Your Job Offer Process Needs Upgrading, So More Finalists Will Say Yes (Part 2 of 2 parts)

Automation will soon take over sourcing & assessment so that selling will dominate. Yes, selling will become the sole remaining competitive advantage element in the recruiting function in the future. Mostly because it’s the only element of recruiting that can’t be effectively automated. This “excellent in selling capability” must include convincing reluctant recruiting prospects to physically apply, convincing top candidates to remain in the hiring process, and convincing every chosen finalist to accept your job offer. Unfortunately, this new focus will be problematic for most companies. Because in most of today’s recruiting functions, “their job offer development process” ranges from poorly managed to be in complete disarray.

The reader should note that Part 1 of this article covered the six major flaws found in most corporate offer development processes. Those flaws included having little data on the finalist, a process that is not data-driven, and not placing enough emphasis on selling. Part 1 also detailed 18 “offer improvement tools and tricks” under three categories of offer actions. This Part 2 covers the final 20+ additional “getting to yes tools and tricks” within the four remaining categories of offer actions. It’s worth noting that the easiest to implement actions that have the highest impact are listed first under each offer action category.

Note: The First 18 Offer Actions Under Categories I – III Were Covered In Part 1

Offer Action Category IV – Building On The Monetary Aspects Of Your Offer

Even when your organization is lucky enough to be able to make offers that include high salaries, in all cases, it still makes sense to further support and build on the monetary components in each offer. The best way to do that is by highlighting key elements of the offered job, that can in some cases, match the importance of money to a finalist (i.e., making a difference). It’s also important for recruiting leaders to remember that the highest impact hires (i.e., top performers, techies, and innovators) frequently place “the excitement of the work” and “making a difference” ahead of even their money expectations.

  1. Highlight the most competitive elements of your offer – not all finalists stay in tune with current market-level salaries. Try to prevent them from assuming that your salary offer may be low. Verbally highlight each of the areas in your offer that are the most competitive. Show where each element is superior when compared to the industry norm. 
  2. In a few cases, consider guaranteeing a total salary amount – where an exceptional finalist is especially concerned about actually receiving a total salary amount. Consider guaranteeing that they will make their projected minimum total income if they work through the first year.
  3. Offer a delayed salary review to minimize their initial salary concerns – quite often, the largest hurdle that keeps a finalist from accepting an offer is their concern that they will be locked into this lower salary for a long period of time. So when you can’t give them more money, consider offering them “an automatic reopener clause.” This is where you agree to reopen their salary discussion on a set date 3 to 6 months down the road (when both sides will now know how well they performed). Many companies have used this extremely powerful reopener tool. 
  4. Beyond salary, realize that having a job that has meaning and purpose is the #1 motivator – many hiring managers and recruiters over-focus on “the money.” Without realizing that “knowing that their job makes a difference” is literally the #1 motivator (Source: the Harvard Business School). And especially for Millennials, Gallup’s research has revealed that they are “motivated more by mission and purpose than a paycheck.” So it makes sense to also include as a supplement to their job offer a “job impact statement.” That outlines the new-hire’s likely impacts on teammates, customers, the environment, the community, and things they value. 
If you can only do one thing© – provide the finalist with an “impact statement.” Highlight the importance of their new job and the many impacts their work will have on customers, teammates, the environment, and the community.
  1. Beyond salary, highlight how they will be doing “the best work of their life” – it’s true that most top performers and all innovators put “doing groundbreaking can’t put it down exciting work” ahead of pay. So be sure and highlight how this job will be an opportunity for them to literally “do the best work of their life.” Common “best work factors” often include highlighting the leading-edge, innovative work they will be doing, the advanced tools they will be using, and the advanced skills they will be developing. You might also include supportive comments from their future teammates covering how they have realized that they are now doing their best work.
  2. Beyond salary, sell them on the quality of their team – the best new hires are always interested in learning from excellent colleagues. Reinforce their interest in learning from this team by making them fully aware of the outstanding capabilities of their future teammates. Do that by compiling and giving them profiles of their team members (or use LinkedIn profiles). So that the finalist can see that they are joining a winning team that they can learn a lot from. Just like in sports, having one or two of the most compelling teammates contact the offered finalist directly with encouragement can also be powerful.
  3. Supplement their salary with a tremendous amount of freedom and choice – to most innovators and top performers, the amount of freedom they have on the job is a primary job acceptance factor. So after working with the hiring manager to ensure that they will have multiple choices. Make sure that part of the verbal offer discussion clarifies which specific areas they will have exceptional freedom and choices. Those freedom areas might include choices on aspects of the work, including projects, teammates, methods, or hardware and software. When it comes to working time and location, consider offering them choices in work hours, 4-day workweeks, unlimited vacation/personal time, and their physical work location. 
  4. Supplement their salary by educating them on where they are likely to be in two years – almost everyone seeking a new position would like to know “where they will likely be in a few years.” So whenever possible, it’s wise to “show them what can happen. By giving them concrete examples of how previous hires in this job family have actually developed. The discussion might cover development aspects that occurred to the best in the past. Including salary increases, previous lateral moves, leadership and training opportunities, and promotions). Don’t make any formal promises that can’t be kept but do let them know what has been possible in the past. 
  5. Supplement their salary with a personal development budget – almost all top candidates are interested in supporting their development and learning. But unfortunately, the development opportunities offered don’t always match what the employee really wants. So consider offering them their own yearly personal development budget that they 100% control.
  6. Supplementing their salary by offering remote work options – to some, the opportunity to work at home either permanently or occasionally on one or more days a week can seal the deal. Your ability to work at home may be especially impactful when your company’s in-person facility is located in a high cost of living area and when it often involves a stressful commute. Whenever they choose to work 100% at home in any state, remind them that they can choose to work in an area where their salary would go further because it has a lower cost of living.
  7. Supplement their salary by highlighting Covid safety – today, it’s a good idea to assume that no matter how powerful your offer is, most candidates will still be extremely worried about having a safe in-person work environment. So try to make each finalist feel 100% safe by providing them with a list of your organization’s proactive Covid safety actions. If you’re going to require all employees to be vaccinated, you need to let them know that also.
  8. Supplement their salary with a title that’s desirable to them – too many individuals, it’s a mistake to underestimate the value of a title. So if your organization allows it, give them a range of possible titles to choose from, or even let them create their own with your approval.
  9. Supplement their salary with a status symbol that’s important to them – top candidates often have egos. So consider providing them with one or more status symbols beyond the title that might seal the deal. These symbols might include important things, including a desirable office, an assistant, an intern, first-class travel, or a company car. 
  10. Show that their salary will go further by highlighting community affordability in cases where a new hire will be relocating. Make it clear to them whenever they work at a location with a significantly lower cost of living or no income taxes. These factors will literally make their offered salary go further. Also, verbally highlight other factors (like good schools and low crime) that make their new work location highly desirable.

Offer Action Category V – Provide Them With A Dream Job Offer

We discovered at Agilent Technologies over two decades ago. One of the best ways to instantly get a top candidate’s attention was to tell them that we were striving to provide them with “their dream job.” We found that just the thought that we were trying to provide this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was by itself a major attention-getter.

  1. Offer them their “dream job” – for truly exceptional candidates. Consider telling them that your goal is to offer them their dream job. Do that by providing them with a blank page, with “my dream job” as the title at the top of the page. Of course, give them some time to create their list of the elements that would make this next job “a dream job.” In some cases, you can speed up the list development process by providing them with some prompts. These are examples of the factors that others in their field have previously selected to be part of their dream job (i.e., choosing projects, using leading-edge technology, or working with an icon employee). And then obviously, it’s important to work with them to understand the dream job criteria that they select fully. 
  2. Offer a chance to work on their dream project – in cases where you can’t offer them their dream job. Instead, for project-oriented top finalists, ask them if they have a dream project that they would love to work on. If you find this type of project within your organization. If they accept, they will be able to spend a dedicated amount of their time each week on that project. Another alternative is to follow the lead of Google and 3M and offer them a fixed amount of time each week to work on their pet project (a.k.a. 20% time at Google).

Offer Action Category VI – Offer Process Elements That Will Lead To More Successful Offers

This category contains some key offer development process elements that have proven to have a high impact on producing successful offers.

  1. Minimize the possibility of negative surprises by verbally going over your draft offer – avoid making the all-too-common catastrophic mistake of providing a final salary offer that the finalist finds to be embarrassingly low or even insulting (i.e., one well beneath their current salary). Do this before the final offer is completed by verbally revealing the key salary elements that you expect will be in their final offer. If you decide that your offer is way off after getting their reaction, this may give you a chance to save face and make changes before the final offer is tendered. 
  2. You must personalize each job offer – all finalists want to think that you consider them special. Reinforce that belief when you put together their final offer by ensuring the offer itself and the supporting materials appear to be 100% personalized. This, at the very least, means that the offer doesn’t look like a boilerplate because it includes a few offer elements that would only be relevant to this particular finalist.
  3. Assign an offer coordinator to monitor the time of each offer – offers that are not closely monitored are likely to develop more slowly, and they may not be ready before the finalist has already accepted another offer. So utilize candidate research to determine the ideal and the maximum number of days before an offer should be tendered in each job family. Assign a recruiter to continuously monitor the progress of this offer to ensure all roadblocks are eliminated and that the offer is ready within the targeted number of days and it comes close to meeting this finalist’s job acceptance criteria. The offer process coordinator should also periodically report to senior managers how often the target number of days is met and the percentage of our accepted offers.
  4. Be continuously excited about the candidate – initially, it might seem like a minor thing, but most people want the organization to be excited about the prospect of them joining. You can help continuously reveal that excitement by having everyone involved constantly display their enthusiasm about them, their capabilities, and what they will add to the team. 
  5. Minimize any fear of failure by offering a no-fault divorce option – many finalists are nervous about their capabilities and the probability of succeeding. So for exceptional finalists, consider offering them a “no-fault divorce process, which is a non-confrontational way to end a new-hire’s employment after six months. In the rare cases when either side feels that, for any reason, the employment relationship isn’t working out and an internal transfer isn’t a viable solution. This no-fault separation starts by assigning no blame. Next, the employee is guaranteed a positive reference and a predetermined lump sum severance payoff. So that they always know that if needed, they can walk away relatively unharmed. 

Offer Action Category VII – Difficult To Implement But Extremely Powerful Approaches

All offer enhancement approaches provided so far have required little budget and few organizational approvals. However, these three remaining offer enhancements usually require either some extra budget or external approvals.

  1. Hire them both – this is a hiring approach that has been successfully used by both McDonald’s and the U.S. Army. The hiring tool encourages a desirable finalist to say yes by offering them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside someone they always wanted to work with. So you let exceptional candidates know upfront that you’re willing to hire another qualified colleague as a package deal. This “buddy hire” could be a mentor, a colleague, best friend, or even a qualified family member. Of course, you can limit the time when you promise to allow them to work together on the same project/team. 
  2. Develop a dedicated “hiring” team – this approach is used everywhere at Google and several other firms. It adds value because individual hiring managers that fill vacancies infrequently often have assessment and selling/closing skills that are rusty. So instead, for key positions, you put together a dedicated “hiring team” made up of individuals who have proven to be particularly adept at assessing and selling candidates. And because they hire so often, they better understand the talent marketplace and what candidates need. They are much more likely to be able to persuade a hard-to-land finalist to say yes.
  3. Create side-by-side offer comparison “sell” charts – often, hiring managers are not completely familiar with what your competitors offer to their new hires. And because it’s essential that you successfully convince each top finalist that “what your firm has offered” is superior to any offer from a competitor. I recommend that you provide managers with a “side-by-side” offer comparison sheet. These single-page “sell sheets” make it extremely easy for extremely busy hiring managers to see exactly how the job offer elements from your firm stack up against the typical offerings from each of your major competitors. In addition, this sheet makes it easy for your managers to easily and quickly identify and then sell the finalist in each of the areas where your organization’s offer is clearly superior. 

Final Thoughts

In today’s highly competitive talent marketplace, it’s extremely hard to get even an average candidate to accept an offer. So if you, like everyone, need to improve your offer acceptance rate among the even more difficult top finalists. It’s time to convert your current integrated offer process to a more scientific selling strategy and approach, which relies on finalist research and data. To first identify and then to provide in your offer the specific content that this unique finalist needs before they will “say yes.” 

Note: the final version of the combined two-part article can be found here

Author’s Note 

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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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