You did it! You successfully found someone you want to extend an offer to. The hard part is over… Or is it?

I’ve been working in the recruiting field for some time now, and I’ve found that the average hiring manager takes his foot off the gas right before extending an offer, sometimes messing up the entire process by explaining sloppily that they want the candidate to join the team.

Here are some pointers to remember once you’ve identified the right candidate for the job, to ensure that you don’t screw it all up at the end.

What Is the Candidate Worth?

Before you find out what the candidate wants you must first figure out what the candidate’s really worth to you. You’ve established that you would like to work with the candidate, but what is the cost? What is the rest of the team making and what skills does this person have? Keep in mind that you’ll think your team has more experience using a particular technology, simply because they’ve been using it under your supervision. Also be sure that you’re compensating your existing team appropriately and competitively with the current market conditions. It’s better for you to find out before they do, because they will eventually.

Know the Candidate’s Expectations

A candidate’s desired compensation is made up of three numbers: their “bottom line” number, their “happy” number and their “thrilled” number. The candidate would obviously like to get their thrilled number, but there’s only so much you can do with your budget and, let’s face it, their thrilled number might be completely unrealistic and could set the wrong dynamic. They might come in with a large ego and not respect anyone else’s decisions.

You’ll face a similar problem if you offer their “bottom line” number. The candidate knows you know their bottom line, so to offer that number implies you’re being cheap and aren’t willing to beat their bottom line, even by a small amount. How a company hires is usually an indication of how they will manage and is this how you want to set the stage before someone even starts with you? If the bottom line number is really is the best you can do, give the candidate some reasons why you made that offer.

The ideal salary, the candidate’s “happy” number, is somewhere in-between. The number that says, “I want to give you more than your bottom line, but you’ll need to work up to your thrilled number and here’s how we can get you there.” The happy number can be only marginally above their bottom line number; but that increase will make the candidate a little more excited to come on board and it will make them work harder and, more importantly, happier on day one.

DO Make an Offer This Way

When arriving at a number always make a verbal offer before putting together an offer package. The last thing you want to do is to send a candidate off with a package they’ll take a week to consider when the core numbers might not even work. If you’re working with an agency this process is ideal because the agent will deliver the “bottom line,” “happy,” and “thrilled” numbers to you and prepare the candidate to accept any of the three numbers when you come out with the verbal offer.

If you’re not using an agency, engage the candidate in a conversation to discover what salary will make the most sense. You don’t want to directly ask the candidate what their “bottom line” is, but you can usually gauge those numbers if you ask what they’re looking for and compare it to their most recent salary. Usually a 5%-7% increase will be a “happy” number, but circumstances are different based on who you’re making an offer to.

Always explain your offer to the candidate and what your short and long term vision for them is. People don’t choose to stay long term just because they’re getting an extra $100 slapped onto their paychecks. They skip to work because of what they’re doing on a daily basis, how they’re challenged and how their role contributes to a shared company vision.

DON’T Make an Offer This Way

Don’t ask what the candidate is looking for and what they’re currently making, and then make an offer below both numbers. You’ll run the risk of insulting the candidate even if you’re ready to come back with a higher counteroffer.

Always make your best offer first. Counteroffers rarely work.

Don’t Be a Loser

Any start date longer than two weeks from the hire date should be a red flag. When a start date is extended that far out without good reason you should question it. After all, you’re running a big risk by shutting down the position for three weeks while the candidate is getting counteroffers and tempting recruiting calls from your competitors every day. For some reason, once a candidate gets an offer, other opportunities tend to surface out of the woodwork. Don’t take any chances; candidates who start later than three weeks after accepting an offer are 20% less likely to stick with that job offer than candidates who start within two weeks.

I recently said this to a hiring manager who had told a candidate to start four weeks after accepting an offer. He replied, “If they end up accepting another position after accepting mine then I don’t want them anyway.” That’s like losing a basketball game and saying you weren’t trying to win anyway, or not going the extra mile to get the girl of your dreams and blaming it on destiny. If you want something, go get it! Don’t give excuses that are just a mental parachute to your disappointment when you lose. More importantly, don’t be a loser!


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Comment by Jeff LeFevre on March 7, 2011 at 10:59am
Good stuff Tim!  The hardest thing in the hiring process is the offer.  Agency have an advantage over hiring managers with extending them due to the information that we have.  We also can control the process better given the facts that we usually have other candidates in the loop.  The biggest mistake that hiring managers and HR make is that they think that everyone in the world wants to work at their company.  What they fail to understand is that mentality ended a long time ago.
Comment by Mark Bregman on March 7, 2011 at 11:10am


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