• Bruce Malcom

Job Offers... Don't Fall Into The Trap

Updated: Nov 30, 2019

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that just because you make a job offer, your candidate will automatically accept it.

You don’t want to go through all those interviews and spend all that time only to have the deal blow up in your face … nobody does.

One reason job offer negotiations can go off the rails is the strategy (or sometimes lack of it) used in the offer-making process.

Job offers are quite often made prematurely, before qualifying the candidate. What exactly do I mean by ‘qualifying the candidate’?

Well, for instance, would it be good for you to know before you make the offer whether other job offers are on the table or possible? Would it also be helpful to know whether your candidate might just be getting ready to use your offer in an effort to extract more money from her current employer … and that, thanks to you, a nice raise may be in the offing?

Your life could get complicated rather quickly if you haven’t first figured out what the market is paying for the position you’re filling. Calling a colleague in another municipality to find out what they have paid for a similar position would be wise – ideally, you would do this prior to making your offer!

Don’t kid yourself! Once you’ve made the offer, the power is all in your candidate’s hands. “Judy, we would be happy to have you as part of our organization … the job is yours. Why don’t we talk about when you can start and what your salary will be?” Don’t look now, but I think you just made a tactical error. You were too quick to make your offer… you first needed to qualify Judy’s willingness to accept it.

Many hiring managers ask these questions:  Is there a way to negotiate without losing control of the income question? Is there a way to cut down on your costs by shortening the time it takes to get someone hired? The answer to both those questions is a resounding YES! We recommend that you never make an offer when you don’t (with a great deal of certainty) already know what the answer will be.

A good way to discern this is to run the candidate through the following FIVE STEP “offer exercise” BEFORE you make the offer.

Step #1 “Tell me Judy, what would be your next logical move if you were to stay with your current employer? Who or what is standing in your way? How long do you think you’ll have to wait to get that next job? If you were to be offered the job here, how would your current employer react … how likely is that they would offer you more money to stay? How would you feel about that if it happened?

From a negotiating perspective, it is vital that you know up front if accepting a counter-offer is a possibility for Judy. This information will help you better understand the true significance of your offer, particularly as it relates to the possibility of Judy remaining with her current employer. Knowing what she really thinks/feels about her current employer will be most useful in planning your negotiation.

Step #2 When you have gone through first, second and maybe third interviews, and after you’ve done the key reference checks, various assessments and appropriate background screening, a good way to broach the subject of an offer may be like this: “Judy, tell me again why this opportunity with our town makes sense for you? How will it help you develop your career? I would like you to imagine a situation five years from now. Someone asks you, ‘Judy, how did that job change work out for you?’. What would you hope that you would be able to say?”

Getting your candidate to express to you in a coherent way what she sees as the benefits of joining your municipality in a “big picture” way is an ideal way to start salary negotiations … it gets things started on the right foot when she reminds you about all the benefits this opportunity is giving her.

Step #3 This step is a great qualifier. “Judy, if we were to offer you the job today, how much time would you need to decide?” Ideally, she will say, “None – I’ll decide right away!” A BIG red flag should go up if your candidate needs more than 24 hours. This is one sign that she’s likely considering another offer. Stalling you may be her way of buying time to see if she can work this into a better offer. At this point, if you believe that this is the case, don’t back away … be direct. Ask her to explain.

Step #4 “Judy, if we offered you the position right now, how much notice would you need to give your current employer?” There are a couple of points to consider here. I always tell candidates that their current employer might just walk them to the door right then and there. Assure her that, if that happens, it’s not a problem … she can start with you right away. Another thought here is this: how she intends to treat her current employer reflects how she might treat you someday. Two weeks’ notice is normal. Six weeks might cause you to wonder. If that’s the case, you might ask if there is something going on that you aren’t aware of … there is no time like the present to sort this out. Exceptionally long notices may mean a counter-offer is coming, or perhaps an offer from another organization is expected. Watch out!

Step #5 The money question is often the elephant in the room, which is why salary negotiation is most often left till last. “Judy we’ve spent a great deal of time together over the past few weeks, and I think you understand the job and our town pretty well. Tell me, to what amount of money would you say, ‘Yes, I will accept the job,’ and at the same time, to what amount of money would you say ‘No, thank you.’?”

Often, a candidate will expect the numbers to come from you rather than them. If your candidate is hesitant, you can say something like this: “Judy, I’m only asking you this to get an idea of your level of interest … let me put it a different way. What is the ideal salary you’d like to be offered and what amount would cause you to walk away?” Depending, of course, on her motivation for considering your position, Judy will be looking for some improvement (financial or otherwise) over her current position.

If, at this point, everything has worked out to your satisfaction, you would be okay to make the offer. If, on the other hand, it turns out that Judy is looking for substantially more, you have several options.

You can discuss it right then and there by saying something like this: “I understand your perspective. However, given our understanding of people in the municipal field with qualifications and experience like yours, I feel the amount that we have offered you is very generous. I think it is a fair offer. We believe that you have a fantastic opportunity to grow and learn here.”Another alternative in the face of a request for more money is to simply delay the process while you consider all your options.

The bottom line in all of these considerations is to be certain that you retain control of the negotiations until you get all your questions answered. At the end of the day, this is a two-way street. Hopefully, Judy will be a great addition to your team, so accepting this position with your town needs to make sense to her … it had better fit her five-year plan.

Ultimately a written offer is important so that there are no misunderstandings. Sometimes, things get said or implied, and the employee is sure to remember them. You, on the other hand, probably won’t! Be sure that you present your written offer in person.  That way you can review the offer and answer any questions face to face. Make it a comfortable situation; offer to leave the office for 10 minutes while they read through it. Allow time for discussion. In addition to the offer itself, detail the responsibilities and your expectations so there is no confusion.

Finally, don’t forget to highlight some of what you see as the big benefits that come to those who work for your municipality. Sometimes the salary you’re offering will look even better in light of your benefit package, particularly items like flexible working hours and pension contributions. More than half (55%) of respondents in a recent poll rate flexible working hour as the benefit they would most like to receive from their employer.

Finally, getting offers negotiated and offers accepted is one of the great advantages of using Ravenhill Group … feel free to call us any time.


©2019 by Ravenhill Smith Search Inc.