With marketing talent in high demand across both verticals and company stage, closing a “finalist” candidate quickly and effectively is challenging. High-quality candidates are generally interviewing at multiple companies, and their discussions with you may even drive them to explore and entertain multiple offers before making a decision. In addition, every offer has multiple factors including title, comp, role definition, and the emotional dynamics of the process. Given these potential challenges, we sat down with several experts from the RevelOne talent team to understand how you can increase your chances of closing the person you want for the role.
1. Realistically evaluate what you can offer
In the previous articles in this series (How to Scope the Role, Targeting and Search Strategy, Interviewing for Successful Outcomes), we emphasized the importance of doing your homework to understand what you can offer a potential hire. This becomes especially important when working to close a candidate. Are there certain compensation levers that can be adjusted? Is the location or title set in stone? Or can you adapt certain requirements for the right individual? If your company might be flexible about working remotely post-COVID, for example, you may have the ability to be more flexible on certain elements of a role. It’s best to establish this clarity internally before you engage with a candidate to avoid creating frustration and confusion.
2. Transparency is the best policy
“A candidate recently shared that they had a great experience with a company because the company was incredibly clear and transparent throughout the entire process,” shared Arthur Ly, Vice President at RevelOne. Knowing what you can offer someone is essential, but you should also be prepared to share this information with them. Establishing an environment of trust and clear communication early in the process leads to candidates more comfortable participating in an open and honest exchange.
3. Listen to what the candidate is looking for
Dig a little deeper early in the interview process to uncover potential frustrations and pain points with a candidate’s past roles and employers. We suggest asking questions such as “What would you have changed about your last position?” or “What are you hoping to do differently in your next role?” to understand their personal aspirations and expectations for their next position. If you can provide what they are seeking, let them know LOUD and CLEAR. However a word of caution: Don’t over-promise and under-deliver or postpone a disappointing conversation because you really like a candidate.
4. Continue to check-in throughout the entire process
“Smart savvy clients will continue to check in throughout the entire process,” shared Katie Droke, Senior Account Director. This demonstrates that you are invested in them and that you care about their experience. Checking in also allows you to gauge the candidate’s interest level while at the same time reconfirming their reasons for wanting to pursue a new opportunity. You want to know if anything has changed in their personal or professional circumstances (i.e., a new offer, a location requirement) to avoid unnecessary surprises when your offer is on the table. If a new opportunity has arisen, inquire what makes it attractive as well as any potential concerns.
5. Remember, timing is everything
The more time you take to make decisions throughout the process, the more time the candidate has to explore other offers. “In a highly competitive market, strong candidates generally stay available for 4-6 weeks” shared Tina Yung, Senior Account Director. Schedule interviews quickly after you have decided to continue with a candidate, and once you have made a final decision, let the candidate know immediately. If the decision to extend an offer is made on a Friday afternoon, pick-up up the phone to congratulate the candidate. Let them know that HR will be following up with them the next morning or after the weekend with more details.
6. Create a sense of urgency
Highly competitive candidates will not be lacking in great opportunities, which means they will likely want to maximize all aspects of their new role. This often results in a candidate requesting more time to make a decision. To avoid unnecessary delays, clearly define and communicate the timeline before the interview process begins. Then stick to deadlines for follow-up rounds and final decisions. “If a candidate continues to drag out the process without clear explanation, they are probably not that interested,” shared Arthur. However, “it’s important to also understand their specific situation” he continued. “Often candidates have invested a lot of time in a competitive opportunity and want to see it through.” In these cases, it’s good to be adaptable and understanding.
7. Don’t lowball
Compensation conversations are where we have often seen even the best organizations slip up. They will come in far too low or remain inflexible on a small difference. “You would be surprised how many companies we have seen lose great candidates over $5 or $10K,” shared Katie. If you have done the preparation to know what you can offer and what the candidate will expect, you’re wasting their time and yours with an offer that pushes them away.
8. Empower candidates with a choice
“Listening to what they value – giving them a choice – empowers a candidate,” shared Tina, Senior Director. While some companies have very tight bands, many smaller organizations and startups have the ability to be flexible with compensation. If there are multiple levers that you can pull to adapt to the specific candidate’s requirements, give a candidate options. Is base less important because they are excited about the growth potential of equity? Does a performance-based bonus incentivize them? Ask what they are looking for and see if you can respond to empower and excite them about the opportunity.
9. Make it meaningful
While you can lose a candidate over starting with too low of an offer, the compensation package is not the only element of the job. While compensation may be a deal-breaker, it is generally not what sells the role. “It’s important that you highlight the more intangible elements of the job – career professions, impact, challenges the role will tackle, why THEY are the one for the role – throughout the process,” shared Tina. Create meaning and dignity so that the decision between your organization and a competitor doesn’t come down to a difference of $5K.
10. Give candidates a remote “bear-hug”
Remote work makes it more difficult to “awe” candidates in the same way you may have (on-site visits, swag, etc.), so think of creative ways to still “bear-hug” candidates and introduce them to employee culture (e.g., zoom happy hours). We suggest an early congratulations to come from a senior executive, even the CEO, and follow this with a warm welcome from all others they have engaged with throughout the process. Make them feel wanted. Show them how thrilled you are to have them be part of the team, and remind them why they are the one for the job.
“The most important thing is that you make sure the candidate is happy throughout the entire process,” shared Katie. This means doing the necessary preparation, supporting an environment of open communication, and proactively addressing a candidate’s personal aspirations and compensation needs. Ideally, the offer then becomes a mere formality.
We hope that the strategies outlined in this article help you provide a great candidate experience, and ultimately improves and strengthens your outcomes with potential hires.