If you’ve ever been surprised when an offer is rejected, it’s usually because you rushed the process and didn’t test it properly. When this testing is done properly and you ask the candidate, “Are you now in a position to formally accept our offer on the terms we discussed?” the answer will be, “Yes. Of course.” If the candidate hesitates at all, do not make the offer. Instead, you must find out the reason for the hesitation before making the formal offer.
Here’s a quick summary of how to test offers:
1. Switch the acceptance criteria to career growth, not compensation
I like to take money off the table early in the process and shift the conversation to the career opportunity. If the candidate wants to know the compensation range before talking say, “If the job doesn’t represent a career move the pay shouldn’t matter. Let’s first see if it is a career opportunity and if so we’ll see if the pay fits.”
2. Address any concerns
Candidates often have serious concerns about things other than pay. These cover the gamut from company culture, the hiring manager’s style, the benefit plan and the working conditions. You can test the validity of the concern by asking if the concern can be properly addressed would the person be open to consider the opportunity. If the candidate doesn’t agree, there’s something else of concern. As a recruiter you must find out what it is before moving forward.
3. Use the 1-10 test of interest
Before an offer is made, ask the candidate to rank his/her other opportunities against yours on a 1-10 scale. Hopefully the person will say it’s an 8 or 9 and of serious interest. If so, ask, “What would you need to know or have in order for our opportunity to become #1 – a 10?”
4. Ask them to explain why they see the job as a great career move
Before the final round of interviews ask something like, “We’re now considering who we’ll be bringing back as finalists and one condition is only inviting those who see the job as a great career move. Given everything you’re considering do you see the job this way? If so, can you tell me why?” If the answer to “Why?” isn’t sincere, in-depth and more about the work than the money raise the caution flag.
5. Test the start day
About a week before making the offer ask the person, “If we can get an offer approved on all of the terms we’ve agreed upon in the next week, when do you think you could start?” This is called a trial close. If the person is seriously considering your job, he/she will openly share the specific details with you. If the person is vague or says, “I have to think about it,” do not proceed. Instead ask what’s of concern and use the “close upon a concern” technique to test it.
6. Put money back in the parking lot
Before presenting the offer ask, “Forget the compensation package for a moment, is this a job you really want?” If the candidate says yes, ask why. If the person is seriously interested he/she will describe the career opportunity in detail in terms of job stretch, why it offers more satisfying work and faster growth and why he/she wants to work with the people involved. Be concerned if the answer is vague or lacks commitment.
7. Play hardball
Even after they’ve agreed to all of the terms of the offer, candidates will frequently call before receiving the final offer with some concern. When it’s money, I just ask if they’re rejecting the offer or don’t think the compensation is fair. If it’s a money issue, I say I’ll do my best to get a better deal but to go to bat for the person, I need a 100% commitment he/she will sign the acceptance letter right away. I always give the person a few hours to consider the importance of making this personal commitment. This discussion of why being a bit underpaid is better in the long run than being overpaid helps address this issue.
8. Keep it closed by making sure they are instantly engaged
A few days after the offer is accepted I have the hiring manager meet with the candidate to discuss an important business issue related to the job. This gets the candidate engaged instantly in the new job and it gives the company a chance to make sure things are proceeding smoothly.
If you test offers this way, you won’t ever be surprised again when an offer is rejected. Even better, few will be.