The Art of the Job Offer

My friend Auren Hoffman has an awesome post advising organizations how to make a job offer. Anyone who’s in the business of hiring should read this. His starting premise is that "fit" matters with employees and therefore companies should try their hardest to communicate the company culture and allow the potential hire to decide whether such fit exists. Hence you don’t want to oversell; rather, you want to encourage the potential hire to opt-out if he has any doubts. Excerpts below. My favorite is the last one: make an offer slightly below market (to ensure that he really loves the company and isn’t just motivated by pay) and then give raises to pay him above market.

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 candidate 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).

7 comments on “The Art of the Job Offer
  • i like the idea of telling the candidate where he does not fit…so often, with large banks and consulting firms, the interviewer will never tell you where you can improve. during and after the interview, the interviewers often treat you courteously, but are never clear about why you weren’t hired (or why you WERE hired)

  • While we’re on this topic, let’s talk about something that’s closely related: courtesy. As in, courtesy to those you don’t hire. Don’t keep them in the dark. Just send them a quick note or e-mail saying that they weren’t the final hire.

  • I agree with the principal tenet that “fit” is best assessed when both the prospect and hiring manager are transparent with each other about aptitude, expectations and company culture.

    Where I digress a little is on the notion that paying someone less than market value is a good way to determine whether they really like the company. Having no way of knowing the company’s intention to “give a raise above market value” later on, some highly qualified prospects may perceive the company as cheap and move on to consider other offers; unless there are qualities about the job more in tune with their current life circumstances.

    I say spend more time trying to assess fit and once both parties are (reasonably) certain, provide abundant feedback (in both directions) and compensate above average (monetarily or otherwise).

  • Ah, but almost everyone in the world is terrible at knowing what will make them happy. That’s the hard thing about young employees, they usually only learn what they want through trial and error!

  • I agree with the principal tenet that “fit” is best assessed when both the prospect and hiring manager are transparent with each other about hopes and company culture.

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