or, more importantly, running to. Ask what is missing from, or is dysfunctional about, their current place of employment (see Figure 2). The candidate's response may reveal some unpleasant baggage you may want to avoid, or demonstrate a practical, thoughtful mind that does not delude itself with unrealistic hopes of its employer.

Now, ask, "What are you hoping to gain from your next employer to help achieve those goals your current company cannot provide?" These are the hot buttons you need to know. More responsibility. More autonomy. More respect. More power. More training... If you can indeed provide one or more of these things, you now know the things to sell when you offer the job.

Candidate's Vision. What is the Candidate's Vision for solving these Job Issues? Is it backed with a workable career plan? Does this vision make sense in regard to the previously stated Job Issues, or before that to the Career Objective? Ask your candidate to flesh out this vision, because if the candidate is truly interested in your company, he or she is likely to begin building that vision with your company in mind. Prime the pump by asking, "How would you envision resolving these issues at our company?" Remember this vision, because you may need to rekindle it later, if your candidate's memory fades at counteroffer time.

Value of Change. Given what you've learned of your candidate's capabilities and objectives, does enough value exist for this person to change jobs and work for your company? Is the Value of Change expressed by the candidate consistent with his or her Vision? There are many ways to elicit an estimate of value. Try, "What would it mean to you to [achieve your career objective]?" or "How do you see your life benefiting by

Revealing Hot Buttons

  • What do you like most about your employer?
  • What do you like least?
  • Describe its political culture. How do you fit within that framework?
  • What was your most significant management lesson this year?

[solving these issues and achieving your objective]?" You are reinforcing the vision by enabling the candidate to envision how he or she might benefit from working with your company. If your candidate cannot express true value... NO SALE.

Qualify Expectations. To this stage, you should have done everything possible to avoid discussing details of the job itself. By avoiding details, you have limited the degree of personal reinvention that some insecure or devious interviewees feel compelled to do with themselves. If they know more than the basic requirements (i.e., your hot buttons), "professional interviewees" can easily tailor their responses to what you hope to hear (see Figure 3). Be that as it may, since you followed that Cardinal Rule until this point and qualified the veracity of your candidate's claims, it is time to open the kimono a bit. Couching everything at a high level, use "what if's" to paint a picture of the job you have in mind for the candidate. Paint the good, the bad and even some of the ugly. Challenge the candidate whether he or she could succeed in that role, what additional issues might they envision having to overcome, how they might prioritize their energies, and so forth. Validate whether what you are describing is what he or she is seeking. It's a trial job offer without the commitment. Are your candidate's capabilities and expectations consistent with what this job has to offer? If there are deviations, can they be remedied? If the candidate expresses strong enthusiasm, you just passed the job offer equivalent of a home pregnancy test. It may not be a sure thing, but if that tab's blue, chances are you're "with child" and now ready put the candidate through the real lab test: the formal job offer itself.

Smoking Out Professional Interviewees

  1. Challenge every self-serving statement
  2. Challenge every job change
  3. Ask yourself, "Am I being sold?"
  4. Get outside opinions on the candidate from people you trust
  5. Consider the reputation of the candidate's past IS employers, but don't assume the candidate shares the same pedigree
  6. Reveal job details only once you've qualified your candidate
  7. If something in your gut feels wrong, you're probably right.

Confirm, Confirm, Confirm

Throughout this phase of the Job Offer Life Cycle, Establishing a Common Vision, remember that this must be a common vision, not your interpretation. Both of you must share the same vision and understanding of your candidate's motivations, expectations and fit within your company. Visions can be fleeting, so regularly confirm your understanding as you move through the process. When you confirm, you reaffirm and reinforce.

Once you Establish a Common Vision, you can safely prepare and deliver a job offer with a high probability of success. We'll review the art of that phase in the Job Offer Life Cycle, in Part 3.

This article was originally published by 3Com InTouch, an online advisory magazine for CIOs.

Scott Cadwalader is Co-Founder and Partner at Diligent Partners LLC, a retained search firm headquartered in Long Beach, California. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




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