How to increase your employment offer acceptance ratio

Over the years I've observed various models for the processes that (hopefully) result in hiring new staff.

Increasingly rare in corporations, is the model which allows complete freedom for hiring leaders to assess, interview, and discuss details of an employment offer with candidates.  I’ve seen the model that has a HR team member as the watchdog with authority to “yay or nay” candidates throughout every step of the process.  And there loads of model variations in between.

Interestingly, the model that seems to get the best results for converting a candidate to an employee, is that where the hiring leader, the person who will actually be "the boss" of the new employee, gets to break the offer directly to the candidate. Where the hiring leader can answer questions immediately and reiterate to the candidate why that person is valued, and confirm the excitement of getting to work together.  The emotional contract is high, and the results are typically great.

You can fit in HR intervention anywhere else in the process (and that includes the specialist expertise of Talent Acquisition/Recruiting/Staffing specialists), but when it comes time to offer, so long as your hiring leader knows the financial parameters and is educated on how "not to screw it up", you should have a winning situation.

An example from my own direct experience:

I engaged an agency to find me a particular type of person and skill set for our own team (yes, I appreciate the irony of us being search specialists, but this hire was outside of our usual network and wasn't a smart use of our time in trying source directly!).  Multiple interviews later, and then I met "the one".  Now, I could have gone through "normal" process and waited for the agency to secure & obtain feedback and then go through the motions of the employment offer dance. 

But I knew I wanted this particular person.  So I told the candidate as she walked out of the interview room, that I thought she was great and I wanted her on our team.  And 20 minutes later, I emailed her detailing a list of reasons why we had to work together, and how I would personally support her through all the learning areas we'd already discussed at interview.   She called me back within the hour, we easily worked through the financials, and she accepted my offer immediately.  I secured a hugely talented person who to this day, still talks about that "quirky but fabulous" hiring experience (and yes, she's still a valued member of our team).

Why was this a successful approach?

  1. I'd been espousing our culture of dynamic, decision making, no gamesmanship, and working at speed, and I was demonstrating it directly and with authenticity

  2. I took advantage (in the nicest possible way) of the ego thrill for her in “wanting to be wanted” - I capitalised on the emotional contract I'd established in the interview, and kept the momentum rolling

  3. I had my "ducks in a row" in advance of the meeting, to ensure financials were aligned so we didn’t have to “to and fro” on numbers - a strong and fair offer first time meant the candidate felt valued and respected

In comparison and again from my own experience.  There was a hiring leader who had been interviewing various candidates for 11 months(!) and then finally found "the one". With the recommendation from HR to play it cool, he completed the interview, but remained poker faced and difficult to read - the candidate left the room not knowing whether there was interest, or not.

A week later, the candidate finally received feedback from the internal recruiter, who confirmed that feedback was positive (but with no detail!), and the company would be in touch "in due course on next steps".   2 weeks later, an email was received by the candidate confirming that the company still had interest and would be in touch "in due course".  Another 2 weeks later, the candidate received an employment offer via email, from the company's shared service centre team.  Yet another week was taken up with to-ing and fro-ing between the candidate and various recruitment team members scurrying to find answers to questions. With so many delays, and no responses to calls or emails from the candidate to the hiring leader, the candidate commenced discussions with other prospective employers; and wound up declining the original company’s offer to take up employment elsewhere.  

That candidate was me. Ironically, it was only after I declined the offer, that the hiring leader finally bothered to call and outline why I was so perfect for the job, and why it would be beneficial to my career to work at his company.

Why was this an unsuccessful outcome for the hiring leader?

  1. The company website, and promotional material, and hiring leader espoused their dynamic culture and employee empowerment, their speed of decision making and action; but didn't demonstrate any of that through a simple hiring process, which created doubts for me on the reality of working for that company

  2. My expectations weren't managed on their process, so when I experienced delays, and unexpected contact from other team members with no explanation or contact by the hiring leader, I felt like I wasn't important enough for her to commit time for me (which made me wonder what it would be like working for that kind of person)

  3. I had no emotional contract with the hiring leader, from the moment I left the interview. Sure I was dead keen on the job content, location, career prospects and company brand.....but I didn't feel wanted or valued. When the hiring leader did finally make contact again, it was too late.

  4. After 11 months of searching, the hiring leader was so bound by process and procedure, that the desired candidate was kept waiting a further month for a simple employment offer. And candidates who have specialist skills, in a hot market, are always going to have the luxury of choice of where they can secure work - they can afford to be selective.

Hiring is always a costly exercise - it requires time (which has a value), money and energy - all of which could be utilised for other business activities.

Hopefully your organisation is so efficient with its hiring practices, that your offer to acceptance ratio is already brilliant, along with the quality of talent you secure, and hopefully retain.

But if your organisation regularly struggles to secure the “A” calibre of candidates you’d really like to hire, maybe its time for closer scrutiny of your hiring model and the processes within it. Simple, zero cost refinements could be the game changers that get you the new employees you really want and need.