By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

May/June grads with options can be a challenge to interview and hire. The delay and uncertainty you get is a distraction. Leveraging a tactical offer (some might call it “exploding offer”) can bring things back under your control.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not advocating making an offer with a next-day deadline. That would be wrong. That’s what gives “exploding offer” its reputation.

It’s entirely reasonable to attach a decision deadline to a job offer. It might even be a breach of fiduciary duty to your practice if you didn’t. What steps can you take to make that deadline tactical and less an “exploding offer”?

Eliminate the surprise. Tell your candidates during the first interview that if they receive an offer, you’ll expect to get an answer within X days. Point out that more of the interview process is ahead, but that any offer will have that deadline. Ask, “What obstacles do you see to that?” Listen closely to the answer. You might hear something that rules the candidate out immediately.

Invite the candidates’ due diligence. You want them to get their questions answered so they can meet the deadline. Say so. Set the expectation that “I have a few more questions” is not an acceptable response to the deadline. Provide an Employee Benefits Summary to each of your top-ranked candidates. Offer to arrange a call with someone who can answer detailed questions about benefits.

Separate deadline from start date. Though this is required for upcoming grads, turn it to your advantage. During the interview process, ask each candidate about a preferred start date and why. You may hear “immediately after graduation” or “maybe a little later because of this trip I have planned.” It could be that an earlier start date carries more weight. Maybe you’re prepared to wait for your number one. If that turns out to be the case, be sure to mention it during the phone call to make a verbal offer. (Don’t reference it in your actual offer letter.)

The downsides of this approach occur in the context of campus hiring:

Some campuses will want to bar you from interviewing students. You can expect them to try this because it is in the best interest of their students. Make an argument for reasonableness. There’s a deadline, yes, but it’s not “exploding.” If you can, manage your interview/offer process so that offer deadlines fall just before finals. “It gets the decision out of the way” while being close enough to the actual end of the year that students will be as far along as possible with all options and in a better position to meet your deadline. In the end, however, you may face a stay or go decision. Even if you stay, begin a search for another school that will not impose this requirement.

You still have to play the odds. Be cautious about this approach when you don’t have at least two other candidates, either of which would be likely targets of an offer. Depending on the number and quality of other options, the grad may say no to your offer.

Hiring top talent is hard. You need to use every advantage you can find.

John Borrowman