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Successfully closing a hire and avoiding “buyer's remorse”

Chris Wilkinson

Head of Talent @ Forward Partners

It doesn't matter which way you cut it, it is wasted effort if a top candidate that you have been pursuing for some time does not accept a reasonable offer. This is equally true if a candidate churns out of their role shortly after joining the business due to buyer's remorse - from the candidate or the employer.

Whilst it is inevitable, especially in startups, for you to experience rejected offers and some churn there are some simple steps to follow that will drastically improve your success rate in closing out a process and successfully onboarding hires.

Please note, the following sections are big topics, on which much has been written and said, and we can’t do them full justice in the space available. We hope, however, that by focussing on the challenge of closing and eliminating buyers remorse we can throw up some useful tips and considerations.

Key Takeaways:

  • Closing a candidate does not happen at the end of a hiring process, it starts at the beginning of the process - usually when the candidate reads a compelling role description or engages with a verbal pitch.

  • Hiring processes are never about hard selling a candidate into a role, it is about evaluating their suitability for the role, teasing out why the role is great for their development and reinforcing that message throughout the process. The candidate will also be doing the same to you.

  • A job is a big ticket item. Decisions are only partially made based on the money. Make your job compelling and remember that increasing the scope for impact and widening the remit will often yield better results than stretching the budget (note: some roles will often require you to stretch the budget - to be discussed in another post).

  • Give as much information as possible to the candidate so that they can get the buy-in necessary from the stakeholders in their personal life.

  • Never force a close, let people go if they are not right or if they are not convinced on the role after all sensible efforts have been exhausted to convince them. No hire is better than a bad hire that churns out after a few months.

 

The start of the hiring process:

Poor first impressions are hard to change. According to a survey, over two thirds of candidates (70 per cent) turn down a job if their first impression of the company is sub-standard.*

Apart from poor role descriptions, half baked emails and lacklustre verbal pitches, the main reason for candidates forming a poor first impression of a business is down to a lack of understanding for the role and a feeling that the hiring process is being rushed. Without having a clear understanding of the role, the responsibilities, the reporting lines, the company culture and the ideal candidate profile before you go to market, then you are setting yourself up for failure both in convincing a candidate to join the company and in keeping them if you do.

Tips:

  • Spend time upfront to build a comprehensive role description. We recommend including key company facts/ an elevator pitch (funding, growth, impressive team etc.), a company history (and crucially its story), role context (why are you hiring), role responsibilities (what will this person be appraised on, what will their team look like, who do they report into etc., candidate profile (key skill set, what background are they likely coming from, personality profile etc.) and a summary of key requirements .

  • Make sure you understand the role in its entirety before going to the market, the best candidates will ask lots of questions - there's nothing worse than being on ‘transmit’ for your first interaction only to fall over when a single question is asked.

  • When you do make contact listen more than you speak, maybe use the phrase “I realise I have been speaking a lot at you so I would love to hear your thoughts” if you find yourself stuck in ‘transmit’.

  • Don't rush, it’s a consultative process that requires you to understand a candidate's motivations and concerns then crucially figuring out if the role and opportunity you are pitching is actually a good fit. If it isn't then don’t force it - this is a classic precursor to buyer's remorse.

 

The hiring process:

I'd like to say it is never about the money when it comes to guiding candidates through a process to a successful conclusion but I’d be wrong - sometimes people are just cash hungry. However, nine times out of ten it isn't about the money and it really is about the opportunity. People have different life ambitions, goals and skills they either want to learn or leverage. There's a huge body of work on candidate motivation and engagement ranging from the study of Maslow's hierarchy of need to personality types and I would only do this body of work injustice if I were to try and cover it all in this article but suffice it to say, your hiring process should be optimised for conveying the opportunity whilst evaluating a candidate's suitability for the role.

Remember - we are optimising for closing and eliminating buyers remorse in this article - this topic expands out into countless other areas to be explored at a later stage.

Tips:

  • Ask challenging questions that both convey the opportunity and also evaluate the candidate.

    E.g. A Head of Marketing role pitched to a digital marketing candidate who has already said that they are looking to broaden their experience and aspire to be a CMO in the future -
    1. Exercise caution with this tactic - too often and too harsh can have the opposite desired effect.

    2. Whilst asking the candidate to sell their experience to you for evaluation purposes it also highlights the breadth and scope of the role and the opportunity to broaden their experience.

    3. “Your experience clearly shows deep subject matter expertise when it comes to the performance marketing channels but when I think about the breadth of marketing channels that this role requires the candidate to manage, I am concerned that this may be too much of a jump. Have I missed something and if so do you have any useful anecdotes to suggest otherwise?”

  • Keep the process professional and personal

    1. Send a ‘thank you’ email after every conversation

    2. Make sure feedback is given, in full, at the earliest available opportunity

    3. If the process stalls them let people know. You are rarely in control of all of the variables but you can communicate what is going on within reason.

    4. Advanced tip - bake in kpi’s to optimise for positive hiring/interview experiences  

    5. Use Typeform as a simple way of doing this.

    6. Make sure that incentive structures are sensible. If hiring managers and /or recruiters are only judged on volume of candidates interviewed and speed of hire then they will obviously optimise tactics to that effect - clearly this lends itself to transactional relationships/reduced likelihood to close and forced hiring/ increased likelihood for buyers remorse.

    7. Democratise the hiring process, no decision should be made in a silo. Make sure the candidate gets to meet the team and visa versa. It sounds obvious but so rarely does this happen.

The end of the hiring process:

Closing is a terrible word for it but ultimately this is what all your hard work upfront has been optimised for. Hopefully, by this stage, you know the candidate well enough to know what they want, you understand their motivations and are clear on whether they are right for the role or not. They should also be in the same situation. However, there are a few things that you can do at this stage to increase your chances of success without relying on inflated cash offers to get them over the line. (Please note: there will be situations where candidates are purely cash hungry - these are rare cases but they do happen)

Also, following these tips helps to make sure that the candidate comes in with their eyes wide open both on the opportunity and their compensation package.

Tips:

  • Never make a formal offer until it has been accepted

    1. Sound out expectations from the earliest possible opportunity
    2. Manage those expectations - remember that it is usually about the opportunity rather than the money so play with the role and the remit rather than the figures.
    3. Be in constant communication about expectations at each step
    4. Make sure that the opportunity has been sold and that the candidate can see this role as their next step. Address any concerns before making the formal offer.
       
  • Send out a detailed offer letter after talking it all through verbally
    1. Make it personal with a call initially and then allow the candidate to digest the offer

    2. Send out the letter straight after the call and offer to answer any questions

    3. In this letter, outline all of the key information including compensation, incentives, benefits, team structure etc. Also, think of this letter as a UX/UI challenge. What is important to explain, what FAQ’s can be addressed, how should it look and feel, tone of voice etc? eShares has a great example of explaining, thus selling the value of, share options in their offer letter*

    4. As soon as they are comfortable get the contract out to be signed

  • Stay in touch

    1. A contract really means nothing when it comes to the candidate actually turning up on the day - stay in touch with the candidate and make sure you keep them in the loop with new developments, get them excited about their first day and invite them to socials. They are only in the office when they are in the office.

Further reading

*Monster

*eShares

Chris Wilkinson

Head of Talent @ Forward Partners

Chris has helped build the leadership teams for some of the world’s most innovative digital companies. Prior to Forward Partners he was a Senior Associate at the digital headhunting firm The Up Group and placed C'level executives at companies such as Skyscanner, JUST EAT, WorldRemit and Circle. Chris is passionate about disruptive businesses and is now hands-on with helping Forward Partners’ portfolio scale their businesses from a people perspective. In his spare time Chris enjoys playing jazz piano, writing sitcom scripts and drinking IPA.

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