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At the end of the executive job interview process

Innovative Ways to Close the Offer

Dr. John Sulllivan

Here are some innovative ideas for closing a job offer:

* Find out about "family" needs. Find a way to talk to the spouse or significant other to discover and address their issues, providing the answer for your candidate to "take home."

* Have the CEO call before (or after) the offer. People want their job to make a difference. They want to be critical to the firm's success. However they frame it, they want to be where the focus is, and nothing sends that message more than the CEO's involvement. Not to sell, just to say, "This is on my radar screen (and therefore so are you)."

* Have an employee explain to the candidate why they like working at your company.

* Create an "unexpected" surprise. Offer something that wasn't discussed (or point out something discussed but not highlighted). For example, "By the way, facilities would want to talk to you about designing your team's space as early as possible. You'll be in the new building." Done only for effect, this will feel contrived. But done to truly create a, "Wow, that's cool!" response can work if you don't overplay it.

* Meet the candidate to make the offer in person. Sometimes, particularly when a person isn't sure if they are doing the "right thing" leaving their current situation (usually because of loyalty), setting a time and place where they feel comfortable to make the offer can send the right message. I only use this approach on candidates I sense want to come but are hesitant to leave friends and colleagues behind. Showing a sense of new collegial style and ability helps them believe it won't be hard to re-establish.

* Give positive feedback about their references. Especially as it relates to how well the references said, "Oh, that's a perfect position for this person". This is a subtle way to demonstrate that former (and often respected) bosses and coworkers believe in the match.

* "Negotiate" as a last resort. Set an agreeable tone even as you begin working on the elements of the package. Too often, the change of tone from "let's see what works" to "Okay, now let's get down to business" shakes the rapport established throughout the recruiting process.

* Most importantly...listen! Don't talk, don't sell, don't hype. Just ask how things are going "compared to your other alternatives," or, "How do you feel about where this is all headed?". I ask for "feelings" or "thinking" depending upon the candidate's approach to decision making (as I perceive it).

The bottom line: Identify needs, wants, and wishes from the very first contact, and help connect the dots between what is possible in your environment and those things. Make sure you believe it though; because if you don't, you're probably making bad placements — or working for the wrong firm.


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