Get your offers accepted

Jan 11, 2016

Here are a few tips on ensuring that potential employees accept your job offer, and have a back-up in case they don’t.

1256It’s a big problem today. You go through a long search process, interviewing multiple candidates for a difficult-to-fill-yet-critical position, develop what you think is a great offer, and then ultimately get a turndown. Everyone is disappointed and you are back to Square 1. I’ve hired hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years, not to mention I was trained as a recruiter when I first got into this business in 1980. Here are some things that you can do to improve your offer-to-acceptance ratio:
  1. Treat every job candidate like gold. Your job is to have every single person you interview wanting to work for your firm if you want them there. Stop thinking about your role as one of keeping bad apples out. Your real job is to have good apples wanting to come in. YOU want to be in the driver’s seat on who works there. That means everyone has to be favorably impressed with the company and your people.
  2. Before any face-to-face interviews are conducted, develop some recruitment “sales” material. A nice video would be great where you interview current employees who tell you how much they love working there. But you also need simple benefit summaries, cost of living data for your area, a current org chart, some history of the firm, and a list of all your awards and accolades received, as well as some articles on the firm that may have appeared in print. You want to sell – you needs “sales” material. This information can help keep you from getting a turndown.
  3. Plan out every detail for your interview. Who will the candidate meet? How long will they meet with them? What will they see? Who will they go to lunch or dinner with? Plot it all out and then tell everyone involved, including the candidate, what’s going to happen. And if travel is required, make that easy. Help the candidate with flights or hotel arrangements. Make them feel comfortable and important so they don’t turn down your offer, should you eventually make them one.
  4. Get all of the candidates’ compensation details. The way you do that is by asking very early on in the process “How much do you currently earn?” Then say, “How much of that is base versus bonus and overtime? Do you have any special benefits? Do you have a company car? If not, do you get an auto allowance? How much of your medical insurance do you have to pay? How much vacation time do you get?” Be direct. Don’t ask what they want. Ask where they currently are now. Not knowing all of this will result in your paying too much or offering too little and getting a turndown.
  5. Stop being obsessed with why the job candidate wants to make a change. Especially for candidates coming from outside recruiters – they may not WANT to make a change but may be open to the idea. Let them feel comfortable. Let them open up to you and don’t put them on the defensive or you’ll get a turndown.
  6. Get a good realtor involved. Tell the realtor a condition of your referrals is they have to tell you what’s going on inside the candidate’s head. You need to hear the discussion from the car ride to look at houses or the phone calls they have before and after their visit. Not paying attention to the candidate’s housing needs and letting them fend for themselves will nearly always result in a turndown.
  7. Look for a way to talk to the spouse. You have to know their needs and where their head is or you’ll likely get a turndown. Find a reason to call them. Tell the candidate that this is just part of your normal hiring process. You may learn a lot and find out about issues you can address like special school or healthcare needs that you wouldn’t know about otherwise.
  8. Write a good offer. Generally, any offer that isn’t a 15 percent increase in base salary or better will probably get a turndown. Relocations may cost you even more. Lower cost of living is rarely considered by job candidates. And rarely will people make a lateral move salary-wise even if your bonus is a whole lot better.
  9. Don’t give the candidate forever to make their decision. Shorter decision times are better (48 to 72 hours). Seven days, 10 days, or two weeks is way too long and will nearly always result in a turndown.
  10. Ask the candidate how they will respond to a counteroffer, should one be made (and it probably will be!). Then deliver the counteroffer speech. They have been “unfaithful” (when they talked to you about another job opportunity.) “Things will never be the same.” The whole point is to let them know accepting a counter offer would be a mistake and that they have held a gun to their employer’s head and caught them off-guard so don’t trust any promises made in that kind of a situation.
  11. If the candidate tells you they’ll accept but want to wait until they turn their notice in to their boss, discourage that kind of thinking. They are setting themselves up for a counter offer, and you don’t want that. Tell them you would feel they were a lot more decisive and committed if they formally accepted your offer THEN told their current employers they are leaving.
  12. Always get a backup candidate. No matter how good it looks – do it. You may need it. And if you don’t need a backup you will have the confidence to tell your number one candidate what they need to hear in case they try to get too greedy during the offer stage.
  13. If someone turns down your job offer, ask them why. If they say the pay is too low ask what they expected. Ask them if you got that pay for them would they accept immediately? You never know … it may be a minor problem. Don’t make assumptions about why someone turns down your job. You could very well be wrong!
Do ALL of these things and you will increase your offer-to-acceptance ratio. I’m certain of it! MARK ZWEIG is founder and CEO of Zweig Group. Contact him at Zweig Group has a number of resources for executive search & recruitment including the 2016 Recruitment & Retention Survey (now open for participation), a job board for the AEC industry, and personalized consulting.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.