The Process of Making a Job Offer

Making a job offer requires a process, not a pitch. In this first in a three part series, we look at the process of qualifying candidate’s motivations and boosting your probability of a successful hire.

You’ve experienced this, I’m sure. After a thorough interview process, you extend a candidate what you think is a terrific offer… which lands as flat as a wet load of sand. She turns you down. Her explanation is polite, appreciative, but unexpected and somehow doesn’t feel true. WHAT? you ask yourself. How could that be? This job was perfect for her. Everyone thought the world of her, and she seemed to like us. You think about how this would have benefited her career. The comp package was competitive. It doesn’t make sense.

Face it. You didn’t sell the deal. If you had done your homework, you would have known what the response would be before you popped the question. It doesn’t matter whether you have the charisma of Tom Hanks or Salma Hayek (though that never hurts). Real salesmanship is about orchestrating and presenting all the right reasons someone should accept an offer. It doesn’t require glibness, subterfuge or mind control. You don’t have to change who you are. Selling anything that is emotionally charged requires a process, whether it’s a house, a business plan or that VP position with the corner office.

The Job Offer Process

The Job Offer Process is iterative, much like an application development life cycle. You establish information. You flesh it out. You qualify it. You confirm your understanding with your candidate, and how each piece of new information relates to what you previously learned. Each block of information builds a foundation for the next. If you learn something that strikes the candidate out for this or any position in your company, you stop the process, and move on to the next candidate.

To borrow a well worn sports metaphor, the Job Offer Process is like a golf swing. Prepare with a full and steady back swing (Establish a Common Vision), make solid contact with the ball (Gain Acceptance), and follow through (Prepare for Arrival).

You cannot establish a common vision until you know the vision of your candidate. Start at 30,000 feet and gradually work down to ground level.

Career Objective. First, what is the candidate’s ultimate Career Objective? Qualify any responses, be open minded and try to envision the candidate in that future role.

Job Issues. What is missing from the candidate’s current job, or what new element is he or she seeking? Do the Job Issues relate well to the Career Objectives?

Candidate’s Vision. What is the Candidate’s Vision for solving these 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? Is there consistency throughout? Is the Candidate’s Vision consistent with your own? Is it realistic? If not, stop now, and save each other some time.

Value of Change. Given what you’ve learned of the 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? Listen to WII-FM… What’s In It For Me. By now, your candidate is already tuned in.

Qualify Expectations. Without making any commitments, and staying at a high level, use “what if’s” to paint a picture of the job you have in mind for the candidate. Qualify the candidate’s expectations for responsibilities, necessary prior experience, management capabilities, travel and life balance, resources and support. 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? Where there are deviations, can they be remedied? Does the candidate express strong interest?

By now, there is little you should not know about your candidate’s motivations. You know whether they are qualified to do the job. You know if they’ll fit in with the culture. And, if you followed the process above, you know whether it makes sense for this person to take this job, and most importantly, if they are eager to take it.

Gaining Acceptance

Verbal Offer. With the exception of a trusted recruiter, no one but you should ever be allowed to make the Verbal Offer. With all due respect, this includes HR. The candidate isn’t applying to work for HR. He or she wants to work for you. If your company’s policies dictate that an HR person must extend all offers, have your HR rep sit with you when you make the Verbal Offer. The company’s protected, and your HR person will be glad to get another open slot filled.

Why is it in your best interest to have your recruiter make the verbal offer instead of you? Your recruiter is a buffer who will protect you and your company from ill-advised candidate demands that might scuttle the deal if presented. Your recruiter can, and should, be a trusted negotiator working on your behalf, not the candidate’s. Let him or her be the bad guy. You can always play the savior and “give in,” if need be, later on.

Remember when you gave the trial job offer that the candidate was so eager to accept? If you did your job qualifying and confirming his or her expectations, there should be few real surprises.

New Obstacles. Like Rosanne Adanadana used to say, “It’s always something.” Unforeseen obstacles can pop up at this stage. The 401K plan kicks in too late. The spouse doesn’t want to relocate, after all. There’s a hot new project back at the current employer, And it’s mine, Ba-by. You need to proactively seek these out so you are ready to respond at any stage in the recruitment life cycle.

Written Offer. No written offer should be sent until the candidate gives you a conditional “Yes” to your Verbal Offer. Written offers tend to create New Obstacles, because they are legal documents. Be prepared. The more senior the position for which you are hiring, the more nit-picky your candidate is likely to be (stock options and stock grants do that to people).

Prepare for Arrival

You’ve ironed out all the kinks. Negotiations are over. The candidate has a start date in just weeks. Are you done? Not on your life. Now is when you go into caretaker mode to make sure nothing happens to sour all your efforts.

Coach Resignation and Counteroffer. Stepping gently, become your new hire’s confidante over how to handle his or her resignation. If the person is valuable, how they react to a counteroffer may prove pivotal.

Monitor Continued Commitment. Stay in touch with your new hire. Send a personal note of welcome. Make a few phone calls. Extend an invitation to the Company Party or to a team meeting. Get the person involved and thinking about projects or opportunities they’ll be working on in the next few weeks. Most of all, rekindle their vision of what they have to look forward to.

Celebrate Arrival on Start Date. Publicize the person’s arrival so other employees know who the person is before he or she arrives. Personally introduce the person around the office. Pre-arrange meetings for the person’s first two weeks. Lastly, sit down the first day and collaboratively work out the person’s goals, objectives and performance measurements. Celebrate the arrival!

This process does not require so much time as it does thoroughness and awareness, enabling you to gain understanding of your candidate’s motivations. In an ideal world, each step would lead sequentially to the next. Life rarely is so linear. One usually builds understanding of a candidate’s true motivations over several conversations, often with multiple interviewers. Stay mindful of what you have not yet learned, fill in the gaps bit by bit, and build your understanding as you go. In subsequent articles, we’ll look at the art of making the offer.

Scott Cadwalader, Diligent Partners LLC

Diligent Partners LLC