The Recruitment Offer: the Ultimate Guide for Acquiring Talent

You get the job candidate to the recruitment offer stage of the hiring process. You (or your client if you’re a professional recruiter or search consultant) makes what you think is a GREAT offer to the candidate.

And the candidate . . . turns it down? WHAT?

Yes, if you’ve been talent acquisition game for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered a recruitment offer turn-down or two. Or three. Or four. (Is it more? I’ll stop counting.)

Unfortunately, just because you (or your client) made a recruitment offer does NOT mean the candidate is going to accept said offer. That is especially the case in a candidate-driven market like the one we’re currently experiencing. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, I might add. You might have thought that the pandemic would have loosened up the market at little bit, but that has definitely not been the case.

In fact, candidates are turning down offers left and right. And they’re “ghosting.” And sometimes they’re somehow managing to do both.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hiring manager or Human Resources representative. It doesn’t matter if you’re an internal recruiter or corporate recruiter. And yes, you might have already guessed that it doesn’t matter if you’re an independent, third-party recruiter. Candidates will still turn down the offer if they believe the offer is not good enough.

The math of the recruitment offer

So . . . how can you ensure that the job candidate will accept the recruitment offer? Well, there are a number of different strategies and tactics that you could try. However, for the purposes of this blog post, we’re going to attack the problem with math. That’s right, math!

Well, maybe not with math, per se, but definitely with numbers. That’s because the right numbers—specifically the knowledge of the right numbers—will go a long way to ensure that the candidate accepts the recruitment offer.

Which numbers are those? Well, to help identify them, we’re going to we’re going to draw upon the wisdom Terry Petra, one of the recruiting industry’s leading trainers and business consultants. Petra has extensive experience as a producer, manager, and trainer in all areas of professional search, including retainer, contingency, and contract, as well as clerical/office support and temporary.

Crunching (and checking) the numbers

According to Petra, in order for your organization (or one of your clients) to present an offer that will be accepted by your candidate, you need to know four numbers:

1. What the organization can afford to pay

Answers such as “It’s “open” or “It totally depends on the person” or “Whatever it takes” are not valid answers. What amount does the company have budgeted for the position? If it does not have a budgeted amount, then then you already have a problem. Details are important in terms of talent acquisition and hiring, and these are critical details.

If you’re a search consultant, there can be many reasons why a client could be reluctant to disclose the range of compensation to you.

“They may suspect their range is too low, and therefore, you will not work on their opening,” said Petra. “They may believe that if you know the true range of compensation, you will only present candidates at the high end of the range because you will receive a higher fee if one of them is hired. Or in another disheartening scenario, they may not trust you to keep the information confidential.”

The bottom line: if you’re a professional recruiter and your client does not trust you with the amount of money they have budgeted for the position, you have yet to earn the trust of that client.

2. The current market value for a top candidate in that position

This makes sense. After all, how can you ensure that your recruiting offer will be accepted if you don’t know what other top professionals are earning in the marketplace? Short answer: you can’t. To attract and hire top talent, you have to know what top talent is currently earning. An offer that is not competitive is an offer that will be turned down.

Once again, if you’re a search consultant, an experienced recruiter with a highly developed recruiting software is the best source for this up-to-date information. As a matter of standard practice, concurrent with your search efforts, you should be compiling compensation information that can be used to clearly establish market value.

3. The exact level of compensation needed to gain recruitment offer acceptance.

Okay, we admit, an internal recruiter or HR representative might not know this number. They can have information that will “get them in the ballpark,” but outside of asking the job candidate what salary level will convince them to accept the offer, they won’t know for sure.

BUT a professional recruiter or search consultant can know that number because they can ask the job candidate that question. And that search consultant can share that information with their client prior to the first interview.

What about the potential employer asking for current salary?

Keep in mind that another number used to be the compensation history and/or the present or last level of compensation for each of your candidates. However, more and more states are making it illegal to even ask about a candidate’s current or past level of compensation. (In case you’re wondering, here is a running list of states and localities that have outlawed pay history questions. As of the publishing of this blog post, the list included 19 state-wide bans and 21 local bans.)

But wait, there’s more! There are more numbers, that is. If you’re a third-party recruiter, these are additional numbers that you should determine with your candidate.

First is the lowest level at which they would even consider an offer, one dollar below which you have their authorization to instruct your client to offer the position to someone else. Second is the specific offer number that they would feel comfortable accepting on the spot.

“Armed with this information, you should be able to guide the client in preparing an offer that meets or surpasses the second number,” said Petra. “If you can’t accomplish this, then prepare your client to move to their secondary candidate, which should be one of yours, if you’ve done your job properly. Or prepare them properly for an offer turn-down.”

But nobody likes recruitment offer turn-downs. Nobody.

Recruiting offer success for search consultants

This is where our discussion of the recruitment offer gets into rather “sticky” area. If you’re a corporate recruiter or HR representative, then of course, you’re going to discuss money and starting salary with job candidates, especially the ones on your short list. After all, you’re not using a search consultant to help fill the position, so who else is going to talk with candidates about money?

However, if you are a professional recruiter or search consultant, why is it important to prepare your clients to never, ever discuss money with one of your candidates? Terry Petra answers that question with a story . . .

“I once received a call from a recruiter who wanted to discuss his process for working with clients,” said Terry. “As he detailed the step-by-step process, I was stunned when he reached the offer stage and stated, ‘At that point, I step out of the picture and allow my client and candidate to speak directly with one another about the specifics of the offer.’ Although I did not say anything initially, when he completed his description, I told him that any time you have a candidate and a client in direct discussion about compensation, you have lost control of the process.

“He then asked me this question: ‘What if the client brings up the subject with the candidate or asks the candidate how much they are currently earning?’ My answer was simple. There should never be a circumstance where your client brings up the subject of compensation directly with one of your candidates. If you are doing your job correctly, there is no justification for your client to discuss this subject with any of your candidates.”

Now, some of you might be thinking to yourselves, “How exactly do I ensure that doesn’t happen? It sounds like it would be impossible!” According to Petra, the answer is positioning.

“You establish this positioning when you first take the job order or assignment from the client and when you conduct your initial interview with the candidate. If you are correctly positioned at the time you take the job order or assignment and your client understands the importance of knowing the three numbers, you will have established yourself as a critically important controlling force throughout the process. Also, you will have removed any reason for the client to ever directly discuss money with one of your candidates.”

Sounds simple enough, right? But habits are hard to break. What if, during your interview follow-up, you find out that your client brought up the subject of compensation with one of your clients? What then, friend?

According to Petra, ask your client this question: “Specifically, what was your reason for asking that question? What were you trying to accomplish?”

“Listen carefully to their answer,” said Petra. “They may simply state, ‘I forgot,’ or ‘It’s an old habit I’ll need to break.’ If this is the situation, then remind them of the benefits of keeping those questions between the two of you. On the other hand, if the client responds to your question by saying something like, ‘That’s my job’ or “I needed to get a feel for it directly from the candidate,’ stop everything. You are not properly positioned.”

Once again, everything comes down to trust. As a professional recruiter or search consultant, you must earn the full trust of your clients. If you haven’t, they have subtle ways of letting you know . . . like talking about compensation with the candidate leading up to the recruitment offer.

A PERFECT recruitment offer-to-acceptance ratio?

It may seem as though we’re “talking crazy now,” but if you follow the steps outlined in this blog post, you can achieve a perfect recruitment offer-to-acceptance ratio? What does that mean? Simply that every time you (or your client) makes an offer to a job candidate, that candidate accepts the offer!

However, there is caveat to this statement. As you may have already guessed, it’s easier for a professional recruiter or search consultant to achieve a perfect ratio than an internal recruiter or HR representative. And that’s because a search consultant can have those “heart-to-heart” conversations about compensation. They can ask questions like, “What would it take for you to accept an offer? How much would the starting salary have to be?”

According to Petra, professional recruiters need to make sure that they’re properly positioned within the process and that their role is clearly defined, especially in the eyes of the hiring manager.

“If they are, then they’ll be seen as a trusted adviser by both the candidate and the client,” he said. “If they’re seen as a trusted adviser by the candidate and the client, then there’s no reason that the candidate should turn down their client’s offer at the end of the deal.”

As mentioned above, it seems as though candidates are turning down offers left and right. It’s almost as if it’s become an accepted occurrence, both in the employment marketplace and in the recruiting profession. However, Petra cautions against allowing it become commonplace under any circumstances.

“Remember, if your client issues an offer that is turned down by your candidate, you have NOT correctly performed your function in the process. No excuses accepted. You have not properly selected and/or served your client. Other than ‘acts of God,’ when an offer is turned down, everybody loses. If, based upon your proper positioning in the process, you determine that the offer is not going to be accepted, do not allow it to be issued.”

Issuing a recruiting offer should be viewed as a gamble of any kind. (“Oh, boy . . . I hope they accept it!”) While you might be tempted to make an offer to a candidate to “see what happens,” if you are confident that the candidate will accept the offer, you shouldn’t make the offer. Instead, do whatever needs to be done to the offer to make sure you know the candidate will accept it. Then make the offer.

One of the many benefits of a company or organization working with a professional recruiter or search consultant is a better recruitment offer-to-acceptance ratio. Employers are hard-pressed to make offers that job candidates, especially top candidates, will accept on a consistent basis, especially in this challenging labor market.

Executive Search Software