Author: Gabrielle Bauer
To attract the best, your offer has to speak to them
You’ve found The One—the candidate who stood out above all others and promises to take your organization to new heights. The only thing left is to get your rockstar to say yes.
The STEM market has a talent shortage, with the best candidates in high demand,1 so expect your candidate to come to the negotiation table with a wish list. While you don’t have to grant every item on the list, this is not the time to quibble about the wording of the job title or the flexible start time on Wednesdays. Showing good faith keeps the negotiation flowing and brings that “yes” to your corner.
For starters, contact the candidate ASAP—ideally on the same day you’ve decided to hire them. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood that another employer will snap them up.2 Pick up the phone, rather than sending an email: only through a voice exchange can you communicate your excitement and gauge the candidate’s emotional response to the offer.
Put on your candidate’s hat
“The employer-employee relationship doesn’t start the first day on the job. It officially starts with the job offer. Make that moment memorable for the candidate.” 2 -Jeff Haden, contributing editor, Inc. magazine
If your candidate is like most, they’ll prioritize five areas when evaluating an offer: salary, short-term incentives, long-term incentives, benefits and perks—and the job itself. If they’re already working, they’ll likely expect a pay increase of at least 10% to change jobs.2 But don’t just pick a figure based on salary history or industry standards: tailor your salary offer to your candidate’s knowledge, skills and experience 3 —and let him know how you’ve arrived at the figure. Transparency never hurts.
“Using past salaries to determine a future salary perpetuates the gender pay gap and shows an unwillingness to pay employees their true worth.” 3
-John Feldmann, Insperity
In addition to discussing base salary, explain the benefits, bonus plan (if any), and any other monetary perks in detail, following up with a written summary of what you discussed.2 By the same token, come clean about your constraints. If you’re a startup and have a limited cash flow, for example, explain that you can’t match a top-dollar salary right now but can make up for it with an attractive equity program.3
Don’t stop at monetary benefits: today’s jobseekers place a high value on the ability to work remotely, at least part of the time. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, with many people discovering they enjoy working from home. Flexible hours and paid volunteer days can also help attract top candidates looking for employers who value work/life balance.3
As for the job itself, bear in mind that science professionals don’t usually seek out Easy Street. As revealed by a Talent in Science survey, they rate the opportunity to do challenging work as a key factor in deciding on a job offer.1 With this in mind, be sure to highlight the professional challenges and opportunities for growth. Working on a team that successfully commercializes a drug can galvanize a career, so let your candidate know if you have a big one in the pipeline.
When in doubt, ask
No two candidates have the same life circumstances, and a perk that means the world to one candidate may leave another one cold. Instead of guessing, ask outright: “What working conditions or benefits do you value most?” If you can meet these needs, even partway, you’re on your way to a deal.
Even if the candidate doesn’t push back on any of your terms, resist the temptation to ask for a firm commitment right away: giving them the time and space to reflect on the offer signals respect. That said, it may be useful to probe them gently to gauge their interest in moving forward. You can simply ask: “I understand you need time to think about this, but how do you feel about the offer?” If you sense hesitation, you can ask further questions or provide information that could move the needle.
What you don’t want is a lukewarm, half-hearted acceptance. A new hire who starts out with an undercurrent of dissatisfaction won’t give you his best. When you finally seal the deal, you want both parties to be smiling widely.
1. How can we attract engineering and science talent to life sciences? LinkedIn, Oct. 21, 2019.
2. How to make the perfect job offer: 9 tips. Inc. magazine.
3. 10 tips for making job offers to top candidates. Forbes expert panel.