Lessons Learned: The art of the job offer - encourage people to say no

Auren Hoffman · June 27, 2008 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2c2

 Build the best team by lowering your job offer acceptance rate.

Most people go about giving a job offer in the wrong way.  They try to sell the candidate and win them over.  There's a better strategy.
As a hiring manager, your objective is to get great employees who are always thinking about the challenges ahead, love their job, and are a good fit with the company culture.  It is possible, with the right interview, to determine if someone is a great engineer ... but too often hiring managers only go after people with great talent.  They forget about fit and that's because fit is so hard to interview for and assess.  
One great way to determine fit is not to explicitly assess it all.  Instead, let the candidate make the choice and opt-out.  We've been extraordinarily successful at hiring here at Rapleaf and that's because we encourage candidates to turn us down.
First, don't use the offer as an opportunity to sell the candidate.  Try to be honest and open with each candidate.  Tell them your goal for all employees is for them to love their jobs and that they should not take the job if they have doubts.  You've only been able evaluate the person for a dozen hours - but the candidate has known herself all her life.   She will be a much better judge if she fits the culture.
Next, be completely honest about the culture.   At Rapleaf, we take at least 15 minutes to spell out, in detail, the company culture.   Tell them your organization's quirks and what is expected of employees.  Some of the many things that are particular to Rapleaf that we tell all candidates:

  • We're frugal.  We'll wait until we're very profitable before we pay for fancy dinners.
  • We give each other a good dose of constructive criticism.  We happily give and take criticism.  We want to better ourselves and the others around us. 
  • We do not value our own ideas more than those ideas generated by our teammates.  
  • We work long hours.  We believe great things are accomplished 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. 
  • We believe the perfect is the enemy of the good.  This means we focus on getting things done, not on building the most perfect system.  We strongly believe in rapid iteration.

Really talk through the culture during the offer.   If you want your employees to work long hours, you better tell them that is expected before they accept the offer.  Conversely, if you believe strongly in a 40-hour workweek, tell the candidate because many people are looking to change the world and they want to work with people who really make the company mission a priority.  
The essential take-away is not to sugar-coat the experience.  Be completely honest.  
Then, tell the candidates your concerns about them.   Tell them what you like about them and what they will need to improve upon to be a productive employee.  And tell them not to take the job if they don't think they can make those improvements.  This is the toughest thing for a hiring manager to do but it is important because it really sets the expectations.

Fourth, don't give candidates a long time to make a decision.   Two days is fair.   If they don't know they want to work for you in two days, then they should probably turn down your job offer.
And give a salary that is a bit below market.  You want to make sure candidates REALLY want to work at your company.   Then you should make sure you take care of your employees and give them frequent raises so they end up being paid above market.   This way you get the both worlds - employees who are really excited about the company and who are happy that they are appreciated by management (because of the frequent raises).  
Your goal as a hiring manager is get the best team member, not just the best athlete.   If you're managing a basketball team, you want someone that is a great player.   But you also need someone that will work well with the other team members and makes them all better.

Read  more from Auren Hoffman at https://summation.typepad.com 

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Auren Hoffman

CEO SafeGraph. fmr CEO at LiveRamp. GIS nerd.

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