How to Extend a Thoughtful Offer

Liz Melton
March 25, 2022

You think you’ve found a needle in a haystack.

You’re speaking with a candidate who has an incredible background, jovial attitude, wealth of experience, and would be a perfect cultural fit for your organization.

The problem is, they aren’t just a perfect fit for your company一they are an ideal candidate for several other companies, too. And in today’s talent market, your favorite candidate is probably interviewing elsewhere and comparing your offer to the others they receive.

The reality is that to close your dream candidates, your offer process needs to be a well-oiled machine. When you like someone, you need to move forward, fast. But not so fast that you seem sloppy or inconsiderate. So in this piece, we break down what to do before you extend an offer and explain how to deliver it in a way that gives you the greatest chance of success.

Before You Make a Job Offer

Making a job offer is a big deal. If a candidate accepts, they could be working at your company for years, even if they aren’t the best fit. On the other hand, if they don’t accept, you could have missed a huge opportunity.

So before you even think about extending an offer, collect as much specific information from candidates as possible.

Understand a candidate’s expectations

First, your team should make a concerted effort to understand the candidate’s expectations. When people hear this, they immediately think they should ask a candidate to state their desired income.

But asking a candidate to name a salary range can perpetuate pay inequity. Women and minorities tend to ask for less, and unfortunately, employers take advantage of that. Plus, asking about compensation can veer into dangerous territory一asking what an employee currently makes is illegal.

So rather than ask about compensation upfront, publish salary ranges for your role online. Doing so is already required in many states, so you can get ahead of the curve while giving your candidates the information they need for future negotiations.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Besides compensation, find out the candidate’s work-from-home preference and how that affects their salary based on your location-based compensation policy. If it’s critical for this person to come into the office, figure out the cost of their relocation. And be sure to ask about their desired start date so you can turn around an offer quickly if necessary.

Understand a candidate’s motivations

You also want to learn about the candidate’s motivations. Some candidates may be more interested in career advancement, higher titles, and more responsibility, whereas others might prefer more work-life balance. Think of phone screens and interviews as chances to show candidates that there are opportunities at your company to reach their goals, no matter what they are. Start selling them on your company and the role before any offer is on the table.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Most importantly, document their interest in the company and role. Note what part of your culture resonated with them and what they want to achieve long-term. Recalling these details when you extend an offer reinforces how much you care about the candidate and want them on your team.

Get common questions answered upfront

Use interviews and screens as opportunities to ask some or all of these questions:

  • How much time do you think you’ll need to discuss an offer with your family or partner?
  • Do you think your current company will give you a counteroffer? If so, is there a chance you would stay?
  • Do you have other competing offers?
  • When are you hoping to make a decision?

Getting answers will help you build your case, but perhaps more importantly, it will help suss out whether or not a candidate is on the same page. For example, if a candidate says they have three competing offers and hope to make a decision by tomorrow, you probably do not have a good chance of them accepting your offer. Knowing this right away can spare you a costly day of onsite interviews. 

Consider a Pre-closing Call

When a candidate has made it through the final round, you know they are the one. So schedule a call and tell them.

Explain that while you haven’t made a decision yet, reiterate that you think they are an extremely strong candidate. Confirm the information you documented earlier to show that you: (1) listened carefully and (2) understood what the candidate wanted.

Ask if they have any concerns about the expectations for this position, and try to address them. If you have hard numbers, share what you think you’d be able to get the candidate and ensure that range would be acceptable to them.

Lastly, remember that time can kill all deals. Ask candidates when they’ll be ready to receive an offer. Let’s say your internal goal is to get a candidate’s final decision within five business days. 

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

To give yourself some wiggle room, tell a candidate they’ll have three days to make a decision once you extend an offer and ask when they would like to start that clock. This lets them know you are serious and expedites your process.

Extending a Job Offer

Now that the prework is finished, it’s time to move on to the actual offer. Below, we outline who extends an offer, what an offer technically is, and how to extend an offer step-by-step.

Who Extends a Job Offer

Ideally, the hiring manager shares the good news with a candidate. After all, they will be the candidate’s boss and are therefore best equipped to talk about role expectations and responsibilities. That said, hiring managers are busy, and it’s not always possible to get them on the phone with a candidate as soon as you’d like.

When hiring managers aren’t available, recruiters are a suitable alternative. Because they have been in constant communication with the candidate, they’ve likely established good rapport and understand what the candidate is walking into.

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But keep in mind that candidates will probably have questions once an offer is extended. For that reason, whoever presents the offer must be able to articulate how the hiring team thought about equity and compensation. They must be capable of justifying why your offer is competitive in this market and answering a candidate’s tough questions.

This is why having a compensation philosophy is incredibly useful一anyone on your hiring team can leverage it to ensure a consistent message is delivered to every candidate. A compensation philosophy helps build credibility and trust with candidates.

(Not sure how to create a compensation philosophy? Check out our blog post to learn more).

Of course, don’t let these serious matters cloud how exciting it is to make the offer. When a team sounds delighted to extend an offer, candidates will naturally feel excited, too!

What is a Job Offer?

Simply put, a job offer invites a candidate to work for your company in a particular role. Typically, the hiring manager, recruiter, or other designated person will extend a verbal offer to a candidate over the phone, detailing the job, compensation package, and benefits.

At that point, the candidate has an opportunity to ask questions and is encouraged to think it over. Behind the scenes, HR composes a legal offer letter that outlines the terms verbally communicated to the candidate as well as any other contractual conditions.

Oftentimes HR reuses an offer letter template and populates the following pieces of information:

  • Title
  • Duties
  • Salary (with variable or bonus structure)
  • Equity 
  • Conditions of employment
  • Guidelines for resignation and termination
  • Schedule
  • Benefits
  • Time off

But many companies overlook the fact that receiving an offer letter can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of information to process all at once, and the letters themselves don’t give candidates much insight into how the hiring team came to their final equity and compensation decision.

For a better candidate experience, consider using a platform to walk candidates through their offers term-by-term. Assemble’s Illustrative Offers product clearly communicates the total value of the offer, from salary to bonuses, to equity, to benefits. On top of that, Assemble allows you to add custom branding, adding an extra layer of polish to your offers.

Besides Illustrative Offers, you might consider sending accompanying information to help candidates better understand certain components of their offer. For example, suppose your company is a startup or a public company that offers an ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan) plan. In that case, you may want to provide documentation on how employees should think about exercising their options or selling vested RSUs.

How to Extend a Job Offer in 11 Steps

Extending a job offer can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time doing it. So we’ve compiled a list of eleven steps to make thoughtful, well-rounded offers that candidates will have a hard time turning down.

1. Say the words, “We’d like to extend you an offer.”

Make it crystal clear that you are extending an offer. You may have already hinted this was coming in your pre-closing call, but ensure they know that this is the real deal. Getting them confused can stall your closing process at best and convince them to accept an offer elsewhere at worst. 

2. Reiterate why you chose the candidate over others

Candidates want to know why you’re picking them, so give specific feedback about what made them stand out.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Describe how they would fit into the role and your culture. Share what stood out to you about the candidate when you talked to them. Remember, a little flattery can go a long way.

3. Set the job offer call agenda

Let the candidate know the call agenda to reaffirm that the candidate has reached the verbal offer stage and prepare the candidate to jot down notes or questions. Doing this also makes it feel more official and organized.

4. Sell your company and the offer

Go back to your notes from the interview process. What did the candidate say about why they are leaving their current company? What are they looking to gain at yours? Hit on those points as you describe the potential you see in them and connect their goals to the best parts of working at your company. Prove to them that you listened during the interview and can explain the immediate impact they would have on your organization.

5. Send a written offer

At this point, you’re done with your preamble and can get into the specifics. Review the salary, bonus structure, equity, and benefits at a high level. Explain that the candidate will be receiving a written offer containing all of these details and that a tool like Assemble will walk them through the offer in a step-by-step format.

This walk-through will keep the candidate engaged with your team and ensure they are adequately prepared to make an informed decision.

After you’ve explained this, take a pause for questions. Keep in mind that the level of candidate can impact how much time you should leave and what kinds of questions you’ll get. New grads will have different questions than execs and will care about different things.

If the recruiter is doing the talking, it’s a good idea to have the hiring manager somewhat on standby. That way, recruiters can punt any questions they don’t know how to answer to the hiring manager who can provide an answer quickly. As you can with the candidate, identify areas of concern so you can try to circumvent them.

6. Set a job offer deadline and send the physical offer letter

Job offer deadlines vary from company to company and can be as long as two weeks or as short as one day. An exploding offer can bubble up unwanted questions and a longer deadline increases the possibility of a candidate receiving other offers or counteroffers. 

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Creating at least a little sense of urgency can speed up the process, giving you more time to prepare onboarding materials or move on to the next candidate if the offer is turned down. Pick a timeline that feels manageable to your company but gives the candidate some time to think the offer over and discuss it with their family.

Once you’ve let them know what the deadline is, start filling in your standard offer letter template and send it via your eSignature platform when it’s ready.

7. Gather a candidate’s references and prepare for their background check

Some companies do reference checks before extending the final offer, and some don’t. If your organization conducts reference calls ahead of delivering the final offer, make that a clear component of your interview process.

But if you’re collecting references after the offer, now is the time to tell the candidate so they can reach out to folks who can vouch for them and you can begin scheduling calls. You’ll also want to let the candidate know that you’ll be doing a background check and give them light instructions on who they should expect an email from, how to fill out any forms, etc. This is one of your last chances to double-check that you’ve chosen the right person and surface any last-minute red flags.

8. Be ready to address a counteroffer

Unfortunately, an offer letter is not a legally binding document, which means candidates may receive an appealing counter from their employer. Waiting several days to sign the offer letter might be a sign the candidate is stalling. If you sniff out that they may have received a counteroffer, ask to speak with the candidate. Have the hiring manager remind the candidate why they wanted to leave and what opportunities await them at your company.

9. Stay in touch with the candidate before they onboard

Another tactic to avoid candidates accepting counteroffers is to keep in close touch. Inviting candidates to lunch during their two-week period of quitting can make them feel like they’re already part of the team. Check in to see how their transition has been and if there is any way you can be helpful. And every time you talk to the candidate, mention how thrilled you are that they are joining your team.

10. Follow up with the candidate

Continue following up with the candidate until they sign your offer. Verify that they have all the necessary paperwork to complete, answer questions, and remind them of the deadline.

11. Generate even more excitement around their acceptance with swag!

The candidate accepted, and now the fun begins. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Consider sending candidates a swag box, treat them to a happy hour or zoom dinner with their new team, and posting about the new hire on LinkedIn or other company social media. Whatever you choose to do, make your new hire feel special.

Building a Thoughtful Compensation Package

A well-constructed, thoughtful offer makes candidates feel desired, level sets their expectations, and gets everyone excited about adding outstanding newcomers to the team. But even if you complete all your prework and follow these eleven steps, you won’t get anywhere without a competitive, equitable compensation package. And that’s where Assemble comes into play.

Assemble enables you to make fair and equitable compensation decisions that are competitive with the market, consistent with your policies and beliefs, and easy to explain. The best part is that Assemble allows you to continuously build, customize, and update your compensation practice as you expand your team and interview more and more candidates. Learn more about how Assemble can streamline your offer process by requesting a demo today.

Liz Melton