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Offer Stage Essentials: Closing the Right Candidate

Don’t settle: follow these tips on how to hire quality applicants before they slip away.

woman looking at documents

By the time you’re ready to extend an offer to a candidate, you’ve not only put in a ton of work, but you’re probably really excited about adding the perfect match to your team. 

When that’s the case, there’s nothing more deflating than receiving a rejection. Don’t worry — it’s not just your startup. Getting the “yes” is a KPI for numerous hiring strategies because many businesses struggle with it. So, think of the last time you sourced the perfect hire only to receive a “no.” Where did you go wrong? Making a simple job offer to a candidate isn’t enough for an acceptance anymore. You need to provide a few more essentials when you’re in the offer stage of your hiring process, and that’s where we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to close a candidate in a highly competitive employment market.  

Reinforce Where the Candidate Fits In 

No one wants to be just another cog in the machine. Before you send the final offer to a candidate, keep them engaged by outlining a few key things including:  

  • Their career path/growth opportunities within the company 
  • The areas they’ll bring value into the business 
  • Where they fit in with your culture 

Eighty-seven percent of millennials consider professional career growth and developmental opportunities as important, and eighty percent look for people and culture fit with employers, too.  

Ideally, this conversation should take place over the phone, preferably with the hiring manager present. Phone calls go a long way and serve a few purposes: 

  • They harbour a positive candidate experience  follow up after the interview and after the offer letter is extended. 
  • They can expedite the process and not leave the successful candidate waiting too long for an answer. 
  • They help humanize the process. 
  • It can sometimes secure a verbal acceptance before you finalize your offer letter. 

When entering the offer stage — besides the candidate’s role, an explanation of the team structure, workplace culture, and some of the benefits of working at your company (ie team socials, pet-friendly office perks, home office allowances etc) — you should let them know you’re interested in hiring them and touch on the traditional hiring points: salary, benefits, probationary periods and scheduling. Clarifying the next onboarding steps is also an excellent addition to the call, especially if other administration details are required, such as work permits or background checks.  

Another benefit of the follow-up phone call? It leaves a positive impression. Even if the candidate ultimately declines the offer, this kind of call creates a positive candidate experience. Positive experiences are crucial, considering 75% percent of people working at companies that provided a positive candidate experience claimed it influenced their decision to accept the job offer. Keep in mind, even if they don’t accept this offer you can potentially use this candidate for future roles, so providing a positive experience will leave a better impression for future contact all while dodging the bullet of a negative Glassdoor review. 

Don’t Wait  

The recruiting process is already long enough. If you’re certain you know which candidate you want, don’t wait. Call to tell them the offer is coming and reiterate the points above. Remember, “Nearly 40% of candidates will lose interest and pursue other jobs and positions if the interviewing process takes too long.”   

The more you can expedite your hiring process and extend the offer letter to your candidates of choice, the more likely you are to close your candidate of choice. That’s what makes speed one of the most vital essentials at the offer stage.  

Looking for the best way to find and hire top candidates more quickly? Check out these eight tips on candidate sourcing.  

Perfect the Offer Letter   

Hopefully, you’ve already received a verbal acceptance from your dream candidate with that follow-up phone call you made. Even if you haven’t, it’s time to craft your offer letter to formalize what you’ve discussed with your candidate so far. Keep your letter professional and to the point. Here’s what it needs to include:  

  1. The official job title 
  2. Who their direct report is 
  3. Start date and hours 
  4. Whether or not there’s a probationary period and its length 
  5. Conditions to the offer 
  6. Salary and benefits 
  7. Acceptance deadline 

Ideally, you’ve discussed compensation before the official offer letter goes out. However, an important point to note is that if you’re looking to be competitive and think you have a worthwhile candidate, now’s not the time to lowball them with your starting wage. Top talent that fits your company culture is worth the price tag. 

Lastly, make sure you’re extending your offers to the right people. Numerous startups struggle to retain teammates because they give out these precious letters to the wrong people. As Harvard Business Review reminds us, “the result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost 50-60% of the person’s annual salary.” 


Pro Tip: Use company letterhead and make sure your letter aligns with your employer brand as much as possible!


Be Prepared for Negotiations and Counter Offers 

Employees know that it’s currently their market and are more aggressive about achieving a competitive wage. According to a study from SHRM, 55% of job seekers have negotiated their salaries. Furthermore, the same study claims that 68% each of both millennials and Gen-Z (what will be the bulk of your team in the near future, if it isn’t already) are more likely to discuss their salaries with others, meaning they have an understanding of what they’re really worth in the workforce.  

Why do negotiations happen? Frequently, it’s because your first choice candidate’s current employer realizes what they have as it’s trying to head out the door. With their indication of resignation, your target talent will often receive a higher wage offer from their current employer. This can become leverage for the candidate to counter your offer.  

Consider how high you can and/or want to go for the right candidate compared to your original offer. While we know you didn’t lowball them, they may have other ideas about what they’re worth to your business. Expect your candidate to counteroffer, and don’t be afraid of a little negotiation — especially if they’re worth it. If, however, you simply can’t compete with what another employer has come up with, it’s okay to let it go. Great talent is just that — great, but you can’t bankrupt your business over a single teammate. Startups can’t always pay what the big guys can, and that’s okay. You want the best fit for your team, not just the talent who has their mind on their money. Regroup and refocus on your second-choice candidate.  

Follow Up 

If you’ve already placed that phone call before sending the offer letter, you’re done half the battle. The next trick? Place another follow-up phone call to help answer any questions or offer more insight into why your business is worthwhile, a day or two after you’ve sent the formal letter; it shows investment in them as an employee. Being there to answer questions and provide clarity also brings transparency to your business and can humanize it. The trick here is to not come across as pushy. You want to be helpful and give them confidence in coming on board with your company.

Closing Your Top-Choice Candidate 

Missing the required essentials at the offer stage can be costly to your startup. It’s not just about making a job offer to the candidate; it’s getting them to accept it, too. With such a competitive market, it’s crucial to make an impact.

While you may lose some candidates when their current employers offer them a higher wage as they try to exit, don’t be afraid to negotiate with your top choice to get them on board. Finally, the rest is in the letter. A professional and inclusive (yet true to your employer brand) offer letter will have your top talent sealing the deal with a signature.  

There’s more where this came from in our e-Book, so if you’re interested in learning how to attract, hire and retain the best candidates, don’t forget to check it out.  


Hiring Great People for Your Startup

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