So the resumes are read, the interviews are complete, the work samples appraised. You’ve found a person who will be the perfect addition to your team. Congratulations! Don’t let them slip away—now it’s time to make them an offer they can’t refuse.
Let’s break it down, step by step.
First, don’t wait until the end of the process to discuss dealbreaker details with candidates. Foster a trusting relationship, maintain awareness, and promote fluid communication from the start.
- Before a candidate enters the formal interview process, discuss their expectations around compensation, title, start date, and other fine points. You should also be ready with information on company benefits and pay structure. You should know the candidate’s priorities and where they’re flexible before they start interviewing.
- Don’t forget to find out if a candidate has requirements for sponsorship, relocation, commute, employment type (full-time, part-time, contract, permanent), or other exceptional benefits needs. These conditions may be outside the norm, but if you get too far into the process and you don’t know, you could be in trouble.
- Debriefing with candidates after each interview round helps form a relationship and establish trust. It’s also a great time to get a read on the candidate’s level of engagement or interest and ask if they have any questions, concerns, or updates on their end.
Midway through the interview cycle and again after the final interview, revisit the candidates’ priorities and check in. During this phase, you’ll be collecting information to use when you make a competitive offer.
- Review expectations on compensation, title, start date, etc. with the candidates to ensure they are still accurate or find out if their expectations have changed and why.
- Check in with where they are with other offers. This will likely inform your compensation strategy.
- More importantly, this is a time to ask if your company is a candidate’s first choice and if the opportunity lines up with how they envision their career. (There is little point in preparing offer terms if a candidate feels ‘meh’ about the job.)
- But if they’re your choice, and the candidate is eager to move forward, hooray! It’s time to let the candidate know things are looking promising, so they can mentally prepare for a new opportunity.
Now it’s time to prepare the terms of the offer. This is a big step, but first, ensure you have a compensation strategy, so you’re not shooting from the hip every time you hire. A solid company compensation strategy will guide and validate your compensation package. For example, do you pay above, below, or at market play levels? You may lever this up or down depending on other factors, but it should be figured out ahead of time.
Here are the most obvious things to include in your offer. Consider this your toolkit.
- Job title is a point of negotiation that has no cost to an employer but can be tremendously valuable to a candidate. But bear in mind any potential friction a title negotiation may cause for your current team.
- Base salary is the obvious one. Consider initial target salary range, compensation philosophy, candidate expectations, candidate location and the cost of living, and competing offer terms as you deliberate.
- Bonus and commission can be negotiated, with structure and payout explicitly defined in the terms.
- Benefits, including health insurance and PTO are worth mentioning if the candidate has a competing (or current) offer package that’s more generous. This category can include a lot of other things too, like other types of insurance, flexible hours, child care, or a transportation stipend.
- Stock options, with current value, vesting schedule, and terms laid out.
- The start date can be a valuable negotiation term if a candidate has an upcoming bonus or vesting date with a former employer.
Here are some additional negotiation considerations if you need to get creative.
- Signing bonus
- Accelerated performance review with the potential for a future increase in job title, base salary, or equity if you can’t provide them at the start. The clearer and more specific the language on this, the more a candidate will feel at ease with this proposal. Consider ramp-up time when you figure out the proposed schedule.
- Performance spot-bonus for hitting specific metrics by a certain date. This may lead to conversations around feasibility.
Get verbal acceptance of the terms before sending a written offer. There may be some negotiation to hammer out before you commit anything to paper.
- Time for a congratulatory conversation with the candidate, yay! Present details about why you’re excited to have them join your team, a thorough discussion of all offer terms (more on that in a sec), and a detailed recap of your company benefits.
- Be sure to address any candidate questions thoroughly and promptly (you may need to contact someone on your team for additional info).
- Candidates will typically negotiate at this stage. Be careful to only enter negotiations if the candidate is committed to joining your organization on terms you can reasonably accept.
At this point, the written offer should pretty much be a formality—now that you and the candidate have verbally committed to the terms.
- Once you receive verbal acceptance from the candidate, a two or three-day turnaround on the written offer is appropriate. The candidate needs time to review the offer language and ask any remaining questions.
- Feel free to reach out for a check-in or follow-up while the offer letter is out for signature. (And maybe don’t send the offer on a Friday or holiday for this reason.)
Once the offer is accepted, pat yourself on the back for doing a great job. Finding and then landing the right candidate is a lot of work! Now is the time to send a quick celebratory note to the new hire, and maybe ask the rest of the hiring panel to do so as well. Some teams send a branded t-shirt or a swag bag. Do what feels right for your company and the role. And many congratulations to you, the new hire, and the lucky team.