Whether you’re an employer or a job seeker, getting to the offer stage can be—or feel like—a long and emotional path. By the time one gets to the point of receiving an offer, they may have gone through several rounds of interviews and met with many people. Needless to say, both sides are well vested in the process and relationship by the time an offer is being considered. Neither side wants to blow it at this late stage.
…But, it’s possible!
As executive search consultants, we work with both the hiring company and professional(s) throughout the journey and help bring them together in a very natural progression. By the time we’re at the offer stage, there shouldn’t be a big-scary-question-filled crescendo of an event loaded with tension, anticipation, and mystery.
For the purpose of this story, we’re going to share some tips and direction for both parties in those “rare instances” where Joe Produce Search is not involved in masterfully managing the process.
We’ll address both perspectives of the employer and the candidate.
Let’s start with the employer.
Employer - Making the Offer
Preparing the offer starts from the first interview, way before you know you’re going to hire the person(s) being interviewed. From day one and throughout the process, asking the right questions, listening, and collecting the right information is vital. Think of it as preparing for a possible marriage proposal. While some proposals are complete surprises—and some even work out—many are not complete surprises, beyond perhaps the day and place it happens.
You should know most of what it’s going to take to hire this person, though your ideas may evolve throughout the interview process. If you’re thinking about making an offer and find yourself lacking the information to make the offer, then you’re in a bad position.
You need to know these and many other factors:
Special note: You must know and understand their priorities and objectives. It’s not always just about the money. In fact, if it is, you should be concerned. We recently had a candidate who was willing to take less money for a few extra days off during the first year.
You should know who will make the offer and why. Know the candidate and create a strategy.
We recommend making a call prefacing a written offer. Follow the call with a formal offer letter including all the details. Ask for an answer to be given within a specific time period. We recommend two to three business days.
Oftentimes, a solid offer will not be negotiated. However, do not feel insulted if the candidate has questions and/or asks for something more or different. It happens. How both parties handle the “opportunity” can have lasting effects on the relationship.
Candidate - Receiving an Offer
Before you receive an offer, you have to actually progress to that stage. That means you’ve marketed yourself with a great resume, moved through the interview process, and have almost made it to “the promised land” of new employment.
Be prepared. Don’t “just wing it” in your interviews. Do some homework. Review example interview questions online. Think about your answers. Carefully review your resume and be prepared to elaborate on every point. You need to know the questions that will produce the information that is important to you.
Tip: The most common reason given to us by hiring managers for a qualified candidate not progressing to a second interview is, “They did not seem interested.” When you don’t do your homework and prepare, it shows.
I hope you’ve read the employer portion of this story first. As you’ve seen, we urge them to listen to you throughout the process. And guess what, you play a role in this process too. You should be asking good questions, engaging in the conversation, and sharing openly.
Don’t play games. Don’t lie. Answer their questions throughout the interview process. Example: What compensation range are you targeting in your next role? If you say too low of a number, you’ll regret it later. If you say too high of a number, you may not make it to the next interview. Being realistic, forthcoming, and a bit flexible is key.
Our suggestion is to give a realistic number or range, within the market and in alignment with your skills, experience, and ability to perform the job. It’s great to be paid like a superstar, but if you can’t perform at superstar levels you won’t be in that role for long. Companies that pay superstars expect superstar performance. I can’t stress this enough, please make sure your compensation is in alignment with your abilities and the employer’s expectations.
So, you have an offer. Congratulations! Do not act immediately. Stop, think, and consider all the factors of the opportunity and the offer. Acknowledge receipt immediately, and let the employer know you’ll be back to them within a specific timeframe, with questions and/or an answer.
We recommend you underpromise and over-deliver here. If you have any questions, then get in touch with them ASAP. Do not wait until the last minute. Cover all your questions and discussion points in one call. If you’re going to negotiate any details, then do that on the same call. If you have multiple items to cover, then prepare your agenda prior to the call. Understand your priorities and what you really want or need and what items are simply “like to haves.” The way you handle yourself and manage this conversation at this stage is critical. Just to be clear, if you’re going to accept the offer, do it sooner than the deadline. If you’re going to ask questions and/or counter, do that much sooner than the deadline.
Want to make a horrible impression with your almost new employer? Then, wait until the very last minute or later, and come back to them with questions or a counteroffer. Even worse, contact them late to decline.
Lastly, choose your communication method(s) wisely. Speaking with them in person or over the phone with questions or counters is the best way. You may need or want to follow up with an email, but do not hide behind emails or texts to work out your offer. Remember, you still have the opportunity to make a positive or negative impression at these late stages. The employer can rescind an offer of employment at any time. We have seen it happen!
Be prepared for a counteroffer from your current employer. If you are open to a counteroffer, then I have to question your intentions and perhaps integrity in this process. By this time, the would-be-new employer has spent hours investing in you and the consideration of having you join their team. If you’re just leaving or staying because of money, then I might question your ability to evaluate your situation and strategically plan your career.
Be prepared to receive and decline a counteroffer from your present employer.
Here are the steps you should take:
No doubt, there is a lot to think about for everyone throughout the process. It does not have to be stressful or tension-filled. Just remember that it all starts with good open and honest communications, and just maintain that throughout this final leg of the hiring journey.
In the words of the renowned Stephen Covey: Begin with the end in mind.