editione1.0.8Updated August 24, 2022
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Many hiring managers and recruiters aim to have their offer acceptance rate be 70% or higher. You have hopefully built up enough trust and rapport with a candidate by now that you have some idea of what their answer will be—but how you go about extending the offer can be the difference between a yes! and a no, thanks.
This section was written by Jose Guardado.
Once the candidate clears evaluation, and you’ve identified the title, level, and compensation for your offer, you are ready to deliver it. But is the candidate ready to cut off all other interviews and accept your offer? It’s important to know your candidate’s timing preferences and constraints, specifically around competing offers. Coming in too early can hurt your chances, and coming in too late may preclude your ability to even compete.
importantTiming alone doesn’t usually win offers, but it can definitely lose them. A well-timed offer gives your company a chance to compete. It won’t guarantee success, but it can eliminate a guaranteed failure. Companies spend a lot of time and focus on the evaluation and assessment of talent, and once a candidate is determined to be a good fit, they rush to extend an offer. But they may or may not understand their candidate’s schedule or their own odds of success.
Jeff Markowitz, partner at Greylock, uses this method: ask the candidate on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being an absolute “yes,” how ready they are to accept the offer. If the answer is anything but 10, you know you have more work to do, and this is your opportunity to address concerns directly. Many managers won’t extend an offer if they do not have certainty it will be accepted.
An alternative to this timing technique that many hiring managers and recruiters use is the “quick offer”: making a decision and extending an offer to the candidate really quickly after the interviewing process (typically within 1–2 days, but sometimes even on the same day as the final interview). This can communicate confidence and capitalize on momentum, but if the candidate isn’t ready to accept right away, that excitement can wane.
A middle ground is to quickly let the candidate know that you are preparing to extend an offer, and that way keep the momentum going, but tell them you want to work with them to better understand their state of mind and propensity to accept so you can extend the right offer.
controversy When you extend an offer, should it have a deadline or an expiration date? There are differing schools of thought on using timing as a forcing function. Some believe a strict deadline creates urgency and improves the odds of acceptance. And, generally, the longer the elapsed time since an offer has been extended, the less likely it is to be accepted; time can kill excitement.
An exploding offer is an offer that expires if not accepted within a tight timeframe. Anecdotally, an offer is considered exploding if it allows the candidate less than a week to respond,* but the timeframe may be as short as one or two days,* or the offer may even require an immediate response.*
caution Deadlines can sometimes work, but arbitrary deadlines like those in exploding offers can be counterproductive.* They might force a candidate into a premature decision (premature rejections or acceptances are both bad). The pressure of deadlines can make the candidate feel anxious, or give them the impression that the company is behaving unfairly,* and other companies you are competing with might use this to undermine you. Avoid aggressive deadlines and unnecessary pressure around timing.
That said, you might need an answer within a certain timeframe. For instance, you may have limited headcount and need to know whether you should keep trying to hire (or extend other offers), or you may need to fill a role by a certain start date. If you have these types of practical necessities, using deadlines can make sense—you should explain these reasons to your candidate so that the deadline doesn’t feel arbitrary. It’s completely fine to say something like: “We think you’re a perfect fit for us, but we do have to fill this position and we do have other candidates in the pipeline, so we’d love an answer by next Monday. In the meantime, I’m happy to make myself and my team available to answer any questions to help you with your decision.”
caution Some candidates might try to take advantage of open-ended offers by stringing you along, consuming you and your team’s bandwidth even if they aren’t serious about joining your company. They could be indecisive, they could be shopping around for offers, or they could be just using your offer as leverage against another company’s offer. If you’ve been running your process properly, have a good understanding of the candidate’s situation, and are timing your offer delivery well, there’s not much more you can do to persuade them to make a decision. Candidates who aren’t serious shouldn’t receive an offer yet—or maybe at all.
There are a few other approaches we’ve seen work successfully to create a sense of urgency without arbitrary pressure. The first is to use a candidate-determined deadline. Ask the candidate how much time they think they need to reach a decision, and, if it’s reasonable, use that as the deadline. Another is to have a deadline, but agree mutually on when the deadline starts. For instance, tell your candidate that offers are a very precious thing for your company, and so they come with a one-week deadline, but let them choose when the clock starts ticking.
An additional technique is to offer an incentive (such as a sign-on bonus) to candidates who accept an offer within a certain timeframe. Remember to make sure incentives are structured, however—if you’re delivering sign-on bonuses arbitrarily or only to those candidates who appear to be fielding other offers, or whom you see as more competitive, a lot of bias can creep in.
After all the effort both your team and the candidate have put into the process, letting a candidate know they are formally getting an offer is a fun and celebratory occasion—second only to having the candidate accept that offer, then join and thrive at your company! We recommend you deliver the news in person if possible, or over the phone if necessary.
A common question, at this point, is who should deliver the offer, which can be unclear, especially if a hiring manager and recruiter have been partnering together on the process. Ideally, the hiring manager delivers the good news in person or over the phone. After all, they will be the one the candidate is likely working with and will be best equipped to build the candidate’s excitement about joining the team.
Here are a few things to do when delivering the offer:
Clearly state that you’re extending an offer. A lot of times, you might start by saying things like “the team really enjoyed meeting you” and “thank you for sitting down with us.” But keep in mind that common niceties like these are the same things you say to begin letting a candidate down politely. Don’t bury the lede or be anticlimactic! Keep it simple and straightforward: “We’re thrilled to offer you a position of Software Engineer at Acme Technologies.”
Convey your excitement about the prospect of them joining. If you need to pump yourself up, remind yourself of all the effort you’ve both put in so far, and think about how fulfilling it will be for you and how impactful it will be for your company if the candidate joins and succeeds. (If you’re having trouble doing this, it could be a sign you didn’t make the right decision, but it could also be coming from nerves that the candidate will say no.)
Give them specific, positive feedback from the process. You want the candidate to feel uniquely appreciated. Make it personal. You want them to think “these people really get me,” and not “these people designed a recruiting process that happened to spit out a decision to hire me.”
Build on the excitement. Translate your own excitement into the concrete reasons why you’ll be thrilled to see them in the position. Tell them about real challenges the team has been facing, why they are the person who can help meet them, and what they’d get to work on as soon as they join.
Ask them how they are feeling. Even if a candidate is clearly expressing some amount of happiness, dig deeper to try and get a sense of how close they are to accepting the offer and what questions they might still have. You can remind them of considerations they brought up earlier in the process and offer information that can help them or access to your team to answer further questions. For example, you could say something like, “I know when we talked earlier you had some questions about our product roadmap, so our Product Manager would love to hop on a call with you later this week to talk through that in more detail.”
Be aware of other decision-makers. For many couples, decisions are made together, or by a whole family. Changes in employment and livelihood can bring up strong emotions that cut to the heart of a family’s security and stability.
If you are a startup trying to close a candidate, you must understand how the family is evaluating risk and whether the spouse may be taking a lead role in determining that risk. Without being pushy or obnoxious, you can offer to help talk to the spouse. This can be particularly helpful and appropriate if the family has questions about complex things like equity, logistics and costs of moving from one city to another, and work-life balance at the company.
Check in on competing offers. Do they have other offers yet? Do they expect to receive other offers, and if so, when? It’s wise to get a sense whether getting more offers is essential to them, or are they willing to make a decision primarily based on this offer.
Provide a confidant for the candidate. If you haven’t already, make sure there is someone the candidate can talk to privately. There might be issues that a candidate is uncomfortable discussing with their future potential manager or teammates. These can include potential cultural conflicts, reporting structure issues, confidential information around health benefits, or even compensation. Often, the recruiter plays the role of confidant, though it could be a member of HR or a manager of a different team.
Go the extra mile. There are a few other ways you can add some extra care when you extend an offer. For instance, at some companies, the entire team will be on the call to break the news and show excitement (though after breaking the news, usually the team will step out so the hiring manager can have a more intimate discussion with the candidate). Other techniques include sending the candidate a gift basket with company swag.
Answer compensation questions. Explain to the candidate that you’ll be following up with a written offer letter, which will detail the candidate’s compensation and benefits package. If you know the candidate’s expectations, and feel like your offer will meet them, you could walk through compensation now.
Follow up. You want to stay top-of-mind, and be aware of any changes in the candidate’s status or thinking (for instance, new offers they get, or evolving decision-making criteria). After extending the offer, maintain regular contact. You don’t want to be pushy, but strong lulls in communication are your enemy here. Try to aim for a touchpoint every 2–3 days. It might seem like a lot, but you don’t want to be caught surprised by the news of them signing another offer. Simple emails or short calls will do to stay top-of-mind.
caution For a lot of companies, as soon as the offer is formalized, they may feel a shift in power dynamics. While throughout the process it may have felt to them like they held more cards than the candidate, once an offer has been extended, suddenly the candidate has more power. If you feel this strongly at this stage, the way you run your process needs work. It could be that you aren’t doing a good job getting the candidate excited about joining earlier in the process, that you aren’t invested in the realities of the technical hiring market, or that you have not focused on the candidate’s perspective throughout the process. If you’ve made the entire process a two-sided evaluation, there’s little in the way of a “power inversion,” even if technically you are waiting on the candidate’s decision.
An offer letter is a formal, written document inviting a candidate to join a company and outlining key details about the terms of that employment. A typical offer letter includes the candidate’s job title; who they will be reporting to (name and/or position); compensation information (base salary, equity, bonus if offered, et cetera); a summary of their benefits; the start date; and how long the offer is valid for. A company may wait to send an offer letter until the company and the candidate are already close to agreeing on the offer’s terms.
It’s standard practice to send a formal offer letter via email. It’s a good idea to use a template for this, and some recruiting tools can help automatically generate these letters. It’s also a good idea to make sure that all offer letters are reviewed by a few pairs of eyes before they go out—this isn’t the time for a typo (especially on compensation or title).
Also check with your legal counsel to confirm you’re presenting all the necessary details properly (an offer letter is not a legal contract* but it should be consistent with the ultimate employment contract). In general an offer letter should include the following:
Description and title
Reporting information, including full-time or part-time status
Compensation (salary and stock/equity details, if applicable)
Any conditions such as background checks
Benefits and eligibility, including:
Paid time off
Flexible spending accounts
Flexible work hours
Work from home options
An acceptance deadline, if applicable
Acknowledgement of offer and confirmation of acceptance
Most ATS tools support creating and sending offer letters, and here are some templates or other resources that can help generate them:
Earlier we explained how providing equity compensation can be a great way to incentivize and reward potential and existing employees, especially for startups. But understanding the value and purpose of equity can be really difficult and often intimidating to candidates and the managers tasked with explaining equity to them. It’s worth dedicating special attention to equity when communicating an offer.
Make sure the candidate is sold on the future of your business. If you’re an early-stage startup, it is not possible to know how much a share of the company will be worth or how long it will take for ownership to become valuable. The candidate needs to believe in the future of the company for an equity package to be enticing; hopefully, they believe the company will be more likely to succeed when they join the team. And hopefully, you have been working on this throughout the process, but if the candidate still has concerns at this stage, you, your team, or even your investors can help make sure they believe in your company.
Next, help them understand the basics of equity compensation. You can refer to the Holloway Guide to Equity Compensation as needed.
Work through what the equity you are offering could be worth in different scenarios. One technique we’ve found that works well is to have a spreadsheet that you can use with candidates to play these scenarios. How is the value of their equity determined now? How many shares are they getting, and how many shares are outstanding? What is the vesting schedule and, in the case of stock options, what is the exercise price and window? How much might all the equity be worth if the company ends up going public or getting acquired at different valuations? This can help them understand, concretely, what the equity you are offering could be worth.
Equity calculators like Front and Salary or Equity can be used to help walk a candidate through the equity portion of their offer.
Once you’ve made an offer, you should be prepared with a strategy for negotiations and an understanding of how much—if anything—you are willing to negotiate.
danger You want to avoid zero-sum negotiating with a candidate, where each party feels they need to “win” a negotiation. How much you pay someone or what role and title they have should closely reflect their likely value to the company rather than their willingness and ability to negotiate. These types of negotiations, especially if they vary depending on candidate behavior, create a risk of pay inequity and unfairness for everyone. Research shows that the pay gap that disadvantages women and underrepresented people is due in part to how negotiations are handled, the behaviors expected of underrepresented candidates in negotiations, and the pressures they often face throughout the hiring process.
caution Your intention when negotiating might be to try and make things work for the candidate because you value them. But negotiations can send implicit signals that can lead to distrust. By negotiating, are you implying that you don’t actually know how to value the candidate? Or that you do, but are trying to underpay them? Both of those signals can be dangerous in the relationship between a future employee and the company.
controversy Liz Davidson argues that refusing to negotiate salaries is one of the best ways to close the pay gap. If your company has decided not to negotiate salaries, make that clear to the candidate early. Some companies, like Reddit and Clover, have tried a clear “no salary negotiation” rule—this can be a relief for some candidates who would otherwise be stressed about finding the balance between negotiating too hard or not hard enough. But you have to really commit to it. A no-negotiation policy can also be discriminatory if you’re not careful. If you tell candidates that you don’t negotiate, but then allow for exceptions with candidates who are outspoken enough to negotiate anyway, the end result could also be that you end up paying unfairly.
Some companies allow some room for candidates to negotiate, but will increase the compensation of candidates who don’t negotiate to the same level as those who do after offer acceptance.
A common refrain among companies is that they have to allow negotiations because negotiating offers is so pervasive in the industry. Some of these companies even lower the offers they extend by some margin to account for that negotiation (this is sometimes known as “low-balling”). We don’t think “everyone’s doing it” is a good argument when it comes to practices that can lead to unfair outcomes. Instead, consider the following:
As a company, do your research, survey the market, and really understand the market for compensation. Have an opinion on what’s fair, and a way to map roles to compensation, and make sure that your hiring process is mapping people to the right roles and the right levels.
Be as transparent as you can with candidates about your compensation philosophy. A good rule is: are there any pieces of information this candidate might discover in the future that would cause them to feel unfairly treated, bitter, or resentful? The industry is trending toward more transparency around pay,* and the cost of paying all of your employees fairly is miniscule compared to the trust you can lose if you don’t.
Be thoughtful about when and how you first discuss compensation, and make sure you understand the candidate’s needs and preferences.
Use equity as a lever when possible, especially for startups. Explain the value of equity clearly. As discussed in our section on compensation, you might allow candidates to trade between equity and cash, depending on their needs.
It’s normal to have practical needs around income and compensation, but mostly, people just want to be compensated fairly. You and a candidate working together to find creative ways of making things work will feel very different than an adversarial negotiation.
caution Although you want nonconfrontational negotiations, also be wary of judging candidates for negotiating hard Judgements like “They’re being too aggressive,” are often themselves applied with bias.
Studies have shown this influences the gender and Black-white pay gaps.**
If you’ve done all of the above, and you have a concern about how a candidate conducts themselves in a negotiation, it’s best to get feedback from others present in the room. Does this indicate something about their personality, their values, or their priorities that you missed earlier, or are they simply being reasonable but firm negotiators? Ultimately, even if you are fair, transparent, and disciplined about your compensation, you will still find situations where there is a gap between what you offer and what the candidate is willing to accept (or what another company is offering them). Try to understand whether there is a problem with your compensation framework, whether a competing offer is off the mark, or whether you’re looking at a candidate with a unique situation. If it’s the latter, be aware of the cost of bending the rules for exceptional cases. Is this candidate truly exceptional and worth bending the rules for, or are you simply bending them because they are a good negotiator? Are there other creative ways you can find that can fulfill the candidate’s needs, without jeopardizing the integrity of your compensation structure?
If you’re caught in a situation with a candidate who has (what you believe to be) a disproportionately high competing offer, be careful about how you proceed. These battles are tough to win. If you attempt to match the competing offer and end up winning the candidate, you might end up doing more damage to the fairness and integrity of your incentive system—is this employee now being paid a lot more than his colleagues at the same level? You may want to ask why they think the competing company feels like they need to compensate candidates so disproportionately, but be careful about undermining their other offer. Don’t be petty. (Perhaps the candidate believes your offer to be disproportionately low.) If the candidate is considering a high competing offer, you can ask them how important compensation is to them (even if you’ve discussed it already), with the goal of figuring out if there are other areas where adjustments that matter to them could be made instead. If you don’t have the funds to offer a higher salary, are there benefits that could be afforded them, or a higher percentage of equity with an adjusted vesting schedule?
candidate Before accepting any job offer, you’ll want to negotiate firmly and fairly. You’re planning to devote a lot of your time and sanity to any full-time role; help yourself make sure that this is what you want.*
It’s perfectly natural to be anxious about negotiations, whether you’re going through this process for the first time or the tenth. There is a lot at stake, and it can be uncomfortable and stressful to ask for things you need or want. Many people think negotiating could get the job offer revoked, so they’ll accept their offer with little or no discussion. But remember that negotiations are the first experience you’ll have of working with your new team. If you’re nervous, it can help to remind yourself why it’s important to have these conversations:
Negotiations ask you to focus on what you actually want. What is important to you—personal growth, career growth, impact, recognition, cash, ownership, teamwork? Not being clear with yourself on what your priorities really are is a recipe for dissatisfaction later.
If you aren’t satisfied with the terms of your offer, accepting it without discussion can be tough not just for you but for your new company and colleagues as well. No one wants to take on a hire who’s going to walk away in just a few months when something better comes along. For everyone’s sake, take your time now to consider what you want—and then ask for it.
The negotiation process itself can teach you a lot about a company and your future manager. Talking about a tough subject like an offer is a great way to see how you’ll work with someone down the road.
A Guide like this can’t give you personalized advice on what a reasonable offer is, as that depends greatly on your skills and experience, the marketplace of candidates, what other offers you have, what the company can pay, what other candidates the company has found, and the company’s needs. Negotiations are full of pitfalls and unconscious bias, and they work differently company to company. All candidates should take the time to understand their worth and the specific value they can add to a company, so that they are fully prepared to negotiate for a better offer if need be.
Do you have the right expectations? Have a good understanding of what you want and need (in cash and/or equity, as well as benefits), based on your personal situation and on market rates. You can use tools like Glassdoor to research typical compensation for your role or company (though of course, companies can have very different compensation philosophies).
Having offers from other companies can also help you understand market rates and provide negotiation leverage, if needed. Candidates with competing offers almost always have more leverage and get better offers. If you don’t have any other offers, Levels.fyi is a great tool for understanding industry standards. You can also get this information from mentors and peers from your industry.
What’s the company policy? Find out the company’s policy on compensation and negotiations, by asking them directly and double-checking by doing research. First, decide whether you agree with those policies. Are they fair? Are they thoughtful? Do they change your perception of the company? If they do negotiate, the usual advice on negotiations applies. If they don’t, at least you’ll have certainty that you’re not being taken advantage of.
Is this a startup? Salaries at startups are often a bit below (or a lot below) what you’d get at an established company, since early on, cash is at a premium. For very early-stage startups, risk is higher, offers can be highly variable, and variation among companies will be greater, particularly when it comes to equity.
The dominant factors determining equity are what funding stage a company is at and the role you’ll play at the company. If no funding has been raised, a higher percentage of equity to cash may be required. Once significant funding of an A round is in place, most people will take typical or moderately discounted salaries. Startups with seed funding lie somewhere in between.
Many companies will give some leeway during negotiations, letting you indicate whether you prefer higher salary or higher equity.
Am I being treated fairly? Hopefully, the company is working hard to ensure that all candidates are given equal treatment in the hiring process, but inequalities may persist. Workplace disparities in pay and opportunity span race and gender, with research focusing on inequality in the U.S. workplace, the technology industry, and executive leadership and its well-documented lack of diversity. In negotiation itself, gender bias is an issue, where women are often made to feel that they shouldn’t ask for what they deserve. According to research at MIT Sloan, there are a number of discriminatory practices in negotiations that have contributed to the Black-white pay gap. If you believe you are being unfairly discriminated against in an offer negotiation, Time offers a number of options for recourse.
contribute We hope to provide more resources for those experiencing discrimination in negotiations soon. Please reach out if you have anything to contribute!
Harvard Business Review has a useful set of negotiation tips for candidates.
Our Guide to Equity Compensation has additional coverage of negotiation for companies and candidates.
You don’t have to feel powerless after you’ve made an offer as you’re waiting for a response. In addition to maintaining contact with the candidate, there are several things the company can do while the candidate is deciding.
Once a candidate is close to the finish line, you need to pull in all the resources you can. You should by now have an understanding of what might be holding the candidate back from making a decision. What questions remain unanswered for them? What doubts do they have? Facilitate discussions with your team, if a candidate:
Has questions about the role. Have them talk to peers in similar roles.
Is curious about culture. While we’ve discussed the dangers of “culture fit” from the company perspective, it’s more than likely that a candidate will want to feel like they will be empowered and accepted at a company. If they’re uncertain or just curious about the culture at a company, can they spend more time with the team? Maybe join a team lunch, dinner, or even a meeting?
Is worried about other practical considerations. If they have concerns around the commute, moving, finding daycare, et cetera, offer to help think things through. Connect them with other teammates who have been through a similar experience. For instance, if they are concerned about a move, connect them with a teammate who recently made that move; if they’re worried about finding and affording daycare or schools in a new location or working childcare into the demands of the position, connect with someone who can offer help—note that at a larger company, this person might be in human resources.
Is unsure about the company’s prospects. Have them talk to someone on the business side, or, for startups, the founder or one of the investors. This has the simultaneous effect of showing them that you value them enough to pull in busy, senior people.
Is worried about compensation. Help them work through the math. This can be especially useful for candidates who are relocating to an area with different costs of living. They might be worried about expenses, but once they break down the numbers, they might realize that things are not as scary as they seem. Alternatively, your candidate might be teaching you something about the practicality of your offer. Listen closely to their concerns, and you might revisit the offer. If their concern is around equity, help explain the equity part of their offer to them, and send them a link to our free Guide to Equity Compensation.
Of course, this all takes a tremendous amount of effort from you and your team, and it should. No matter what you do, you will sometimes lose candidates and it might feel like that time was wasted. But if a candidate joins the team without getting all their questions answered, they can end up leaving quickly, which is an even bigger risk than having people drop out of the process later. If a candidate is genuinely qualified and seriously excited about your company but needs some assurances or guidance, you should pull out all the stops.
A candidate may be fielding offers from other companies.
danger One way some companies make their offer appear more attractive is undermining a candidate’s competing offers (or current job). Bad-mouthing other opportunities might work with some candidates, but usually comes across as petty, or worse. It’s better to ask a candidate questions that get them thinking than to directly undermine a competitor. When possible, repeat back to them things they had mentioned in the past. For instance, if you’re a startup going up against a larger company, you can ask them something like: “When we talked earlier in the process, you had mentioned that you care most about learning opportunities and personal impact. How does that factor into your current decision-making?” In addition to sounding a lot more authentic and a lot less rude than direct attempts to influence their thinking, you may discover pieces of their decision-making that you didn’t know about before.
story “Once, I was trying to hire a new grad for a startup, but the candidate was leaning toward joining Microsoft because the offer had higher cash compensation. Upon digging into the candidate’s situation, it became clear that his heart was really with the startup. But, he was about to graduate, wanted to fly his father from Europe to attend his graduation, and didn’t have the cash to afford it. We offered to cover the cost of his father’s trip, and the candidate signed.” —Zack Isaacson, Partner, Sweat Equity Ventures
startup Trying to compete with big, established companies as a startup is challenging for a number of reasons, especially when it comes to compensation packages. TripleByte offers a few suggestions for unique aspects that startups can offer, which may come in handy if you’re trying to close with a candidate who is interviewing or currently works at Google-scale companies.
Once your offer has been made, even after the candidate has verbally accepted it, you can expect further competition from their existing employer or other companies, who will scramble, sometimes desperately, to counteroffer—that is, to give them an even better offer now that they know the candidate has options.
important To guard against a counteroffer from their existing employer, it’s important that you strengthen your candidate’s resolve before they accept your offer by preparing them for the counteroffer. Explain that most employees who stay at a company because of a counteroffer end up leaving in a few months anyway; the underlying issues rarely disappear. Do they really want to be at a company that only gives them what they want when they’re on the brink of leaving?
Similar advice applies for counteroffers from other prospective employers. Remind them why they chose your company, and explain that if a company only reveals a really good offer after they’ve lost a candidate, that probably speaks to their overall culture and attitude and how much they value the candidate.
candidateOnce you decide to accept an offer, be sure to respond quickly and in writing. The Balance Careers provides detail on what to include and a few sample templates.
Having a candidate accept an offer should be a cause for celebration, both for you and for the candidate. For you and your team, it’s a culmination of countless hours expended on finding, evaluating, and convincing a candidate to join you. It’s worth taking a moment to celebrate and reflect. Many managers send team-wide celebratory emails announcing an offer acceptance.
caution However, it’s a common mistake to assume that once a candidate has accepted an offer verbally or by signing a document, your work is done. In reality, the period after accepting can be critical. A lot of candidates can experience acceptance remorse.
Acceptance remorse is a sense of regret that candidates may experience after agreeing to join a company. For some candidates who experience acceptance remorse, it may not set in until they actually start working.* For others, it can start as soon as they’ve said yes.*
Not all candidates will experience acceptance remorse, of course, and you have some control over whether it happens. Unnecessarily rushing a candidate into responding to an offer is a good way to have them feel some amount of regret or trepidation, as is refusing to be transparent about things like compensation. From this point on, the best way you can help the candidate avoid acceptance remorse is by expressing your excitement, answering questions, and keeping up momentum—but in a chill way.
First, find a way to celebrate their acceptance. Your immediate reaction to them accepting your offer should be really positive. Some companies encourage a candidate who has verbally accepted an offer to come in and sign the offer letter in person, in the presence of (the obviously ecstatic) team. You can have teammates reach out to them and express their excitement about them joining. It can also be fun to invite them to a team lunch, dinner, or activity.
Maintain regular contact until they start their new job. Don’t drop off the face of the planet between the offer acceptance and start date.
Make sure to put the new employee in touch with someone at HR (or whomever handles paperwork and logistical questions). Especially if there is a relocation involved, help your new employee with these challenges by introducing them to the people they need to talk to, without them having to ask.
Give them updates about the team. Tell them about the exciting upcoming challenges and projects your team is facing, why you believe that they are going to be able to help the team meet those challenges, and the work they will be ramping up on when they start. Make it as real and visceral as possible.
Keep some balance, of course, since they want a chance to unwind in between jobs, and you don’t want to overwhelm them or stress them out. But some people may be so excited that they ask you for advice on how to prepare. Do you have books you and the team all love that you can recommend, or perhaps internal manuals to help them ramp up? Both fun and practical options can work here. Having something in mind to offer them can help the new employee feel engaged with the company even before their first official day, while still getting to relax before it all begins.
Before going into the specifics of why people take certain jobs and how to build a value proposition for your company, it’s useful to have a basic understanding of a few models of decision-making.
The first idea to understand is that people are not always strictly rational. As much as this affects you when making hiring decisions, it also affects job-seekers. You might unfairly reject a candidate who doesn’t “feel right,” but it’s a legitimate part of the recruiting process to try to appeal to both the hearts and minds of candidates.
If you’d like a more formal basis for the psychology of decision-making, the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman breaks our thinking processes down into two “systems.” System 1 operates fast and automatically using heuristics and emotions, but is prone to mistakes and biases. System 2, on the other hand, is slower—it is more deliberate, rational, and requires conscious effort. But System 2 is also prone to behaving irrationally. For instance, System 2 is really good at crafting “after-the-fact” stories to justify System 1’s conclusions (this is known as confabulating, and there have been interesting scientific experiments to demonstrate its startling power).