Questions to Ask Before Making a Job Offer

questions to ask before making a job offerIs there anything more frustrating than to have gone through a series of interviews, identified a candidate you like, spent time doing reference and/or background checks, make the offer, and have them turn it down? You’ve invested countless hours of your time, and the time of others, and are back to square one. Assuming you had a second-choice candidate, they have likely already accepted another position, but even if they haven’t going to your second choice is not a good decision. They will always be second choice in your mind. Can you avoid this situation and have virtually every offer you make accepted? The answer is YES and I’m about to teach you how.

What are the reasons that offers are turned down?

  • Compensation not aligned with desired salary
  • Benefits not in line with what is needed or costs are a factor
  • Commute
  • Position offered is not what the candidate thought or interviewed for
  • Counter-offer from their employer
  • Offer(s) from other companies that were more interesting

These are the reasons they may share with you as to why they say no. There are many other reasons that they won’t share. Some of these may include: they weren’t comfortable with the people they met, or the environment, or something was said during the interview that turned them off. Regardless of the reasons they say no, whether they share the truth or not, you can prevent this from happening by asking questions.

My experience is that candidates get to the offer stage and say no because the interview process was not managed well. Employees think they have the upper hand and their job/company/opportunity is so outstanding that applicants will be clamoring to be offered the position. Not true. The first thing you need to recognize is that top talent has opportunities, and lots of them. There is a deficit of good talent for all positions, and every other company wants what you want. Stop thinking you are the only game in town, or even the top game in town, and realize that you have to sell your opportunity/company. Remember, the candidate is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them.

When I talk about managing the interview process, it has many parts. For this article though I want to focus on asking questions. Asking questions allows you to find out the information you need to know, which will inform you of the candidate’s interest and the likelihood they will accept your offer. What kind of questions do you need to ask when you have a candidate you’d like to hire? The timing of the questions depends on how many interviews you are conducting and I’m assuming you will be able to decide when to ask them. They aren’t in any specific order, so don’t assume you should ask in the order they are written.

  1. What is your level of interest in the opportunity? (Notice I did not say position because they may like the position, but not the company or location or something else.)
  2. What appeals to you about this opportunity?
  3. Are you interviewing with other companies? What is your interest level in their opportunities? Without putting you on the spot, where do you rank your interest in us versus others?
  4. Are you expecting an offer from another company within the next two weeks? If yes, would you accept?
  5. What benefits do you have that are important to you? (You want to know everything from PTO to education to 401K, gym and everything else. Note the question is what do you have that is important to you, not what benefits do you have? If they have access to yoga classes the company pays for but they don’t use them, who cares?) What are the costs of your benefits? (You want to know the costs as it may be part of the compensation discussion.) Is there anything that you would like in benefits you don’t currently have?
  6. Who else besides you will be involved with making the decision to say yes or no to an opportunity?
  7. Possible objections such as commute/location should be addressed. “I see you live in X, that’s about a 45-60 minute commute to our office. How will that factor into your decision? We aren’t near public transportation, is that a consideration for you?
  8. What is your current salary? When was your last salary increase and what was the amount of the increase? What salary are you looking for now? (Note: if the amount seems totally out of line, ask for clarification on how they arrived at that number. I had a client hire someone who recently relocated from a lower cost of living area. He was due for an increase just as he resigned from the company and received a $5k bonus unrelated to his personal performance. When he added up what he expected to get as a raise, the bonus and cost of living increase, his desired number was high but truly not unreasonable.)
  9. Do you have any concerns that would prevent you from saying yes (other than compensation) if we made you an offer?
  10. What do you think your boss will say when you resign? Has your company made counter offers to others? How do you feel about that?

I could go on and deeper with other questions, but this gives you a good start. When you know what they need with regard to salary/benefits (it’s the package not just the salary), their genuine interest in your opportunity, and have a discussion about any possible objections they could have, you will have a greater chance of them saying yes.

Once you know the facts you can make better decisions. I’m betting that if you ask questions you will learn who you should take to the second interview, and who you should pass on even if they are qualified because they won’t ever say yes. Sure, it’s disappointing to interview, find someone you like and realize you need to pass on them. But you’ll be saving hours of time and learn early in the process so you can make good, solid business decisions.

© 2018 Incedo Group, LLC

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1 Comment

  • Jeffrey C. Fischer Posted February 22, 2018 12:12 pm

    Great column for employers to use. Years ago a human resource professional gave me a one page summary of benefits. Line item, corporate paid, employee contribution, employee and family. The game of running from one corporation to another and driving up the offers has to end it is costing small and large businesses too much in excess overhead. These questions cut to the chase. Love it.

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