Written by Lisa Porro; HR Consultant – CA; 5/3/16
We’ve all had it happen – after a long process of resume searches, phone screens, interview rounds, you come to the final interview with your star candidate and everyone loves him or her. No other candidates have really come close. Salary is set, the offer letter is written and approved by the top level manager. And then… disaster. The candidate declines the offer, immediately tries to negotiate, or worse yet, accepts but then backs out a few days later, citing the attractiveness of another employer’s offer over yours. More money, more perks, more time off.
Hiring an employee can be a long process, and great effort is put in by many across an organization to try to bring in the right new employee. It’s exciting when a job offer is finally made, but when offers get declined, the process takes even longer than it needs to.
What are some reasons that candidates don’t accept offers?
- Too low of a salary. The job range may be $75-85K, and you are aware that the candidate is currently making $75K, so you decide to offer a little bit more. Unfortunately, an offer of $78K will probably get declined. Unless there is something unique about your company, extra perks or an attractive bonus structure, making too low of a salary offer probably won’t entice a candidate to make a career move. Offering the most you can without breaking the budget entirely will help show the candidate that you value his or her experience and are excited about what he or she can bring to your organization.
- Below market vacation time or PTO. Two weeks’ vacation/PTO is your standard for all new hires and officers get three weeks. Anything more, you may think, is unheard of. And yet the candidate is asking for four weeks, citing fifteen years’ work experience in the industry. The tricky part about vacation or PTO time is that some companies base it on seniority, some on job grade/level and others on years of service. It might be helpful to do some research to see what competitors are currently offering, and other companies in the industry. You may find that you are below market. While an at-market or generous vacation or PTO program does not motivate all candidates, many consider down-time an important part of a work-life balance.
- Not enough detail. Other than to state that the offer letter isn’t a contract, and the salary and vacation time, your offer letter might be pretty vague. Is there a bonus structure? What is it based on? Does everyone get the same amount or is it tied to performance factors? While you don’t have to recreate your employee handbook to fit inside an offer letter, the more detail you can give to your star candidate about his or her compensation, benefits (even if it is to simply state what benefits are offered) and other factors related to your offer of employment, the better.
- Fun extras. Does your company offer a day off for Voluntary Service? Annual employee celebrations or a recognition program? Job rotation opportunities? What other perks or programs do you currently have that makes your company stand out and might sweeten an offer for a prospective employee? It isn’t necessary to invent a new program simply because a candidate stated that he likes dogs, or make a promise that can’t be kept, but highlighting what you DO have in place that is a bit different and exciting might get the candidate excited about working for you.
- Overall tone. Does the letter have a welcoming tone with the candidate’s name properly spelled? An offer letter starting with “Dear Candidate” does very little to impress as does one with no welcome message at all. A quick line such as “We were very impressed with your knowledge and experience and think you would be a great addition to our organization” sends an upbeat message to the candidate, and a personal touch.
Remember, accepted offer letters will remain in an employee file, and in the candidate’s personal records for quite a while. Take a moment while composing the letter to ask yourself if you would accept the offer if you were in the candidate’s shoes and if not, why not? The key is to make an offer attractive enough that it would be hard for him or her to say no, and for you to be able to welcome a new team member, with all they have to bring to the table, on board as soon as possible.