You wrote the job description, placed the ad(s), reviewed endless résumés, conducted interviews and picked your perfect candidate. Whew! The hard part is over, right? Well, ideally, yes, but that doesn’t mean you can phone it in for the job offer (literally). The candidate could still say no.
This is a delicate time as you and the candidate get down to the specifics of money, schedules and benefits. To help you get through it as successfully as possible, we spoke to Shauna Griffis, an HR consultant in Birmingham, Alabama.
Here’s her advice on how to make an offer you and the candidate can both be proud of, and to do it with poise.
Before you began this search process you likely came up with a pay range for this position. The new junior accountant can’t make more than the senior accounting supervisor, right? But even though you have your upper and lower limits, how do you decide what to pay your specific candidate?
Within your established ranges and pay structures, you now have to base the decision on the candidate’s résumé and what you feel comfortable with, Griffis says. This includes education, training, previous job experience and the whole picture you developed of this candidate as you were interviewing. “These decisions are already made for you if you have specific compensation structures and policies. But if you’re doing this ad hoc, look at what the job requires. Will this candidate meet your needs, or exceed them? Pay accordingly,” she says.
The offer should only include basic information, Griffis says. This includes pay, title, start date, start time and any specific pre-employment testing you’ll require, like a drug test or background check. If applicable, you should include language about your offer being contingent upon the candidate passing those tests.
If you have a bonus schedule or commission arrangement, you can follow up with a separate agreement later, she says. The key is not to “put anything in there that you don’t want to have to hold yourself to later. Don’t promise anything, like perks, that may change,” she says. Anything you put in an offer letter is something employees will likely hold you to, so don’t promise a catered lunch every Thursday if business needs could change and eliminate this.
Write up the letter — it can go out by mail or email — but don’t send it yet.
When making the initial notification to the candidate, do it over the phone. “Offers require a little finesse, so do it over phone first and then follow up with something tangible” by sending the offer letter when all the details are agreed to, Griffis says.
Many people will want a day or two to think it over, and that’s fine. That’s not a bad sign. However, you should “never let the candidate off the phone without a firm time to follow up,” Griffis says. Give the candidate two days at most and then speak to them again. “By this point they should know if they want it or not. I don’t want them putting me on hold until something better comes along,” she says.
If the candidate doesn’t call back at the appointed time, Griffis will call them — and then she’s pretty much done. She says she has rescinded offers if a candidate tries to extend the wait time by playing phone tag.
Griffis says more people are negotiating after their job offers now because they feel they may be leaving money on the table if they don’t. They also feel more comfortable with their negotiation skills, she says, and that’s fine. It doesn’t turn her off as an employer, but she doesn’t ever give up much. “If my offer is fair and meets their needs, I don’t negotiate,” she says.
If the candidate has specific requests and they’re manageable, however, Griffis tries to work with them. She says she doesn’t like when a candidate simply asks for “more money” or “a better offer” though. If the candidate needs a specific dollar amount, more time off, specific days off or a car allowance, they should know that at the time of offer and be able to ask for that. “If they aren’t specific, that irks me. I can’t negotiate if they won’t tell me what they want,” she says.
At this point you should get a yes or no.
If you hired someone who’s currently employed, you should expect them to give at least two weeks notice at their former job. Griffis hires a lot of nurses, and their contracts typically require a month’s notice, she says. “Unless it’s a very specialized job or there’s significant relocation, giving more than a month between offer and start date is unusual,” she says.
This part can be nerve-wracking because the candidate isn’t officially yours until that first day, and people have been known to come back and turn down an offer during this time. It’s not a bad idea to know who your second and third choice would be so you can quickly reach out if something changes at the last minute.
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