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Sales Hiring: Making a Job Offer to a Candidate

How to Make a Job Offer to a Candidate

After interviewing dozens of candidates, you’ve finally found the right person to add to your growing sales team. Now, it’s time to give them an offer. Be sure you put your best foot forward to win them over and remember, you need to sell them on joining your team. Candidates have a lot of choices in today’s job market. When you don’t give top talent what they need, you’ll find yourself dipping into B or C tier candidates just to fill open roles. 

Part 1: Always give your offer over the phone

Never send an initial offer over email. Have a structured approach to the call, treat it like you would a pricing discussion with a customer. You should consider bringing in one other person, like your recruiter or your VP of Sales. There’s excitement in numbers. 

How to present a job offer to a candidate in 10 steps

First, set the tone:

  1. Start off with your normal pleasantries and greetings.
  2. Give the candidate a recap of your reference calls. This sets the tone for the candidate and helps them understand that, a) you did your homework and conducted a robust process to hire, and b) there were vigorous criteria to meet in order to receive this offer.  
  3. Next, build a little tension and hype about the job. Talk up the role, the team, the company, and the culture.
  4. Share that, “based on the feedback we had from your references, we’d like to work with you. This call is to officially offer you the job.”

Next, share all of the details about the job offer in a crisp and concise way:

  1. Start with the role, including the starting salary and what the split is between base and commission. Let them know that you’ll go into that in more detail in a moment. 
  2. Talk about the equity that’s included. If you’re offering $5,000 in stock options, explain what that means within the context of the company’s future growth.
  3. Discuss benefits like medical, dental, and vision insurance, as well as how much the company covers for these costs. 
  4. Present any fringe benefits like a gym stipend or commuter reimbursement. 
  5. Go through the commission plan and explain how frequently it’s paid out. Tell them about your 3 month training and ramp program, plus how compensation is paid during that time. 
  6. Share what you see as the ideal start date for their employment.

Hype your company up! It’s your closing argument. Have the most senior person on the call handle the final pitch with something like, “Hey Kelly, I just want to say how thrilled we are to potentially work with you. Our company is on pace to grow 2X…”

Note the candidate’s reaction

You just shared a lot of information all at once, so let them know both beforehand and afterwards that you’ll be sending them this information over email for review. Now, take a break and ask them if they have any questions.There is a spectrum of how candidates may respond, usually 1 of these 3 reactions:  

  1. The candidate is so excited and wants the job.
  2. The candidate is pensive and wants to come back with questions later.
  3. The candidate asks questions right away on the call.

Regardless of which response you receive, your work on selling the candidate isn’t done quite yet.  

Part 2: Send the offer letter over email

But don’t just send it on its own. Attach the letter and the commission plan to an email with a summary of everything you talked about on the call like salary, benefits, and start date. Keep pitching the role! Include a few lines in the email about why you’re excited to work with the candidate. 

If you’ve ever offered someone a job before, you know there are 3 typical responses: 

  1. The candidate signs the offer and is ready to go. It’s rare but it does happen. 
  2. The candidate declines the offer because they chose another company or simply don’t want to work for your company. 
  3. The candidate comes back with questions or is looking to negotiate. 

Address each of these situations over a call, rather than through email. You don’t want to lose the vibe and context for your offer–and communication can get uncomfortable without verbal cues. Though most conversations should start over a phone call, feel free to text the candidate updates. This creates a personal relationship between you and the candidate and breaks down any barriers. 

Be prepared to negotiate

If the candidate wants to negotiate the offer, the hiring manager should be the one having these conversations, not the recruiter. Here are the components of an offer that are usually up for negotiation: 

  • Salary
  • Compensation split
  • Equity
  • And more recently, preferences like remote work

Be very clear with the candidate on where there’s room for negotiation. Many companies have only one set of salary and compensation for a role, with no option to negotiate. At these organizations, they won’t bring on 2 account executives into the same team with different compensation plans. Shift the focus and talk about your robust promotion plans and how they work. 

One way that companies get around this roadblock is to offer a signing bonus. I don’t like to use this phrase though. Let’s say that, at your company, you give everyone a $5,000 bump when they reach the 1 year mark with the company. Tell your candidate that you can expedite this salary bump to get them over the line today, but that they won’t have the same bump again at the 1 year mark. 

This helps avoid having a team of reps all on different salary and compensation plans. After a few years, managing all of these different pay structures will become unruly. That’s why front loading the promotion bump helps keep things consistent. 

Ultimately, there needs to be a good reason to negotiate the compensation plan. On the rare occasion that you have a candidate who brings something special to the table, like industry experience in your early stage startup field, it can be worth it. But it’s hard to justify giving a run-of-the-mill candidate more just because they asked for it. It feels good to win the candidate in the short term, but it will come back to bite you in the long term. 

Finally, don’t leave offers open ended. Give people time to evaluate but set an expectation of 3 business days, extending the timeframe if they ask. So, if you offer the role on a Thursday, ask the candidate for a response by Monday. 

Phase 3: Have fun with your candidate

Make the candidate feel like they’re already part of the company and introduce the team before they sign. Assemble your interview panel, plus one or two senior people that haven't met the candidate yet, and have them send individual emails congratulating them on receiving an offer. Having a senior person, like the CEO, send an email is exciting and shows that the candidate is valued. 

When a candidate receives emails from 7 different people, all sharing moments from the interview process that stood out to them (“I loved the story you told me about grit”), it feels great. They’ll feel like they're joining a community of people. The hiring manager should also go a step further and send a handwritten note. Throw in a T-shirt if possible. 

What to do when a candidate says no

Just like in sales, sometimes you’ll hear no. And just like in sales, it’s always worth one more last ditch effort. As a hiring manager, you should have a version of this email ready for these types of situations.

In the email, outline the opportunities available with your company and how they’re relevant for this candidate. Be clear with your final push, let them know that you think they’re making a mistake and why you think that. I’ve personally hired 9 people over the years after a hail mary email. 

If it’s still a no, part ways amicably. Wish the candidate well and offer to be a resource in the future. As a hiring manager, you’re part of the company brand and you want people to feel positive about their experience with you. You never know, these candidates might send you referrals in the future or even come back in a year or two to take the offer. 

Be respectful and remember, it’s not personal

Every candidate deserves your respect. They’re making a tough decision about their livelihood, after all. There are plenty of jerk managers out there that act like the candidate is dead to them after rejecting a job offer. It’s not a helpful attitude in the long run. The world is not that big. 

What you put into candidate relationships will come back to you in the future. Remember, this isn’t personal, it’s just business. I believe that hiring managers should always follow the golden rule when working with candidates: treat them how you would want to be treated.

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