9 Steps To Making a Winning Job Offer

Editor’s note: In this column, Jorg Stegemann, one of Europe’s leading independent search consultants, offers advice to hiring managers on making an offer. Much of what he has to say here also applies to you. You may not make the actual offer (unless you can convince the hiring authority that you are the best person to do that). However, not only should you coach your client on how to make the offer, but follow-up yourself.

Congratulations! After having screened dozens or hundreds of resumes and having conducted numerous interviews, you have found the perfect fit for your vacancy. Weeks or months of hard work come to an end. Make sure you get it right at this critical point of time of the hiring process. One false move can result in a refusal. If you screw it up now, you have to start at zero again. After all, a significant percentage of all job offers made are turned down. Making it right is an art and a science.

Here are the nine steps to making a bullet-proof job offer:

1. Move fast: If you’ve made a decision, why wait? In recruitment, time will work against you in 9.5 out of 10 cases.

Real talent is scarce in any economic cycle. Whenever possible contact the selected candidate the same day after their final interview. If not, make contact within a day or two at most.

If you wait longer, a psychological process in the candidate’s mind can take place which goes, “No news from them for four days, this is not a good sign. I really wanted that job but I won’t get it. Well, after all, this job is not THAT great. There are disadvantages too. In fact I don’t want it anymore!”

2. Choose the right communication channel (part 1) – Always call!: Some companies send emails or letters.

Don’t.

Make a phone call; not only can you convey your excitement, but you can also gauge the level of enthusiasm of your candidate. A phone call versus an email (see point 7) has the advantage that you can not only ease the candidate’s stress during the post-interview waiting period, but you also show how thrilled you are to make them a part of your team.

And if your candidate has the slightest doubt or hesitation, now is the time to step in. If you send an email, you might get only a “No thanks.”

3. Be enthusiastic: Be professional, but be enthusiastic. Tell the candidate she was your first choice out of 100 resumes and came out number 1 during the interview process. Explain how impressed the interviewers are with her mind-set, approach and skills.

It’s natural to play your cards close to your vest during the interview and selection process, but once you’ve made a decision, drop your reserve. Don’t worry, conveying your excitement won’t affect the salary negotiation process.

Remember: The employer-employee relationship doesn’t start the first day on the job. It officially starts with the job offer. Make that moment memorable for the candidate.

4. Apply the 10% rule: In general, candidates expect a pay increase of at least 10% when they change jobs. Few candidates will change jobs for the same or lower salary (barring unusual circumstances, of course). And if they do, they’ll feel some level of resentment every time they get their paycheck.

Never offer a salary below their current salary unless there are concrete, objective reasons to do so —and even then, think hard about it.

5. Show the money: Explain pay and benefits as thoroughly and accurately as possible. Describe the base salary, how any bonus plans work, provide a fairly thorough overview of health and other benefits, and describe any other perks.

There are two ways to talk about the salary:

  1. “We offer you $80K base plus bonus and the regular benefits. I will send this by mail and we hope you will accept.”
  2. “In your first year, you will get a total compensation of $80K base plus 10% bonus based on personal and company targets. In the past three years the full amount has been paid to people on your level, so that’s $8K. We also have a very good pension scheme which corresponds to $2K per year. Furthermore, we offer the monthly public transport pass which has a value of $1.2K per year. And last but not least, we have a canteen and take 50% in charge. It is only a detail but represents $1K for the whole year. How does this sound, Ginger?”

6. Get a commitment — even a tentative one: Many candidates will ask for time to consider the offer. That’s natural, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions. Say, “I completely understand and you should take the time. What is your first reaction, what do you think about our offer?”

Any hesitation the candidate shows indicates they may turn you down, so ask questions without being pushy. See if you can overcome any objections or provide additional information that will make acceptance more likely.

7. Choose the right communication channel (part 2): Always follow up in writing: Then put everything in an email or letter. Include all elements of the offer: job title, base salary, benefits, vacation, holidays, perks, etc.

And make sure to set a deadline; three days is typical.

8. Feel their pain: In my experience, one-third of the candidates who refused a job offer did so because they accepted a counter-offer from their current employers.

Talk about how it will feel giving notice: “How do you feel about giving notice after working there for five years?” “How will your boss react?”

Be sensitive to the candidate’s feelings; even if they desperately want to change jobs, resigning will still create stress and anxiety.

9. Ask the “killer question”: If you can’t get a good read on the candidate’s level of interest, if the decision-making period is dragging on, or if you just want to make absolutely sure the candidate will show up on their first day, ask this question, “I interviewed two other good candidates for this job. Can I tell them the job has been filled?”

Few people will lie about their intentions, especially when lying might affect another person who really wanted the job.

Conclusion

Be sure you are the one who controls the process. Surprises can be a good thing for a kid’s birthday party but they are generally bad in business. Go to the end during this critical phase of the recruitment to avoid them and to make sure your chosen candidate will turn up on day one. If you let go now, you risk losing it all and we don’t want that, do we?

Jorg Stegemann is the CEO of Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting, one of the top 25 networks of independent executive search firms, with offices in Europe and the USA.

A headhunter and business writer, Jorg has 25 years of international work experience. Since 2001, he has successfully managed 350 in executive search and recruitment assignments and counseled hundreds of international clients and candidates.

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