How to Make a Job Offer that your Candidate Will Accept

Growing your team is both exciting and stressful. The search and interview process can be lengthy, and finding a candidate—who not only has the skills and experience you need, but is also a great fit for your team and is excited to make a move—takes time, patience, and a bit of luck. When you’re ready to make a job offer, you want to be confident that it will be accepted by the candidate.

Throughout the interview and qualification process with your candidates, use these strategies to make sure that you’re building interest and excitement—candidates don’t often accept job offers that they feel just OK about.

What's the motivation for the candidate to make a move?

While compensation is an important factor, more and more we see that great candidate’s don’t move for more money alone. They want to build new products, solve new problems, advance their leadership skills, get away from a toxic manager or team, or need more flexibility to better juggle their work and personal lives. If your offer doesn’t address the pain they are feeling in their current role, they may not be as motivated to accept as you hope.

Asking the question “how does this opportunity line up with your career goals?”, and then really listening to the answer can give you a wealth of information about the candidate’s motivations. Throughout the interview and screening process, it’s up to you to address how your role will fit in with their plans, aspirations, and pain.

Sell the vision, mission, and culture of your organization.

In general, people don’t leave companies, they leave people. A difficult relationship with a manager or team can often motivate a candidate to start a job search. Throughout the interview process, let the candidate get to know their prospective manager and team, and share the ins and outs of the organization’s mission, vision, and culture. In order to confidently accept your job offer, the candidate needs to envision themselves working alongside your existing team, reporting to a manager who supports them, and creating an impact for an organization they believe in. How are you painting that picture for them? We recommend that you schedule the first interview in the process with someone on your team who is great at selling the organization and getting people excited about your work.

Open the door for candidates to walk out.

While it may feel counter-intuitive, we find it incredibly helpful to give candidates the option to gracefully bow out of the process as they progress through each stage. It helps them to better articulate their feelings about the role, and to get concerns out in the open. You may also find that a candidate who is very interested will use the opportunity to restate their enthusiasm and interest. Either way, you get a clear read on their feelings. Here are a few questions you can use throughout the interview process:

  • Has anything changed on your end regarding your interest in this position?
  • You mentioned X as a reason for considering a change. So far, do you have concerns about X in relation to this opportunity?
  • Given the conversations we’ve had so far, does it make sense on your end for us to continue the process?

Get clear on compensation expectations.

Before you make an offer, you should have a clear understanding of compensation expectations for your candidate. One of the most common missteps we see organizations make is sharing a salary range at the beginning of the interview process, and then not revisiting salary until an offer is made. If the candidate has agreed to a range, they should accept an offer within that band, right? It’s a bit more complicated than that. When a range is presented, most candidates only hear the top number, so if you’re come in with an offer closer to the bottom range, you may unintentionally disappoint them. This may create a snowball effect, where they start to reconsider the decision—maybe the commute is too long, or the title isn’t a big enough step.

We recommend that you’re very clear on salary expectations before you schedule the final interview with a candidate. At that stage, they should know enough about the role and the company to evaluate the opportunity. It helps if you have a skilled recruiting partner who can facilitate the salary discussion, and make sure all parties are aligned as you move through the process.

When you’re ready to make a job offer, move quickly.

Once you’ve made the decision to go forward with an offer, don’t drag your feet in extending it! It’s a candidate’s market, so it’s best to assume that if you think they’re great, your competitors do too. Start with a verbal offer, and follow it up quickly with the details in writing.

Don’t get too discouraged if they need time to think it over, or want to follow up with an additional call with the hiring manager. At this stage in the process, it’s critical to have empathy for the candidate—a job change is a big deal, and if you bristle at them needing more time or information, you may kill the deal before it happens. Be open and accommodating—you’ve already decided that they’re a great fit for your team, so don’t drop the ball at this critical stage.

Take a human approach to negotiating.

Many people make the mistake of approaching final negotiations with a candidate the same way they approach negotiating a discount on a new car or utility bill. The challenge with this approach is that you’re not negotiating for a thing, you’re negotiating for a person’s time, skills, and attention—and people have a lot of feelings about their work, their value, and their career progression. That’s a lot of emotion and psychology to navigate, which is simply not present when you’re negotiating for a better deal to renew the lease on your car.

Having a skilled recruiter to help you through the process can be incredibly valuable, as they can act as a buffer for negotiating, and help you determine what kind of compensation package will make a candidate excited to accept, what number will make them comfortable but not quite thrilled, and what will make them feel like you don’t value their skills. Remember that you want them excited and engaged when they join you in a few weeks, and if they are discouraged during the negotiation process, they may be more susceptible to accepting a counter offer, or pulling their candidacy entirely.

Having a job offer rejected by a candidate hurts. By the time you’ve reached the stage of extending an offer, you’ve already invested a lot of time and energy in them, and a rejected offer can often mean restarting the search process entirely. We’ve found that these best practices can help guard against the frustration of a declined job offer, and create the conditions for your new employee to join your team excited to contribute.

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