Time kills all… job offers?

“Attached is the offer, it’s what the candidate is asking for. I’ll give them 24 hours to accept – if they are keen they will straight away. If they aren’t sure now then they aren’t right for us.” – Employer 1
“Attached is the offer, it’s what the candidate is asking for. Happy for them to take all the time they need – we want them to be sure that joining us is the right decision.” – Employer 2

The attitudes of the hiring managers from the companies that we recruit for differ dramatically when it comes to how responsive a candidate (and prospective employee) is to accepting an offer.
There’s no common thread here when it comes to company size – some big companies demand an answer “now” and so do some small organisations. The option to be more considered isn’t solely offered by the big employers, many small businesses are happy to offer extra time if it means getting a committed employee.
For the most part, I think all of us would rather receive a job offer under the terms from Employer 2. They sound friendlier, more welcoming and more “employee focussed”. I get it, we all do.
Last week when Employer 1 told me he needed an answer within 24 hours, I politely asked whether he would be open to the candidate taking longer to consider the offer and his reply really got me thinking…
“James, we’ve been through a very thorough process with this candidate over the last three weeks. Before applying, the candidate started researching the company and the position. They made a detailed application and then had a phone interview and face to face interview with yourself. I’ve met them twice and they’ve also met with their direct manager at both of our meetings. Along the way we’ve provided them with great insight into the company, the role and what their career path with us would be like. They have been aware of the salary package, hours etc since the first interview. If by now they aren’t convinced we are right then we both need to move on”.
For hiring managers and employers, the above makes sense, doesn’t it? You can certainly understand this point of view and it’s probably an indication that they are quite decisive and like getting things done.
So how can we get around this potentially sticky situation? My advice to Talent professionals who are caught in this position is:

  • Prepare your candidate for an offer. Let your candidates know how their application is progressing (e.g “you are in final three candidates). Not only does it build their excitement but it will help to get them thinking about what their answer will be. Line managers normally love enthusiastic candidates who can make decisions and accept quickly. Be aware that line managers enthusiasm starts to tick away as time passes.
  • Expect job offer negotiation from the start. It’s a natural part of the recruitment process. Prepare yourself, practice how to handle the situation and become an expert. Practice will make perfect.
  • If the offer isn’t right, make sure your candidate calls it out straight away. Quickly highlighting that a salary is below expectation is perfectly fine. Asking for more money five days after the initial offer makes it seem like the candidate is just trying it on and time wasting.
  • Providing a deadline for an answer. This will help candidates to know the timeframes.
  • Encourage your candidate to be honest. If they need more time then ask. Remove any doubt by urging them to let you know why (e.g “I haven’t had the chance to properly discuss this with my partner, I need another day or two.”)
  • Don’t take it personally. It’s common for a manager to feel a little rejected when a candidate doesn’t accept their initial job offer. It’s a mistake to take it personally though and will cloud your judgement of the candidate moving forward.
  • Make it a positive outcome. When the candidate ends up accepting the job, celebrate. Make sure line managers don’t hold grudges and that the candidate is made to feel very welcome.

Ultimately, we should always treat our candidates the way we would expect to be treated in the same situation. Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts and experience below.
Cover image: Shutterstock

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