Making a Job Offer: A Crucial Step in Your Recruitment Process

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You’ll Learn</h2><p><ui><li>Why you need a plan B.</li><li>How to decide on salary.</li><li>How to make an offer.</li><li>How to respond when candidates accept, decline or aren’t sure.</li><li>How to deal with counteroffers.</li><li>Why it’s important to put your offer in writing.</li></ul></p></div>

Never assume that a candidate will accept your job offer. Great people often have offers from multiple firms and their current employers might make a counteroffer to persuade them to stay. They might have other reasons unknown to you for not taking the job. Don’t take your eye off the ball at this stage!

Have a Plan B

Always know what your other options are so that you can respond quickly and decisively if things go wrong. Some ways of reducing your risk are:

  • Using a probation period. These minimise your costs if a new employee proves to be unsuitable. Probation periods are very common and candidates are unlikely to turn down a role for this reason. Although under 2023 UK law all new employees are automatically on 24-month probation, I prefer to set an explicit period (around six months) as this brings greater clarity. Remember to include information about the notice period in the contract.
  • Having reserve candidates in the wings. Don’t tell reserve candidates that the post has been filled until everything is finalised with your preferred candidate, including references and right to work checks.

Deciding the Salary

  • You’ll already have specified a salary range in your job advert. When making your offer you have to pin down an exact amount.
  • Consider the candidate’s strengths alongside any weaknesses such as limited experience or skills gaps that might have to be addressed through training.
  • If you want to offer a salary at the lower end of the range or even below it, you’ll need to justify this. You might say that you expected more experienced applicants and so can only offer a lower salary to be reviewed once the candidate is in post.

Making Your Job Offer

<p><ul><li>Don’t let recruitment agencies or headhunters make the job offer – you should do it directly.</li><li>Agencies and headhunters may try to manipulate the offer process to their advantage:</li><ul><li>They may delay communicating your offer to the candidate in the hope of receiving offers from clients who they’ll earn more commission from.</li><li>They may pressure candidates into accepting jobs.</li><li>They may think that you’ll quote them a lower salary than you actually offer the candidate so that you don’t have to pay as much in commission. (Don’t do this and send them a copy of the offer letter to show your good faith.)</li></ul><li>Phone the candidate to make your offer:</li><ul><li>Be warm and enthusiastic.</li><li>Tell them the salary and any other important terms.</li><li>By talking to them you’ll immediately be able to gauge if they’re going to accept.</li></ul></ul></p>

What to Do When a Candidate Accepts

  • If they accept, ask them to send you proof of their right to work.
  • Tell them that you’ll now need to speak to their current employer before final confirmation of the offer; you’ll have already talked to their previous employers. (For more on taking references see our guide: How to Conduct a Background Check.)
  • Great candidates may well get a counteroffer from their current employer, so try to pre-empt this. Ask them how they think their employer might respond to them wanting to leave, and whether they’d be likely to accept any counteroffer.

What to Do if a Candidate Declines

  • If they turn you down, politely ask their reasons. If they’ve decided to stay in their job, has something changed? If they’re going to a competitor does the job match up with what they said at interview about their aims and aspirations?
  • If money is the problem, then ask them what they were hoping for. Tell them that you’ll need to talk to your colleagues. Don’t up your offer there and then.
  • If you don’t manage to persuade them, then say you’d love to talk again in the future. If you’re still recruiting in a month or so, contact them and see what their situation is.

What to Do if a Candidate is Hesitant

  • Be patient and understanding if a candidate is unsure – but also set a deadline for them to decide, particularly if you have reserve candidates.
  • They might be uncertain because they’re scared of leaving their current job even if they want to. Try to reassure them that this is often a hard step to make but that it will be for the best.
  • They might want to know more about the job, in which case invite them to meet your team to get more information.
  • They may be suffering from imposter syndrome and worry that they’re not up to the job. Tell them that they came through a rigorous recruitment process and you have every confidence that they can deliver the goods.
  • They might have personal and family reasons for hesitating. If they open up a conversation about these, then tactfully explore these with them. You might even offer to speak to their partner if that would help.

How to Respond to Negotiations

  • Strong candidates often try to negotiate – sometimes a bit clumsily!
  • Recruitment agencies might have talked up their salary, or they might have seen posts advertised with higher salaries and perhaps not realised the reasons such as these being in a more expensive location.
  • Don’t dismiss what they ask for and at the very least stress that their pay will be reviewed after they’ve come through probation.

How to Respond to Counteroffers

  • It’s very common for Great Performers to get counteroffers from their current employer.
  • When having a conversation with a candidate about a counteroffer you need to understand their reasons for wanting to leave their current job and to know exactly what the counteroffer is (as well as having already made a credible offer yourself).
  • Point out that counteroffers tend to be sticking plaster solutions to deeper problems and that employees often end up leaving a few months later anyway. Ask them if they think their employer might be making a counteroffer to keep them on a bit longer while they find someone else.
  • If you think you need to, up your salary offer. Ask the candidate to confirm that if you offered them a higher amount they would give a clear no to their current employer.
  • Don’t get into a bidding war if they’re not going to accept. Simply ask them to get in touch in a few months if their situation hasn’t improved.

Make a Written Offer Straightaway

Verbal offers are sometimes withdrawn so nail things down immediately with a written offer via email even before the formal contract is drawn up. In your offer include basic information about the role:

  • Job title
  • Candidate’s name
  • Start date
  • Location
  • Probation period
  • Conditions on which the offer is made
  • Any actions required by the candidate with deadline
  • Instructions on how to accept the offer
  • Company policy documents
  • The Great Performance Profile

Conditions might include: satisfactory references, proof of qualifications, proof of eligibility to work in the UK, completion of probation and criminal records checks.

Do the Final Reference Call and Background Checks

  • Make the final reference call to the candidate’s current employer.
  • Carry out any background checks that you need to do.
  • Inform the candidate once these have been done satisfactorily.
  • If the conditions of employment aren’t met, you can withdraw your offer. But be careful how you do this. If you took back an offer because of extended absences that were the result of a disability you could be open to a claim of disability discrimination. Get legal advice if necessary.

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><p><ul><li>Don’t assume that candidates will accept your job offer – always have a plan B.</li><li>Decide your salary offer and plan how you’ll manage expectations if your offer is low.</li><li>Make offers directly over the phone, not through recruitment agencies or headhunters.</li><li>If a candidate accepts, inform them of the process for making final references and checks, and pre-empt possible counteroffers.</li><li>If a candidate declines, explore the reasons and consider whether you need to amend your offer.</li><li>If a candidate is hesitant, try to reassure them.</li><li>Respond carefully to negotiations and counteroffers.</li><li>Make written offers immediately and then carry out final references and background checks.</li></ul></p></div>

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment