The Process of Making a Job Offer - Part Three: Gaining Acceptance
By General Management Resources

In the third of our series, we discuss the job offer itself -- how to make it, and how to close the
deal.

Figure 1Your candidate passed the interview process with flying colors. You've discussed his or her career objectives at length and you both know your company can satisfy them. There definitely is enough value for this person to make a job change and come on board. You've discussed the job itself in hypothetical terms using "what ifs" as a trial balloon to test for interest, and the interest is there. You're ready to drop to one knee and pop the question. How should you do it?
 
If you let the Human Resources (HR) department handle this for you, chances are the verbal offer will be extended with as much false sincerity as a greeting card from your real estate agent. That's because the HR person is likely to read the offer letter to the candidate. First of all, if you "established a common vision," as we discussed in our previous articles, you are the person who has built rapport and trust with the candidate. You understand his or her hot buttons. This isn't a purchase order you are delivering to some clerk; it's a human being with whom you've developed a relationship and some degree of trust.

Make the offer yourself, or have the retained recruiter who brought you the candidate do it on your behalf. Your overwhelming considerations on this matter should be: Who has the best rapport with the candidate? And who is the better salesperson?

It's best to make a verbal offer in person. It increases your odds enormously. Most people feel uncomfortable negotiating face-to-face, and sincere face-to-face flattery from you can go a long way. If face-to-face simply isn't practical, making a verbal offer over the phone is acceptable, just less so.

Many hiring authorities make a huge mistake when they assume that compensation is the major attractor of talented professionals. Equally false is the assumption that you must give a raise to all new hires. Save the "big money" for superstars only. What if you interview a terrific candidate who is simply overpaid? Don't blow off good candidates because you don't think you can afford them. In most cases, money is not the issue.

Figure 1
A rookie will blurt out the offer with the comp package and ask, "Whaddya say, Bill, do you want the job?" The minute you do, you run the risk of turning the discussion into one about money. Be patient for a few minutes. The power is in your hands as long as you hold the offer. Stick to our job offer process (see Figure 1) to mitigate that risk. You and your company have invested too much time in this recruitment process to risk scuttling a hot candidate at this stage. Handle this patiently and enthusiastically. Instead of extending the offer like a 3-second firecracker fuse, think of it like one of those long, thick and dazzling dynamite fuses from the movies.  Once you light it, neither you or the candidate will be able to look away. Use the suspense to your advantage.

First, Rekindle the Common Vision

Review the job change criteria your candidate insisted were most important (e.g., career challenge, location, life balance, title). Revisit the candidate's career objectives. "Sally, when we first talked, you told me that it is very important for you to break through the glass ceiling and reach that next level of responsibility. Is that still true?" Revisit the candidate's job issues. "You told me that you've never had someone you'd consider a mentor, who'd invest in your development, is that right?" Revisit the candidate's vision. "Is it still important for you to prove yourself as a leader and an innovator who redefines how IS provides value to an enterprise?" By revisiting these hot buttons, you are reminding the candidate of what is most important in this discussion. You also imply acceptance of them as conditions. If the candidate is being honest with himself, and if these issues are indeed strong enough, money should be the least important issue on the table. How the candidate answers will tell you a lot about them, as well as how to emphasize your verbal offer.

Lay Out the Specifics of the Job

Describe everything you can about the job you want to offer, but don't offer the job just yet. Responsibilities. Challenges. Immediate staff. Additional resources. Training plans. Throughout your soliloquy, invite reactions and constructive feedback. Weave any good ideas from your candidate into the description. Help the candidate shape the description into his or her own, if possible. Collaborate.

Whet the Candidate's Appetite

If the candidate has collaborated well with you, thus far, you now have an opportunity to build a brighter vision of what life would be like in this job. Talk about high priority projects. Strategic plans. Board presentations. What's most critical for the first 6 months? The next 6 months? Next year? Ask questions of the candidate to invite collaboration. Get that vision burning bright.

Challenge the Candidate's Capacity to Do the Job

Now that you've kindled the fire, threaten to douse it. Ask, "Are you up to the challenge of handling this job?" Don't be nice about it. Really challenge the candidate. Make the candidate fight for it. Nothing prepares even the most egocentric person to say "Yes" more than the possibility that what they want might be taken away. Then, "Is there anything I've described about the responsibilities of this job that do not meet your expectations?" You are flushing out any possible obstacles or objections. It's best to handle them now before you talk about money. Then, "Do you agree that this is a great job for you?" And finally, the trial close: "Do you want this job?"

The responses to that last oh-so-important question will be many and varied, and usually boil down to a few simple meanings:

Response What It Means

"Yes, depending on the compensation."

"Show me the money." At this stage, if you've truly worked the process and you've felt good about all other responses, this is the most likely and reasonable response you'll hear. So far, so good.

"Perhaps. We haven't talked about compensation, and of course I'll need to talk this over with my spouse."

"I'm shopping." The surprise mention of the spouse should concern you. It may be an honest consideration or it's possible you're being set up for a stalling tactic. Jump in and qualify what the spouse issue is truly all about.

"Perhaps. I do have an offer letter from another company that I have to consider."

"I want to negotiate." If you don't know by now about this other company, you've been set up. Before you reveal anything more, find out all you can about your competitor's offer.

"Hmm. Let me think about it. What does the job pay?"

"All the malarkey I gave you about what's most important to me is hogwash. I just want to make more money." Again, you've been set up. What's to think about? The candidate is hiding something from you. You may be seeing this candidate's true character.

"I'm just not sure."

"I'm wasting your time. I'm either covering my bets on an offer from someone else, or I want to force my company into giving me a raise. You're going to have to bribe me." If the candidate won't explain why he's not sure, run, don't walk, from this candidate.


Manage Real Obstacles and Unveil the Offer

Talk through any non-money related obstacles until you feel satisfied that they are no longer issues. Do not reveal the compensation package to a candidate who is unwilling to be candid with you. This is a two-way street.

When you unveil the compensation package, do so with enthusiasm and expectation. The candidate may wish to negotiate, either right there or after a day or so of consideration. Offer the candidate a reasonable amount of time to decide. Remember that the more time you give a candidate to consider an offer, the higher your risk that he or she will negotiate a better deal elsewhere. Force a decision within few days at most, or the offer is null and void. Let the candidate know you have a back-up person.

The Written Offer

Do not send a written offer unless the candidate has given you a qualified "Yes," and you both have worked through the tough obstacles, issues or negotiations. The written offer should be a legal formality, with signed acceptance a foregone conclusion. It's the verbal offer and negotiation that wins or loses job offers.


This article was originally published by 3Com InTouch, an online advisory magazine for CIOs.