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The final hurdle: making your job offer and handling counter-offers

Posted by: Jessica Wood on Fri 21 December 2018


The final hurdle: making your job offer and handling counter-offers

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s also time for the final installment in my series on how to get the best results from your recruitment process. After posting, I’ll be switching my brain from recruitment to the final preparations I need to do before my family descend on us for Christmas!

In this article, I’ll be looking at the offer stage, the importance of maintaining contact and positivity in the run up to your new employee’s start date and how to handle counter-offers.

If you missed the previous articles, you can read them at the links below:

Act quickly to secure top talent

Once you’ve finished your interview and assessment process, it’s wise to make your decision as soon as possible. This ensures all information is still fresh in your mind, and increases the likelihood that your preferred candidate is still available and interested in joining your business. Delays in the recruitment process can have a significant impact on a candidate’s perception of you as a potential employer and their enthusiasm about taking your role. Even when acting promptly, it’s sensible to have a second or third choice in mind, just in case your first choice decides not to accept the position.

Although formal job offers should always be made in writing, it’s a good idea to make the initial offer by telephone. As well as providing a more personal touch, this can help you quickly establish whether or not the candidate intends to take the position and how keen they are to join your business. You can also answer any last queries the candidate may have and discuss the terms of employment, for example salary, holiday entitlement and benefits.

It’s good practice to inform all unsuccessful candidates that you will not be offering them the role, and provide feedback on why they have not been successful on this occasion. This can be invaluable for candidates, as they can use the information you provide to help them in their future applications and interviews. From your perspective, it can also help maintain a positive image of your employer-brand, particularly with candidates that might be a good fit for you in the future.

If you’re using a recruitment consultant to help you, they should deal with both the negotiations with your chosen candidate and informing the other applicants that they have not been successful. A good recruiter should be able to provide useful, honest and tactful feedback to assist the unsuccessful candidates with their future job searches, whilst ensuring you, as an employer, continue to be seen in a good light.

The war for talent and counter-offer curveballs

Of course, we all hope it won’t happen, but counter-offer situations do sometimes occur, particularly when dealing with exceptional individuals. Staff retention is a huge priority for most employers, so last-ditch attempts to stop their top talent from leaving should come as no great surprise.

So, what should you do if your chosen candidate comes back to you saying they’ve been offered a better deal to stay with their current employer? It all depends on the circumstances. One of the best ways to deal with counter-offer situations is to consider them throughout the interview and assessment process, by establishing the candidate’s drivers in searching for a new role. This is another area where experienced recruitment consultants can really add value.

Why is the candidate looking to leave their current employer? What made them start looking for a new job? Is the move purely financially motivated? If so, then it typically isn’t worth getting into a bidding war – perhaps your second or third choice candidates would be a better fit and have more genuine enthusiasm for the opportunity you have available.

If your chosen candidate is considering a counter-offer for other reasons – such as career progression or professional development, it’s worth further discussion. Remind them of all the things that appealed to them about your role and business in the first place, and highlight how the opportunity you are offering meets their professional objectives. By having this discussion either face-to-face or by telephone – rather than emailing or messaging – you can get a far better sense for what’s really important to the candidate.

What to include in your offer letter

Exactly what you say in your offer letters will of course depend on your business and the specific role being offered. However, there are a few key things you must include:

  • their job title
  • the terms on which the job is offered
  • the date that their employment will start
  • details of any probationary period
  • any conditions of the offer, e.g. checks on eligibility to work in the UK or subject to suitable references being provided
  • details of any action required by the candidate to meet those conditions e.g. production of suitable evidence proving their right to work in the UK

You should ask the candidate to sign and return a copy of the letter, to confirm their acceptance of the position. 
Once this is received the recruitment process is officially complete and you can look forward to welcoming your new employee on their agreed start date. If your new employee won’t be joining you for a while – either because of their notice period or for any other reason, remember to stay in touch with them during that time. This can really help maintain the initial excitement and enthusiasm your new recruit has about joining you.

I’ll be back in the new year with more musings on recruitment and job hunting. In the meantime I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous 2019!


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In over 40 years of my experience in financial services and recruitment I have found Jess and her team at Sandringham Wood have an exceptional grasp of all aspects of the financial services industry and are the most professional &...


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