How successful are you at negotiating the close?
The unemployment rate in the US at the end of July stood at 3.7% (NCSL – National Employment Monthly update), reaching levels that haven’t been replicated since 1969. In major metropolitan Tech hubs such as Boston and San Francisco, the July rates were even lower estimated at 2.9% and 2.4% respectively. With the high growth trends of Ed Tech and decreasing candidate pipelines, there is increased pressure on hiring managers and HR departments.
Elevated competition for the best talent has driven organizations to utilize multiple strategies including values-led employer branding, unique employee benefits and flexible work environments to attract applications for critical new roles. Other companies are investing in technology resources into growing their candidate pipeline. While it is important to drive demand at the top of the funnel, The Renaissance Network (TRN) has encountered organizations missing out on top talent because of a failure to execute at the offer stage.
Consider these four thoughtful approaches when entering the final stages with a potential hire:
Start early by preparing a candidate to receive an offer through “Pre-Closing”
Preparing a candidate to receive an offer that has not yet materialized can feel slightly hypothetical. However, many hiring managers overlook this proactive method, and candidates feel that a few early expectations-setting conversations can reduce their feelings of being pressured or rushed into deciding. Establish clear communication and facilitate a partnership that will allow both sides to develop a detailed understanding of one another’s needs.
When “pre-closing” a finalist, it is essential to establish pathways for the candidate, providing clear timelines and expectations. A new job is a sizable decision, and one they may not make alone, often relying on advice from partners, parents and mentors. Hiring managers should manage expectations in critical areas such as compensation, benefits, notice timeline, and overall enthusiasm for the role. Keep the momentum moving forward by always setting potential next steps. At this stage it is only a verbal agreement by both parties, so an employer can set themselves apart by helping candidates feel comfortable, informed and uniquely prepared.
Competing with other offers and closing the candidate
Clearly, there is heightened competition for top talent. You must be prepared to be considered alongside competing offers for all potential hires. Pre-closing, as mentioned above, increases success rates versus rival proposals. Both active and passive candidates may have reservations about disclosing information, however, you should be developing a trusted relationship during the total process. Be open and sensitively ask about situations that may be developing outside of the job being discussed.
Discussion points to consider when working against a competing offer include: other potential interviews and their timing, clarity on stage of the interview process, potential non-competes, retention bonuses and distinguishing between verbal or written offers from other potential employers. Also, in today’s fluid environment, counteroffers are more common to retain talent. Depending on the relationship you have with a candidate, help a finalist understand that some counter offers are offered to protect against the costs of recruiting with an open position. In addition, after an employee accepts an agreement to stay, many employers consider that the incumbent is “branded” as a risk to leave. The decision is up to the candidate, but your consultation helps raise their comfort level and may put them in a position to sign an offer that is right for them.
Signing the offer and confirming start dates
Once a candidate is ready to accept an offer, a hiring manager should stay close and manage the process. Don’t be surprised if a candidate is hesitant to sign; final pushes for more compensation, online review questions, or a heightened awareness of managerial fit can all be factors. It is essential to remain open to answering last-minute questions and not to become frustrated. Also, if an internal team or third-party partner is managing the offer process, make sure the hiring managers have availability in this essential final mile.
The devil can be in the details. With an increased focus on signing, confirming start dates can often get overlooked. What is the length of the notice period? Two weeks is acceptable in the US, while in Europe it is common for a candidate to have a multi-month notice period. An extended notice timeline can be a red flag, and engaging backup candidates may be necessary. The candidate may already have a potential start date in mind, around vacation or bonus payouts. Their feedback could also be a valuable indicator of their interest.
Finally, once an exact start date is set, ask when the candidate will be informing their current employer. The hiring manager should schedule a call with the candidate soon afterward. Did the conversation go smoothly? Has a counter-offer been offered? Is the candidate excited and engaged to begin working with your organization?
Candidate experience and following up
Until a candidate arrives in your office on their first day, there is still the possibility that they may decline to start their new role. Check in along the way, use the methods above, and create a positive candidate pre-work experience. This is a long-term hire; making a candidate feel part of the company before they start will provide a strong impression, ensure they show up, and dramatically increase their chance for success when formally on board. And with the lowest unemployment in 50 years, your actions could be critical to growing and sustaining a talented workforce.