Employers: How to get a candidate to accept your offer. Try thinking like the NY Yankees!

Getting a candidate to accept an offer is often the hardest part of hiring someone today. Besides dealing with a counter-offer if the candidate is any good, there are the emotional ties that people have to their current bosses and companies. All of this stuff can be tough to navigate, but I am here to help.

Before we get into my bulletproof steps to getting someone to take the job, you have to make sure that you are not the problem. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had a client come to me and complain that they can’t give jobs away. These seemed like great jobs--high paying, good access, the whole package--but no one seemed to want them. The hiring managers were baffled. It took me five minutes to figure out their issue: they had a garbage Glassdoor rating. No one wanted to work for them because there were reams of comments about how terrible it was to work there. The moral of the story is that I know you think you have a good reputation, but you have to know for sure. I’ve written about Glassdoor and sites like it in this space before, but basically, they are the “Yelp” of the workplace. If you’re having trouble filling a position that seems like a phenomenal opportunity, go take a look at your company’s Glassdoor reputation. See if you have a profile, and/or if a former employee wrote something terrible about your company. You never know if that is influencing someone, and, in fact, I can tell you it usually is. You’re fighting an uphill battle if the first thing a prospective employee knows about your company is that it isn’t great to work there. It’s terrible, I know, but welcome to the internet!

With that said, let’s assume that your company is the paragon of excellence, that everyone who has ever set foot in the building is immediately filled with a warm glowing feeling, but still you can’t get the candidates you want to accept your offer. In most scenarios, you will need to offer any good candidate a raise to convince them to leave their current jobs. Especially in this economy, if you aren’t offering a raise, then it’s tough to get good candidates to accept your offer. In fact, if you’re offering anything under a 15% bump in their base salary, that likely isn’t enough to land the deal, either--push closer to 20%. I don’t necessarily recommend going above a 20% increased to their base because once you give someone a base salary that high, you’re stuck with it forever.

Okay, so what if you have a stellar company and are offering a really great candidate a 20% increase on their base salary, but you still can’t get them to accept? Well, I recommend taking a page from the sports hiring handbook and offering a signing bonus.  Not such a common term in corporate hiring, yet it’s far more common than you might realize. Consider it no different than making your base offer, but on steroids. All my clients do it, major manufacturers and small manufacturers alike do it. The deal is that you offer them a bonus upfront, which they get as soon as they sign the contract. Now, I know that none of you reading this own baseball teams where signing bonuses can be up to $40 million. Obviously, no one is suggesting that sort of pay out. In the furniture industry, depending on the position, the bonuses range from a low of 10k all the way up to 50k, sometimes a bit more. First of all, if you’ve made the hire directly, that is, without a third party or recruiter involved, don’t be a cheapskate. You just saved a huge headhunter fee, so sweeten the offer by giving the guy or gal a signing bonus. It would cost you at least 50k to hire a headhunter to do the search, so put that toward the candidate to make the sale (yes, hiring someone is like closing a sale). Even if there is a recruiter involved, your recruiter will surely tell you that there is some intangible incentive to candidates being made to feel that they are important to the business early on in the hiring process, and that is exactly what a signing bonus can do.  Like Sally Field’s acceptance speech, the candidate suddenly feels that “you like them, you really like them!” I daresay, in my own experience facilitating hires for my clients, that the signing bonus is no longer a luxury for employers, but a necessity today if you want to get the candidate to yes.  Try it, it works almost every time.  It has a different significance than an extra high base salary alone, and for you, it’s only a one-time payment, which is even better for when the economy chills again…and that is coming my friend, just you wait.