Competition for talent is fierce. If you haven’t lost a candidate to a counter-offer, you…
By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
It’s frustrating to make an offer that gets turned down or, worse yet, used to leverage a counteroffer. You can minimize risk with a careful interview strategy.
Remember that you have the upper hand in the process until you make the offer, when control passes to the candidate. The key is to know as much as you can about the likely outcome once you do make an offer.
Don’t underestimate the pressure that candidates feel during the interview process. Recall how you felt – the fears you experienced – when you contemplated saying yes to a new home and goodbye to your close friends at your last company. No matter how much the candidate wants out, there are always pangs of fear and guilt about leaving.
Use a gentle, diplomatic approach to laying out an offer.
Assuming you’ve settled on the person you want to hire and invited them back to extend that offer, ask:
- What’s changed since the last time we spoke?
Most of the time, nothing has changed. If something has, better you should know before you make your offer. Maybe responsibilities have changed, or a pay raise appeared. Maybe there’s an offer from another practice. Find out what’s changed so you can recalibrate your approach. If you smell a counteroffer coming, you might want to back up and have the candidate revisit the motivations for considering your position.
Make sure you’ve judged correctly that money is the only issue left to address:
- Tell me what final questions I can answer for you to help you make an informed decision?
Keep asking – and answering – until money is the only thing left.
Test how prepared the candidate is to accept your offer:
- If we were to make you an offer, when would you like to start? How much notice would you need to give?
Anything more than a reasonable delay as a professional courtesy should be a red flag that the candidate isn’t as ready to respond to an offer as you might have thought.
By now you know what you’re going to include in your offer. Before you lay your cards on the table, do one last test:
- I’m going to make an offer. Before I do, I want to know that you’re prepared to give us your answer by ________.
A week should be plenty. The higher the level of the candidate, of course, the longer the process leading up to the offer, the more discussion that is held and the more information that is exchanged. That doesn’t change the fact that once you get to money, the decision should require very little time.
Do not move forward without a response. This is one more chance for you to test whether your candidate is waiting for another offer. If that is the case, probe to learn how you rank against the other offer so you can decide whether you wait out the timing, or move on to other candidates.
It is not to your advantage to extend an offer without a time certain for a response. Beware of the tendency to think “it’s better if the candidate takes the time to consider both opportunities”. If your candidate hasn’t thoroughly considered your opportunity by this point (in order to say yes or no), it’s unlikely that a delay will make much difference.
Everyone uses arithmetic in the process of deciding the amount of an offer: Chargeable hour expectations? Billing rate? When you make your offer, walk the candidate through that arithmetic. This will position you for “push-back” from the candidate about increasing the offer.
If the candidate hints about—or asks for—more, repeat the arithmetic and ask:
- Tell me how we may have underestimated you?
This pushes the candidate to focus on value, and not simply on subjective arguments about “I think I’m worth more”, or “I don’t think that’s the market rate for my position”.
Taking an approach that is sensitive to your candidate’s normal fear of change will serve you best in the long run. Provide plenty of information to the candidate during the interview process. Encourage due diligence in the interest of having money be the final piece of the puzzle. Making an offer shifts the power to the candidate. Don’t give away that power prematurely, or without strings attached to let you know when you can expect an answer.
The problems you may be encountering at time of offer are foreseeable and preventable. A little attention can pay big dividends in helping you get the talent you need to grow your practice.