Although hiring is not a process that should be rushed, you should do everything in your power to ensure that a decision is expedited and an offer is made to your top choice as soon as possible. Presumably, a strong candidate will have had multiple interviews and may even have several other offers in hand by the time you come calling. You don’t want to lose the person to another organization simply because you didn’t act quickly enough.
Probe for the Unspoken
Just before you pull the trigger, you want to try to understand what the candidate is thinking. Ask the candidate what would keep her from accepting an offer from the company, such as a counteroffer from her current company. These kinds of pre-offer questions will illuminate how the candidate really feels about the position.
Understand Your Process
Every organization has a different policy regarding who makes the job offer, an HR representative or the hiring manager. Understand how the process works and don’t attempt to buck the system. If it’s your responsibility, make sure you speak to the candidate live, either in person or on the phone. I’ve read that the best time to make a job offer is Monday morning, because if you wait any longer, you risk not hearing back before the weekend.
Be Warm and Positive
Start by saying congratulations in a tone that makes the candidate feel special that he has been chosen. Provide an overview of the job again and what you’re expecting in terms of a start date. Ask the candidate if he has any questions or concerns, and if you can, find out the names of the other organizations he’s considering.
Get Clear on the Terms
Unless you have a third-party negotiator (which some experts recommend) you’ll also re-address the issue of compensation. By this time, you should have a good idea of what the candidate is looking for, and you want your numbers to fall within that range. Ideally, your organization will have an approved salary associated with each job title, but if not, you may need to do some research to make sure your offer is in line with industry averages and what the candidate is likely to receive from your competitors. An unappealing offer is likely to sour the candidate on your organization and the opportunity.
In the end, though, if the candidate has asked for a higher salary than you or your company is prepared to give, propose your own number but be prepared to compromise on other valuable items such as bonuses, benefits, vacation allotment, stock purchase, and relocation.
Depending on the candidate’s level of seniority, you may need to educate her on the value of some of these “extras.” For instance, while the salary you’re offering might be a few thousand dollars lower, your extra week of vacation and superior health insurance plan could more than make up for it. If the individual will be eligible for a raise or promotion within a specific period of time, mention that too. Should any back-and-forth negotiation occur prior to a verbal acceptance, get everything – complete offers and counteroffers – in writing.
Give Her Time to Think
Tell the candidate you’re happy to give him 48 hours to think about the offer – and mean it. Deciding whether or not to accept a job is a huge proposition, and any decent candidate isn’t going to be impulsive about it. Over the course of the next few days, provide him with easy access to you in case he needs more information. Be prepared that the candidate might come back and say that he’d like to work for you, but another company made a better offer. If the candidate is top-notch, go a bit higher to match or exceed the competitor. Remember that when it comes to talent, you often get what you pay for.
While you’re waiting to hear from your first choice, don’t reject the other candidates waiting in the wings. It’s not over until it’s over, and you want to keep all your options open.