You would think that the event of making a job offer to
a prospective candidate would be an easy, logical one.
In fact, you might be surprised to find that we even
have to address the whole idea. Wrong! The fact is that the
actual process of making an offer, once a final candidate has
been identified, can be one of the strangest, riskiest parts of the
hiring process. One would think it should be the simplest part
of the transaction, but it can derail a smooth-running process
very easily. Our sense is that at least 10% of job offers that
should be made and accepted go south because the making
of the offer gets botched, usually by hiring authorities. Very
few hiring authorities will ever admit to messing up a perfectly
good hire because they didn’t give the necessary time and
attention to the job offer.
Just recently, we dealt with a hiring authority who told us
on a Friday that he would make an offer to our candidate the
following Monday. We checked with the candidate, and the
candidate was ready to take the job. By the following Wednesday,
the candidate had gotten an email from the hiring authority
saying that he had gotten distracted by an important project
and just hadn’t gotten around to getting the offer paperwork
together. He stated that his intentions were to still hire the candidate
and the candidate should hear from him in a day or so.
Later on the next Friday afternoon, the hiring authority finally
reached out to the candidate to make him an offer, only to find
out that the candidate had accepted another job the day before.
Our client even had the audacity to be mad at the candidate
for not, “understanding the pressure he was under.” Well, the
candidate was under pressure as well. He actually accepted a
position that wasn’t as good as the one our client was trying to
offer, but the candidate needed to go to work and he felt he was
being strung along by our client.
Time for a commitment
The final step in the hiring process is making an offer. It
can be traumatic for both candidate and employer. This is the
time for people to make commitments. Up to this point, every
interaction between candidate and employer is speculative.
There is minimal risk on each person’s part. True, there has
been a lot of effort on the part of both candidate and employer
to interview each other, but there’s no commitment, therefore
no risk, until an offer is made.
There is a final twinge of fear on the part of the employer
and candidate when contemplating the possibility of an offer.
Employers often become fearful that their offer will be rejected,
that the candidate they’ve courted for weeks and exhaustively
interviewed will refuse their offer. The candidate who has been
pursuing an offer, but also evaluating the firm they are interviewing
with, likewise becomes fearful. They fear that they
won’t get an offer, and if they do, they’re anxious about what
it might be. This step in the process is difficult for everyone.
The offer step in the hiring process should be a simple and
natural progression of the interviewing process, but it gets
confusing when people either lose sight of its importance or
overreact to it. In fact, if the interviewing process is done correctly,
the offer step should be easy.
A pre-offer conversation is a selling opportunity
The most successful hiring authorities have a pre-offer conversation
with a candidate. This can be a face-to-face meeting
or a telephone conversation. The hiring authority explains to
the candidate that he or she would like to discuss what an offer
would look like and also any details about the job that haven’t
been discussed in the interviewing process.
If the hiring authority hasn’t done it already throughout
the interviewing process, this is the time that he or she should
be selling the candidate on the job and the opportunity. This
conversation is the candidate’s opportunity to ask any questions
he or she might have, but it also provides an opportunity
to the hiring authority to find out the answers to any questions
he or she may not have answered. It should be a friendly, calm,
and open conversation.
In this conversation, the best hiring authorities get a good
indication as to whether or not the candidate will accept the
job. In fact, the best hiring authorities actually qualify the candidate
in this conversation. They discuss every aspect of the
job offer. They answer all the candidate’s questions. Then, they
simply ask the hard question of the candidate, “I’m ready to get
together for a formal meeting to offer you the job. Can you see
any reason that you wouldn’t accept it?”
If for some reason the candidate hesitates or gives noncommittal
answers like “Well, when I see the offer in writing, I’ll
know better,” or “I’d have to think about it,” or anything that
isn’t a positive like “I would accept it,” then the best hiring
authorities may rethink making the offer. If they get these
kinds of answers, they simply ask a candidate what they’re
thinking or what might stand in the way in order to find out
why they are hesitant. It never hurts to be blunt and ask, “Why
are you hesitating? I don’t want to make an offer unless I know
it’s going to be accepted.”
And It’s hard to give a blanket strategy for all things that can
come up at this point of the process. The best hiring authorities
are prepared for just about anything and they always have
the salvation of backup candidates. They always have several
other people in the queue in case their #1 candidate falters.
More to come next week…