The process of successfully closing a candidate on a job offer starts the minute you engage a potential candidate. This recruiting hack outlines how to develop a consistent, systematic approach that will undoubtedly increase your job offer acceptance rates.
Needless to say, it’s important to present a job offer correctly. Every employer has experienced a candidate turning down an offer at the last minute, and it hurts. Plus given all the time and resources you’ve invested, a turndown is one of the most costly events in recruiting. Fortunately, if you manage the entire recruitment process correctly from the very beginning and get the right information, you can develop a certain level of control and certainty about the final step that will increase your acceptance rates. Here’s how.
The quote made famous by one of our favorite childhood cartoon heroes, GI Joe, holds true for making job offers. Knowing really is half the battle. It seems simple but the most common mistake when closing a job offer is not having completed a proper “intake” during the first couple of conversations with the candidate. As the first step in the recruiting process, take a systematic approach to gathering a couple of must-have data points that constitute what we call an intake. Here is the information that an intake must include.
-The candidate’s reason for looking.
-Their Ideal position going forward.
-Their current base salary and any other compensation factors such as bonus, commissions, equity, benefits, etc (total package).
-The candidate’s expected future income. What are they going to take?
-Their ability and willingness to commute to the office.
-Any relocation details?
-Where are they in the job search process and when do they want to make a decision?
-What is their desired start date?
Collect this data during a give and take style conversation. As you collect this data, you should be giving (selling) the same data to your candidate. Take the time to learn what motivates your candidate. Why are they interested in the role? What are their long term career goals? What type of work environment do they prefer? Listen closely and document the data points in your applicant tracking system. This will allow you and your team to construct a meaningful story when the time comes to extend the job offer.
If you think closing a candidate happens only at the end of the recruiting process, your closing percentage is likely pretty dismal. If you haven’t seen the famous sales movie Glenngarry Glen Ross, go home tonight and go directly to Netflix. Tomorrow you’ll know the ABCs of sales – Always Be Closing. In a recruiting context, smart closers continue to collect data,confirm its accuracy and sell it back to the candidate. This is called pre-closing a candidate. The pre-close has the most impact on offer acceptance rates. If you pre-close a candidate properly there will be no question whether they will take the offer or not at the end for the process. In fact, when pre-closing is done properly, you won’t even have to close the candidate at the end.
An easy way to set up the pre-close is to formally deliver feedback to a candidate that has interviewed. This should be done with a phone call and never over email. These calls give you an opportunity to develop rapport with your candidate and to tease out concerns. And, during these calls, you’ll be reconfirming the information that you previously documented such as:
-potential commute issues
-how the job maps to career aspirations
-desired start date
This is your best chance to discuss and counter any discrepancies, objections and concerns that your candidate may have. This is also the ideal opportunity to reinforce the positives. Wrap up your pre-closing conversations with a specific agenda for next steps. This puts you in the driver’s seat. Remember, once you set an agenda, stick to it! People appreciate other people that do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it. Be crisp.
THE VERBAL OFFER
Once you have internal buy and specific figures, you must call the candidate to present the offer. Never email offer details. Of course you want the conversation to be natural and comfortable but, given this is such an important call, you should always plan out the agenda for the call. Here is an example outline for a verbal offer call.
-Start out with the good news – “I have good news. We’d like to formally extend you an offer to work with us!”
-Reiterate why your team has chosen the candidate for the opportunity and align this with candidate’s goals, which by now you have already discussed in detail.
-Describe what the candidate will be doing at the company.
-Take a second to describe why this is an exciting time at the company.
-Share the details of the job offer clearly and concisely.
-Be prepared to specifically address any areas where the offer does not intersect with the candidate’s requests discussed in the pre-closing calls.
-Finally, ask your candidate when they can start. This is such a key step. If the candidate can’t see themselves starting or won’t commit, you have more work to do. Furthermore, this is a better way to get the candidate talking rather than asking them what they think about the offer.
If the candidate expresses satisfaction with the offer details, ask for a verbal acceptance and be presumptive—“It sounds like you are ready to accept the offer and this is a verbal acceptance, I’ll put together the formal offer letter and get it out to you.” There is no reason to send the offer if you do not have a verbal acceptance. If the candidate won’t commit or needs time to consider the offer, identify the areas of concern.
THE WRITTEN OFFER
Once your candidate has verbally accepted the offer, now you have to take this offer to the finish line quickly. Remember, time is the enemy of all deals. Discuss the next steps and set the timeline with your candidate. Let them know when the offer will go out and how long they will have to accept it. The industry standard decision time frame is a deadline of 3 business days, with 1-2 days being preferable. Finally, it’s best not to give an offer to your candidate on a Friday. It’s unlikely that you will have all the resources available to speak with a candidate over the weekend should the need arise. Here are additional tips to help you attain a fully executed written offer letter.
-Tell your candidate when and how the formal paperwork will be sent out, and make sure they have it in their hands within 24 hours.
-Get a Docusign or similar digital signature service to use for job offers. This will expedite the process and you can track when people view the offer.
-Otherwise, email a PDF version of the offer letter or overnight the offer packet to the candidate.
-Follow up with the candidate to make sure they received the paperwork and everything is in order.
-Always require the offer letter to be signed and returned by the specified date.
THE OFFER ISN’T CLOSED UNTIL YOUR CANDIDATE STARTS
Listen this sounds skeptical but, until your candidate shows up for their first day of work, the offer is not closed. Lots can happen between making a candidate an offer and their first day especially in a competitive hiring economy. Once the offer is signed, the recruiter and the hiring manager should follow up with the candidate at least once a week until he or she starts. The longer the time period between acceptance and start date, the greater the risk of the candidate falling out, the most costly mistake (other than a horrible hire) in the recruiting-sphere. Here are some tips to avoid a no-start.
-Agree to a start date 2-3 weeks from the date of the offer acceptance.
-Prepare the candidate for a counter offer. Walk them through how they will respond to a counter offer from their present employer. Start by reminding them why they are leaving. It’s worth mentioning that the loyalty of a candidate that accepts a counteroffer will always be in question going forward.
-Find reason to contact the candidate weekly. What do you want your business cards to say? Do you want a Mac or a PC? What email address do you prefer? Share news or events related to the company.
-Do something nice for the candidate. Send flowers. Send a gift card. No budget? Send a nice handwritten welcome note.
Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time and resources recruiting the right candidate only to have the job offer blow up at the last minute, understands the importance of a smooth recruiting and offer process. The process of negotiating and extending a job offer is often left for the end of the recruiting process. However, with recruiting advice and best practices provided here, you can drastically increase your job offer acceptance rates.