Help Your Clients Frame a Quality Offer Letter

Dec 15, 2009

Clients who lose their funding, change their minds, or don’t fully understand what it will take to get a person into their positions abound. So what can you do about it?

Many trainers will tell you to “take control” of the situation, but with the news proclaiming higher and higher unemployment numbers, that has become easier said than done. And with searches becoming scarce, walking away is harder and harder.

Instead, turn your process over and gain control, help your client understand what’s involved, and identify the challenges up front.

To quote Stephen R. Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Start the process with an eye to the offer letter. What are the main components of a good offer letter? A nice “Welcome to the team” message, a high-level overview of the position, some basic expectations, salary and benefit information including relocation, and an expected start date.

Let’s look at each one of these:

The “Welcome Aboard” message. Typically this is a boilerplate message at the top of an offer letter, but companies should be using this as a beginning of their onboarding process. Making a real statement about why the company wants someone in this position can make a real difference. As you take the search information, keep an ear open for the things you can include in that opening paragraph.

High-level overview of the position. Getting this down early in the process can help avoid a multitude of problems. As a benefit to the recruiter, saying this back to the person giving you the search can show you were listening well enough to summarize, give you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding, and clarify any other issues. Once you have it confirmed by the client, you have your explanation of the position for candidates. Because it was discussed upfront and agreed to by the client, there is a clear understanding of the type of candidate you are finding. If there is a change later, all parties should recognize it was a change from the original discussion. Look at this from another angle. You’ve taken a search from a client but the job description is all over the place. You are trying to do the high-level overview but you are having problems. So you ask the client to summarize. If the client can’t successfully summarize, there is a problem with the search. At that point, ask to include others in the discussion, ask additional questions, or redirect the conversation back to the most important aspects and rank them. If the client does give you a summary, you can then see what you missed in the information or what contradicts their summary and have additional discussion. Either way, you know you understand the search as it is defined in that moment.

Expectations. We all know how important it is to make sure candidate and client expectations match. But which expectations are important enough they should be in writing? Having this at the beginning of the search can dramatically change your focus when sourcing candidates. Also, the discussion identifying these is a great time to clarify details about the search.

Salary, benefits, and relocation information. We’re all probably good at asking for this upfront so this is nothing new, but think about how to use it in the sales process. How can you word the compensation in the offer letter so the candidate is excited about it? What unique benefits does the company offer that a candidate may get excited about? And of course, be completely clear on relocation. Understanding exactly what is covered and how it is managed can make all the difference as you work on the search.

Anticipated start date. An expected start date is a great tool to use in framing the search. Although a start date isn’t set in stone, discussing this when you take the search helps establish a timeline and it is easy to back up from that date to determine when interviews need to happen and more. Clients who think the process takes too long get a real education when discussing the potential start date as they realize it isn’t the recruiter holding up the process. Discussing this at the beginning of the search also shows the recruiter’s commitment.

It is highly likely that the client already has a standard format for an offer letter, and therefore, won’t want to use your form letter.

That’s fine, but you may be able to give them some unique ideas. Once you complete the search-taking process, sending over a sample offer letter with these components, demonstrating a true understanding of the position and the needs, confirming the big expectations, and targeting a specific start date sets you apart from the competition.

Which, as you can see, really is beginning with the end in mind.

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