Making An Offer That Sticks: Are You Prepared To Sell the Job?

Second of three parts

Attracting talented leadership to the executive suite is singularly vital to your company’s positive upward growth. The competition for top talent with demonstrated success has never been greater.

The visibility of candidate backgrounds, made possible by tools such as LinkedIn, has served to dramatically increase the number of opportunities brought to these candidates. As a result, companies must be more proactive than ever to: a) make their opportunity a priority to the best available candidates, and b) ensure their ability to turn a great candidate into a great employee.

In Part I (Making an Offer That Sticks: Are You Really Ready to Hire?), I discussed a couple strategies for ensuring that you organize your search for success by measuring your compensation philosophy against the standards in the marketplace. Today, Part II below looks at important strategies to keep in mind while the recruiting effort is underway and heading towards an offer negotiation:

Recruiting talented leadership is a sales effort

Consider that often the best talent is someone “heads down” working with focus and drive at a competing firm. In fact, over 50 percent of our placed candidates were not originally looking for a change. This percentage goes up the higher the executive, the more competitive the industry.

As a result, companies do not have the luxury of simply assessing candidates in a one-sided process. Instead, they must work to position their opportunity as being unique from others in the marketplace both professionally and financially – selling themselves along the way. Decades of search experience has taught us that “heads down” candidates tend to listen for one of only four reasons:

  • Better company (by culture or market position);
  • Better industry sector (one that is growing);
  • Better compensation; or
  • A better (i.e. expanded) scope of responsibilities.

So, when establishing a search process, you must demand that your search partner strives to build a strong enough connection to the candidate to identify the source of the candidate’s interest. Then, the recruiter should work to “sell” that unique aspect of the position you have to offer that will make the candidate lift his head and listen.

Don’t blow the goodwill you’ve built up

Throughout the course of the search you’ve spent considerable time assessing the candidate’s professional skill set and getting to know the candidate personally. Your efforts and time spent have created a personal relationship with the candidate — a bond of sorts. Yet more often than not, when the time comes to negotiate offer terms, the company representatives disappear and all communication with the candidate is cut off.

This is a tremendous mistake and essentially extinguishes the goodwill built up with the candidate. Remember, no matter how attractive the job may be, the candidate will only join if they’ve connected personally with the company.

So stay connected to the candidate even as your search partner works to negotiate terms. This “open door” approach will cement the candidate’s belief that he/she is joining a company that values them as an individual and has a culture of communicating openly.

Let the recruiter be your buffer

While you should stay engaged with the candidate throughout the offer negotiation and be available to them at anytime, it’s best to allow your search partner to lead discussions with the candidate about the compensation details.

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Discussions on compensation terms, such as base salary parameters, bonus targets, and equity offerings, can often times be emotional. In those cases, it’s best to let your search partner be your buffer. If a candidate’s demand is unreasonable, let the recruiter tell the candidate. If your offer is below market, let the recruiter provide you with feedback.

The recruiter’s role is to be consultative to both ends, helping to ensure an agreement that both sides feel positive about.

The key takeaway here is that communication is critical. As a company, you must continue to communicate to your finalist the merits and benefits of joining your company.

In parallel, your recruiting partner must work to ensure that offer discussions progress in a reasoned and unemotional manner by playing the liaison between candidate and company. Both the company and the recruiting partner have important roles to play to increase the likelihood of hiring the chosen candidate.

Tomorrow in Part III, I’ll discuss some key considerations to weigh when your offer negotiations have come to a fork in the road.

This is excerpted from an ON Search Partners white paper titled Making An Offer That Sticks: 7 Strategies for Closing The Deal with Top Talent.

Tim Conti is a Partner and Co-founder of ON Search Partners, a leading international retained executive search firm. Concentrating his practice on C-Suite, Vice President, and Board-level searches, Tim has built management teams across a broad swath of industries, focusing on the intersection of the energy, technology and industrial sectors. Contact Tim at tim@onpartners.com.

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