Sealing the Deal

As a hiring manager, it's so easy to fall foul of complacency when we have found and validated our perfect candidate.  Maybe it's a strategic role that’s going to charge the company up wildly for the future, or one of those awkward roles that’s taken months to backfill and left everyone struggling. It’s a sigh of relief, and a celebration, “Woo hoo, our A-player has been found!”  The truth is, the real interview is about to take place, and the tables have turned.  

In my last post in this series on the search for talent, I talked about a range of tactics you could use for Validating Talent when you’re deep in the interview process.  Only the best for your team right?  But when the chosen one is found, it’s your turn under the spotlight.  The deal is not done until your candidate is through their probation.  Let me give you five common areas where employers, and their hiring manager, often fall down - and how you can give yourself the best chance of reinforcing that warm fuzzy feeling when you find the candidate you’ve been hoping for…

1] Your Offer

Is there any better feeling in the world than someone ringing you up to congratulate you on an awesome application, and that they’d love you to work for them?  Hopefully that’s happened to you at least once in your life, and you’ll remember how great it was.  It costs nothing to deliver as an employer, and is far nicer to receive than a cookie-cutter written offer with your name pasted in the header.  And for the win, you get to share good news personally which will warm your heart, and you also get to hear your candidate’s excitement.  You still need that offer in writing, so promise to send it, along with all the finer detail, within minutes of finishing that call.  And do it - don’t leave your candidate wondering if you still want them because you decided to do it Monday instead.  That would be a failure at the first hurdle.

2] Their Questions

The offer may not be perfect.  Perhaps your candidate saw something through the interview process that spooked them.  Maybe they talked with some industry contacts to get some feedback on your company.  Either way, expect questions and be ready to respond at pace.  Much like the offer, this is the time where you don’t want seeds of doubt sown.  If you get asked a million questions, don’t bury your head in the sand.  Acknowledge with kindness and promise when you can feedback with answers.  Some might be easy wins, others may take some internal negotiation.  Either way, let your candidate know that you’ve got it.  Generally it will come down to the Five Fs - Freedom, Family, Fortune, Fit and Fun.  Will I have autonomy to do the role I’ve been offered?  Can they make the requirements of the role work with my family life?  Is the compensation appropriate?  Will I fit into the culture of the organisation?  And most importantly, will I enjoy the role?  These are HUGE questions, they occupy our minds whenever we’re contemplating a professional change.  So remember your own anxiety and work hard to close answers down for your candidate.  Even better, deliver them over the phone!

3]  Chasing References

You’ll have your own corporate policies on the validity of references.  Perhaps you won’t issue an employment contract to candidates until you have professional references back in.  In most cases, offers of employment are subject to references, so it's in both parties interests to get them closed down as soon as possible.  Take the lead in this area and don’t hang around.  This is another area where you can showcase your willingness to have your candidate join the company.  Keep them updated regularly on progress and ask for help with contacting references if you’re hitting a brick wall.  And… worth bearing in mind your candidate may have some personal circumstances riding on the contract.  Perhaps they are applying for a mortgage and they need proof of employment to support the process of buying a home.  You don’t want to be the weak link in one of the most stressful events someone can go through.  So remember, the sooner that contract is signed, the better all parties sleep.   

4]  The Long Wait

And you still can’t rest easily.  Not for a long while yet.  Remember those seeds of doubt I talked about?  Once the signature is dry, you really need to go to work and constantly let your candidate know why they made the best decision.  One month, two months, several month’s notice?  That can seem like an eternity.  You don’t want their excitement dampening.  While they’ve been gradually becoming less pivotal in their old role and handed duties over, that sense of self worth will be taking a little nosedive.  This is where you and your company come in.  Keep in contact, a lot.  Let them know how excited you are about them joining.  Prepare a really thorough onboarding plan and share it with them in advance so they know what to expect in their early weeks.  This sounds simple, but at a time when their old company might be moving on, that need to feel wanted, and have certainty, will be higher than ever.  

5] The Red Carpet

Make sure it's everything that you promised.  That they land, and know where they are going, who they are talking to, what they are working on, who to go to if there are problems, and what they need to achieve in their first six months.  The quicker they understand all aspects of the company, from how to submit an expense report to accessing training budget - all the little niggles that you wonder about - the quicker they’ll be comfortable and doing what they are best at, which is delivering value for you and the company.  Essentially, treat your chosen one as you’d wish to be treated or lose them forever.  What’s the imperative?  A mental buy-in here, and you’ll have credit in the bank for a good while.

This is all about sealing the deal.  In some ways it's the same as trying to win new business.  Where do you get most jubilant?  Is it when the proposal is verbally accepted?  Is it when the contracts are agreed?  Or is it when both parties are working in partnership, creating value for each other in the hope of a longer-term relationship?  I’ll let you answer…

What’s inspired me recently...

I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking a lot about what it means to be a leader.  What type of shadow do I want to cast?  How do I want people to feel after they’ve engaged with me?   Am I being the type of leader I should be, rather than the one others tell me I should be?  So, I revisited a book I loved reading a few years ago called Trillion Dollar Coach.  Written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenburg and Alan Eagle during their time at Google, they talk about the influence Silicon Valley super coach, the late Bill Campbell, had on them.  To listen, with humility and patience, to set people on the right path when they fall off it, and to always act in the best interests of the company, not for yourself.  It seems simple, but these traits are often forgotten, and vastly undervalued in the corporate world.  So while I keep coaching myself to be ‘more like Bill,’ I’ll leave you with a few smart words from the great man himself…

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Glen Duncan

27th September