Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part 2 of 2

Things to Do During the Offer Stage

The way you design the offer stage of the recruiting process can have a dramatic effect on offer acceptance. Some things to consider include:

  • Offer them a salary re-opener. A salary re-opener three or six months after they start is a powerful tool. The reason that this works is that neither they nor you can really know how good they are until they actually start work.
  • Make the offer in person. Anyone who understands psychology knows it is harder to turn a request down in person than over the phone. In addition, it's easier to make arguments that overcome their concerns or to ask for more time when offers are made in person.
  • Same-day offers. If you do a good job exciting the top candidate during the interview process, it's a good idea to make the job offer before they walk out the door. After they go home, they have more chances to hear negative feedback from colleagues, friends, and family, as well as to receive other job offers or counteroffers from their current boss. Some even offer "exploding bonuses" to spur action, which decrease in amount the longer an applicant "mulls over" the offer.
  • CEO calls. The single-most successful offer closing tool is having a CEO call and ask them to "join us so that you and I build this company together." A passionate and personalized call from a senior executive (generally someone they didn't meet) works almost without exception. A handwritten note from the CEO attached to the offer letter is also a nice touch.
  • Coworker calls. Having employees ask the candidate directly to "join the team" can be compelling because it shows that their peers "want" them. The request should be done relatively soon after the final interview and with some level of excitement. Sometimes a phone call right after the offer is actually received can also be effective.
  • Influence the influencers. Improve your chances of getting family support by sending them information about the company. Sometimes a simple gift or a sample of the company's products sent to the home will also make a difference. Talking to references and mentors about the positive aspects of the company and the job can also help improve your acceptance rates.
  • Total comp? Be careful when you throw around the term "total compensation" because to many candidates, that's a red flag meaning that they're not going to get to take home pay that they really want. If, however, you offer benefits, relocation, performance bonuses, stock options, or other things that do have significant economic value, make sure that repeating them is part of the offer process.
  • The offer-letter format. Another reason why offers are rejected is the form and format of the offer letter itself. Letters with a lot of fine print are turnoffs. Letters that leave out key "promises" that were verbally discussed during interviews will invariably frustrate the candidate.
  • Post-deal information gathering. Getting a candidate on board is not the end of the offer process. Identify what went right, lessons learned, and what went wrong. After a delay, ask candidates who rejected your offers "why" and ask the candidates who accepted what factors led to acceptance. Also, give each of the finalists, the manager, the recruiter, and the new hire a satisfaction questionnaire to identify where during the process they were treated well and where they were not.
  • Make them a great "non-monetary" offer. Sometimes a title, working at home, a dress-down atmosphere, the opportunity to work on a "wow" project, great equipment, rapid learning, the fact that you are a "green" and socially responsible firm, or that you provide an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives is more powerful than money.

Elements of Non-Monetary Offers

While few studies exist to determine whether the emphasis placed on compensation during recruiting is candidate or employer driven, a number of studies do prove that consideration is given to a multitude of others factors, few of which have been formalized by organizations as a component of the employment offer.

Non-monetary aspects of an offer can be grouped into four categories:

1. The Job Itself

  • An opportunity to do "the best work of your life"
  • Choice of challenging projects
  • Spending a majority of time doing what the candidate is good at/ likes
  • Promise of job rotations and stretch assignments
  • A chance to supervise or lead
  • Opportunity to take risks, make decisions and stretch their brain
  • A chance to work with/on the latest technology

2. Flexibility

  • Choice of schedule
  • Choice of team members or co-workers
  • Ability to work at home periodically
  • Opportunity for self management
  • Chance to pick their own title
  • Opportunities for more pay based on results
  • Job-sharing opportunities

3. Their Manager

  • A process for honest, frequent two-way communication
  • Opportunities for being recognized and rewarded for their performance
  • Periodic meetings with management
  • Personalized motivation
  • An opportunity to make decisions
  • An individualized learning plan to keep them on the leading edge of knowledge
  • A self-development plan or budget

4. The Company

  • A firm that is socially responsible and environmentally friendly
  • A well-respected product
  • A focus on innovation and risk-taking
  • Opportunities to be mentored by a senior person
  • Work/life balance opportunities
  • Opportunities for rapid internal movement
  • Showing them their work will "make a difference"
  • Opportunities for internal exposure and public recognition
  • Open access to company information
  • Opportunity for increased (or decreased) travel
  • Job security and stability
  • Opportunities to sponsor their work visa application


Having to present offers that are going to be perceived negatively on their financial merits alone is an experience that recruiters have always had to endure, and one that will likely continue, but it doesn't have to impact your offer acceptance ratio.

Organizations need to become more adept about making offers in a way that doesn't focus the attention on compensation to begin with. Hopefully, you will find elements in each stage presented here beneficial.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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