On Becoming a Great Recruiter, Part 8

How to keep offers closed: the final step in becoming a top 10% recruiter

The fight for top talent is intense and it will get worse. Interim results from our 2006 Recruiting and Hiring Challenges survey indicate that the number of offers being turned down is increasing, ad response is declining along with candidate quality, and turnover is increasing. In my opinion, without great recruiters implementing best practices for every search, these problems will not go away. The purpose of this "On Becoming a Great Recruiter" series is to give recruiters hands-on tactics to hire great people, one search at a time.

Over the past seven weeks, we've covered the entire recruiting process from the beginning to almost the end. In Part 2, we described how to use performance profiles rather than job descriptions when taking the assignment. In Part 3, we described what it takes to write and position ads that compel the best to apply. Part 4 focused on finding top passive talent using tools like ZoomInfo to identify and network with the best around. In Parts 5 and 6, we described how to conduct a performance-based interview that was not only simple to use and more accurate than traditional behavioral interviewing, but it also gave recruiters the information needed to defend candidates against managers who make superficial assessments. Part 7 focused on negotiating and closing offers on opportunity rather than compensation.

This week, we need to make sure that all of your hard work doesn't fall apart at the last moment by having a candidate renege after accepting your offer. To minimize this problem, start by summarizing the big reasons people turn down offers:

  • They accepted a counteroffer.They accepted a better offer.
  • They didn't think your compensation was enough.
  • They didn't think your job was big enough.
  • They decided not to relocate.
  • They didn't have a really clear idea of actual job needs.
  • They didn't want to leave all of their friends and associates at their current company.
  • They started thinking that the hiring manager was weak.
  • Their friends and advisors convinced them your offer wasn't worth taking.
  • They used your offer to get a better offer.
Here are some things you can do to address the reasons listed above, both before and after you make the offer. If followed, you can potentially reduce the chance of people backing out at the last moment by 50 to 75%:

10 Ways to Prevent Offers from Falling Apart

  • Don't make the offer until all potential reasons for reneging have been formally addressed. You should never make an offer formal until every detail has been agreed upon. Testing offers properly (Part 7) will eliminate at least half of the potential problems with counteroffers, money concerns, and the perennial "I have a better offer."
  • Be the last company to make the person an offer. If your candidate has other opportunities on the table, assume yours is being used to get a better offer somewhere else. To prevent this, you'll need to delay your offer until it's the last one the candidate receives.
  • Prepare a side-by-side job comparison. If you have prepared a performance profile (Part 2 and more articlesbefore taking the assignment, you'll be able to compare your candidate's current job with all of the other opportunities he or she might receive, including yours. Make sure most of the focus of this comparison is on the key challenges described in the performance profile. Done properly, your job will stand out since it creates a more compelling employee value proposition. Caution the candidate against over-valuing vague promises and generalities.
  • Get the hiring manager 100% involved. Hiring managers must take a major role in recruiting the candidate in partnership with the hiring team. It's less difficult for a candidate to leave close friends and long-term associates if he has already experienced some type of personal relationship with the new group. Why not have the hiring manager call and meet with your candidate and prepare the job comparison described above?
  • Make the offer an event, not a transaction. Make the offer something special. For instance, don't just send a letter. Have the hiring manager deliver it personally, possibly with a few key members of the team.
  • Make the offer about the job, not about the money. If you can't differentiate your job by describing its challenges, key growth opportunities, and how important it is to a major company initiative, all you have left is the money. So make sure when you take the assignment and prepare a performance profile that you ask the hiring manager, "Why would a top person want this job?"
  • Get the person involved in the job before starting. Right after the offer has been accepted, have the hiring manager give the candidate a relevant and important mini-assignment. This could be something like asking the candidate to comment on the capital budget for the new project. It will give the candidate real insight into the job while providing a convenient way for the hiring manager and the candidate to dialogue a few times before the candidate actually starts. That process can help minimize second thoughts.
  • Conduct a thorough pre-relocation dance. Turning a job down using a "Can't move" excuse after the offer is extended/accepted (Part 7 described how to make these concurrent) is verboten. Relocation involves a number of critical steps. The most important is that the whole family visits the site, they find a possible neighborhood to live in, and the kids have met some new friends.
  • Create friendship-making opportunities during the selection and recruiting process. It's commonly known that having a friend at work is an important part of on-the-job satisfaction. Use this concept to your advantage by creating opportunities for the candidate to meet with some peers during a lunch or dinner interview when the discussion is more casual. That will also give you a glimpse into another side of the candidate's personality.
  • Visualize the resignation process. Now that you've eliminated the competition using these steps, you'll need to ensure the person doesn't take a counteroffer. The most important part of this is walking the candidate through the emotional roller-coaster associated with saying goodbye to a group of people she has worked with for a few years. Make sure the candidate visualizes the process and rehearses how she'll say she's not interested in discussing a counter-offer, especially since she has already signed a letter of acceptance with your company. If she has reviewed the performance profile in great detail, she'll also have the confidence to overwhelm her current boss' lame arguments about why the new job isn't as good as the one he'll create for her.
Don't ignore the importance of keeping the deal closed. An offer turned down at the last stage means that the entire process needs to be redone. This will cost you at least four to six weeks in lost on-the-job performance, delaying other searches the recruiter can't handle and increasing frustration on the part of everyone involved. From what I've seen, few recruiters handle this critical end-game process well, so spend some extra time here.

This is the final article in our "Becoming a Great Recruiter" series. If you follow every step as described in every article, there's no doubt you will become at least 30% to 50% more productive. The ball is now in your court. You know what to do; now go do it.

If you're a recruiter, try a few of the techniques described on just one assignment. As you become proficient, continually try more of the techniques until they're mastered. You'll soon be performing at a much higher level. If you're a recruiting manager, start tracking your team's performance — especially focusing on sendouts per hire per assignment. This metric captures candidate quality, time to hire, and client satisfaction. Watch the trends improve as you train your team in these techniques. Soon, you'll see improvement throughout the team.

Collectively, this is how to make hiring top talent a systematic business process. Better, it's how you make sure that everyone is committed to making hiring top talent #1. And that was the whole purpose of this series of articles.


By Lou Adler, reprinted with the permission of Electronic Recruiting Exchange
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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