Getting to “YES” on Job Offers
It used to be that to get a top executive, you figured out what salary you wanted to pay, offered a bonus that might be discretionary, and extended the offer. The candidate might accept, decline, or counter, and the response was almost always based on the money issues.
Organizational Talent Management experts have learned a lot about candidate motivation, yet offers are still often constructed and extended based on just monetary issues. Candidate turn-downs are often based on many other factors.
Hidden Concerns: There are lots of things you can’t legally ask a candidate about, but might be on their mind. What issues could interfere with a move? Does the candidate have elderly parents, or kids in high school? Is the spouse really on board, or being dragged kicking and screaming? The best way to address these hidden concerns is pre-closing, or testing the offer. When you float a dollar range, and ask could they accept that, you will often hear, “Well, I’d have to think about it.” Your next question should be, “What will you be thinking about?” Or, “What issues will you be considering?” This will surface many of the hidden concerns, which opens the door to further discussion.
Candidate Motivation: “A” Players are rarely motivated by just the money. Other key motivators include being inspired by your vision, liking your company culture, identifying with the challenges you have laid out for them (performance objectives for the position), feeling they can make an impact, long term potential for growth or equity, etc. If you take care to find out what really matters to each candidate, and make sure you have painted a picture that incorporates these features, the money becomes secondary.
Offer Components: There are many components to offers today that can be important to a particular candidate. Again, it is critical to ask what is really important in the features and benefits you include. One candidate might find educational reimbursement to be valuable, while another might need flex time. We had a candidate this year who needed the relocation package to allow much more for temporary living, and much less for cost of home sale, and that required a change in company policy by the new employer! A key issue for executives today is where they will be permitted to live, with many people wanting to keep their home, and commute twice a month to the job location. Know what is important, and see if the candidate’s needs can be met.
A key strategy is individualization. Most companies employ experts that standardize HR policies as much as possible. Candidates are at their most vulnerable when they make a job change. Being treated like a person instead of a commodity will win hearts and minds, and get “yeses.” Last year, I had one candidate for whom the money wasn’t an issue at all – he was taking almost a lateral. All he wanted was some help getting his wife started on her job search in the new locale. He was jumping for the opportunity, while she was hesitant, and that’s what it took to win her approval and consent.
The pool of talent will begin to tighten in the recovery, and getting offer acceptance will become an art and science, and you must master both! As an employer, you need to be creative, intuitive, responsive and willing to customize.