After days, weeks or even months of sourcing, shortlisting and interviewing candidates, you have finally identified the right candidate for the role! The next step in your hiring process is to make them a job offer.
At the offer stage you need to move fast, proactively reach out to your chosen candidate, send them their offer letter, potentially deflect a counter-offer and carry out pre-employment checks - it’s a lot to sort out!
You don’t want to fall at the final hurdle and fail to hire your dream employee - but unfortunately exactly that does happen more frequently than you may expect. “Candidate ghosting” occurs when you’re coming towards the end of your hiring process and have a great candidate all lined up, then out of the blue they drop off the radar - ignoring your calls, not responding to emails and even deleting you as a contact on LinkedIn.
How can you, as an employer, make sure you aren’t ghosted and have your ideal candidate accept your job offer?
We’ve outlined the logical job offer stages to progress through which will help you make a job offer that your dream candidate will want to accept.
- Why it’s important to make a quick decision
- Contact them via phone to put forward your offer
- How to create an offer letter
- What to do if your candidate receives a counter-offer
- Do you need to carry out pre-employment checks?
- Informing the unsuccessful candidates
- How long should you wait for a response to the job offer?
1. Decide fast which candidate you want to offer the job to
A slow recruitment process is one of the most prominent reasons why hiring organisations miss out on quality candidates.
According to Gartner, decisive hiring managers hire 10% more high-quality candidates, faster. If you hesitate and delay making a hiring decision, there is a good chance that your ideal candidate could accept another offer if they are undertaking multiple processes.
If possible, contact the candidate you want to offer the job to shortly after their final interview (1-2 days after the interview). This is a great way of showing that you are genuinely excited to have them on the team, while at the same time easing the candidate’s stress and anxiety that naturally follows a job interview.
If you want to, set a timeframe of when you expect to hear a decision from them - generally a week is plenty of time for them to think about everything, but don’t rush them; it’s a big decision!
"One of the biggest mistakes a company can make if they're interested in hiring a candidate, is to not tell them! Too often, an interview will finish ambiguously where the candidate is unsure of how and when they'll receive feedback, which then leads to them looking at other opportunities and potentially not being available to take the position. To avoid this, always inform the candidate when they'll hear from you and promptly direct any feedback to your recruitment consultant post-interview." - Chloe Spillane, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Morgan McKinley
2. Make an offer over the phone first
Before you start writing a job offer letter, call the candidate first to ensure they are still interested in the role. They might have accepted a different role or want to withdraw their application for ot her reasons. To save time it’s therefore best to call the candidate first.
Not only is this your chance to confirm that they are still interested in joining your organisation, but it is also a prime opportunity to discuss the offer in more detail and whether any negotiation is needed around the compensation you have outlined - this may put a halt on things so it’s important to be forward with this and keep things moving along fast so not to delay the hiring process any longer.
Clearly reconfirm what you are willing to pay them and the benefits they can access (this should already have been touched on earlier in the application process). This will give them an idea of the total compensation package - most importantly, this manages expectations. If you are unsure of the market rates or salaries, refer to salary guides to better understand what you should be offering in your market and industry.
When calling a candidate and offering the job over the phone it’s also easier to express your enthusiasm. After all, making a job offer is exciting to both sides and should be a memorable experience - it’s hard to convey your elation over an email. Remember, the professional relationship starts before the first day!
3. Follow up the call with a formal job offer letter
Once you have let them know that you are going to offer them the job and they have verbally stated that they are happy with the terms, you should get on with sending the formal job offer letter.
On that letter, you should confirm the following:
- The candidate’s full name
- What their official job title will be
- The formal start date (and the end date if it’s a temporary position)
- How long the probation period will be
- Whether there are any conditions the offer is subject to
- Any actions that the candidate needs to take prior to starting
If the candidate is happy with everything on the letter after checking that all details are correct, they should sign the letter, make a copy of it (so they have one for their personal reference) and send a signed copy back to you. As an employer, you should keep their signed letter on file in case there are any disputes in the future.
It’s important to remember that this is not a binding contract of employment and that either side could still back out. Only when the main terms and conditions of employment, such as the remuneration and benefits that come with the role have been received and signed (the time you have to send these out varies depending on your country), are they legally bound to the contract.
4. Being prepared for your candidate to receive a counter-offer
If your applicant is a highly skilled professional, there is a high chance that their current employer will be doing everything to try and hold onto them.
The prospect of losing a key team member is not attractive; beyond the costs and length of time to replace a leaver, there will be a skills hole left and their departure could cause a feeling of instability across their team. With this in mind, they may react to the news by promising your prospective new employee more money, more responsibilities and more freedom in their day-to-day activities if they stay with them - this is known as a counter-offer.
Counter-offers can also be emotionally charged, playing on any existing relationship to try and convince the employee to stay. Phrases such as “You're too valuable and we need you." "We were just about to give you a promotion but it was confidential until now." and "The Managing Director wants to meet with you before you make your final decision." are all relatively commonplace during counter-offer discussions.
If you get the impression that they have received a counter-offer, you should remain calm and be diplomatic. There are a few things to consider which you should bring up when speaking to them that may persuade them not to accept it:
- Their current employer will not forget that they have applied for another position whilst still an active member of their team - it is highly likely that relationships will change and they may become mistrustful.
- If a counter-offer is accepted, they will have less leverage in future salary reviews and could even receive less of a bonus when it comes around (if applicable) - the short-term cash gain as a result of the counter-offer may not work out as beneficial as it may first seem in the long-term.
- Reinforce that they made the decision to look for another job for a number of reasons - a bit more money will not make those issues go away.
- Highlight how approximately 80% of those who accept a counter-offer leave or are terminated between six months and a year later.
This brief video goes into a bit more detail why, from a job seeker’s perspective, accepting a counter-offer isn’t a good idea…
Remember: Until the written statement of employment terms and conditions are finalised, the candidate can still drop out of the process.
5. Carrying out pre-employment checks
You’ve managed to successfully deflect the counter-offer. One of the final stages of the ‘offer section’ of your hiring process is to carry out a number of background checks, allowing you to verify the eligibility of your prospective new employee. Depending on your business and industry, you should think about the following:
- References - Have you contacted their professional references to request information that is relevant to the role?
- Criminal - You may want to check whether they have a criminal record.
- Work permits - It is your responsibility to check they are fully eligible to work in the country where they will be based. Fail to do so and if it turns out that they are ineligible, you could be heavily fined!
These pre-employment checks should only be conducted if they are necessary and for a specific purpose - if you are worried that your candidate may fail any of these checks, make sure to start the checking process earlier so to avoid any further delays to the hiring process.
If your checks reveal anything negative that you weren’t already aware of, don’t automatically write the candidate off - double check the facts and give them a chance to explain. Rushing into a decision to terminate their application will significantly set you back on your search to hire a top quality employee!
6. Be empathetic: Don’t forget to inform the unsuccessful applicants
You will inevitably be excited to offer the job to your successful candidate in order to get the ball rolling so they can start as soon as possible, but you mustn’t forget about those others who have dedicated lots of time to the process and attended interviews. It’s common courtesy to thank them for their commitment but regretfully inform them that they have been unsuccessful on this occasion.
63% of candidates were dissatisfied with communication from most employers
Although it may seem like a time-consuming task, the best way to do this is for whoever has been looking after their application to give them a phone call - this gives them the chance to ask for honest feedback which will help with future job seeking processes. They channelled a lot of energy into applying for your vacancy and will be desperate to find out whether or not they have been successful in their job hunt, the least you can do is speak to them directly!
This means you won’t burn bridges and will help them form a positive perception of your organisation. If they were a strong candidate but there just happened to be a slightly better applicant, you may want to approach them for an opportunity in the future - and if you dealt with them honestly and pleasantly, they’ll be more likely to consider applying again!
7. How long should you wait for a job offer response?
It’s perfectly natural for your candidate to take a bit of time to consider your job offer. There are a lot of different things to think about and they may want to consult family or friends.
Some hiring organisations like to put a time limit on their offers, others simply ask for a response ‘at your earliest convenience’. Whichever you go for is totally your decision, but you need to be realistic and remember that you are hiring someone for a specific purpose. One week is ample time for your candidate to make up their mind.
Anything longer than a week, and you may start to question if the applicant is dis-organised or if their heart is really in the process - it’s a life changing decision and if they aren’t rushing to try and get matters arranged, they may not be as enthusiastic about the job as you first thought!