How to Land the Candidate with Multiple Job Offers by Tracy A. Cashman

Talented candidates, especially those with coveted skill sets, are often able to pick and choose from multiple offers. Companies that don’t sell themselves effectively or have long, drawn-out processes will ultimately lose out.

Talented candidates, especially those with coveted skill sets, are often able to pick and choose from multiple offers. Companies that don’t sell themselves effectively or have long, drawn-out processes will ultimately lose out.

So, you have identified the candidate you absolutely want to hire and you are about to make an offer. But you are up against a problem: Another company, or companies, are looking to land the same prospect. What should you do, especially when the job offers are indistinguishable in title, compensation, and benefits? How do you position and sell your organization’s offer – and your organization itself – to a candidate with multiple offers? The way your company recruits and manages the hiring process can impress a candidate and encourage that individual to choose your company over the competition.

Speeding Up the Interviewing Process

How can you speed up the interviewing process without sacrificing due diligence?

  • Since most of the candidates you are interviewing are already employed, try to schedule interviews before or after typical business hours whenever possible. The simple gesture of scheduling the interview for the candidate’s convenience can speak volumes.
  • If your candidate needs to meet with multiple representatives of your organization, try to combine some interviewers into groups to shorten the number of meetings. This scenario works well for senior executives interviewing with boards or for staff that will support multiple supervisors.
  • Instead of asking the candidate back multiple times, arrange the interview schedule so all meetings can be held in one day or a half-day. This will allow the candidate to minimize the time away from the current job.
  • Take your show on the road. Not all meetings need to be held at your office, especially first-round interviews. Although it’s very important for the candidate to see your facilities and staff first-hand, an initial screening interview can be held almost anywhere – at a local coffee shop, restaurant or hotel lobby.

Most candidates understand and even welcome the fact that they must meet several people at a company. Employed candidates, however, usually cannot come to your office for four separate interviews without arousing suspicion, or stay for four hours when they were told to allow two.  Candidates who are concerned about being missed at their current place of employment may be too distracted to put their best foot forward or to hear why they should work for you.

It’s important to be prompt when meeting a potential employee and, if there are multiple people on an interview schedule, to make sure that things are coordinated effectively. One of my candidates was kept waiting for 50 minutes by a senior executive because of scheduling confusion. As he had spent the better part of the morning at the potential employer and was due back at work, he was only able to give the interviewer 10 minutes. While the employer offered to reschedule, the candidate was so turned off that he turned down a second interview. By being flexible with interviews and considerate of your candidates’ time, you allow them to reduce the potential for raising red flags with their present employers. Candidates genuinely appreciate this consideration and will feel more positive about your company.

Positioning Your Organization: Setting the Groundwork for a Future Offer

Even if your role isn’t sales-oriented, you have to be a salesperson when it comes to wooing future employees! It is imperative to ensure that everyone on your internal interview team is on the same page and realizes the importance of selling the company and presenting a positive environment to potential candidates. They should be enthusiastic, timely, and prepared for the interview. All it takes is one interviewer who is disorganized, having a bad day, or imparts a conflicting message to leave a bad taste in a candidate’s mouth. Candidates want to hear honest answers to questions, but if someone in the group is known to be negative or comes across in a less-than-compelling fashion, consider whether that person can be left out of the process or coached to present more effectively. Everyone in the interview process must be able to speak knowledgeably, passionately and consistently about the company.

Because your ideal candidate may already be employed, it’s also important to know up-front why he or she is looking for a new position. In the initial stages of communication and interviews, ask questions to get a clear understanding of why the individual is choosing to leave his or her current position, and carefully document the reasons. This way you will know in particular how to position your organization in regard to the candidate’s likes and dislikes. After the official job offer is made, if your candidate seems hesitant to leave a current position or you learn that a counteroffer has been made, these reasons will be useful in reminding the candidate why he or she began looking for a new job in the first place and how your company can fulfill those needs.

Make sure that, in addition to going over the particulars of the candidate’s role, time is spent discussing the organization itself – its selling points, values, history and community involvement. As important as responsibilities, management style and opportunity for advancement are, it’s the intangibles of an organization’s culture that can be the deciding factor when a candidate is weighing options. Make sure informal benefits are known, too: reduced office hours during the summer months, telecommuting options for working parents, or morale-boosting social events, such as golf tournaments or company parties.

Negotiation Time

Once an offer is extended, speak openly to the candidate about the timing of negotiations and decision-making. If your interview process has had open, two-way communication, you should have a good idea whether your prospective employee has multiple suitors. When dealing with that situation, you want to achieve a balance of putting some positive pressure on the candidate while being understanding about the decision-making process he or she is experiencing. It’s reasonable to give a bit more time to a candidate who asks for it. During that period, however, the hiring manager and/or Human Resources should reach out to the candidate, offering to answer any questions and conveying how much the candidate is wanted.

The more personal contact you extend, the better – from delivering the job offer over the phone, to following up by making sure the candidate has received and understands the particulars of the written material. One client of mine sealed the deal by sending an offer letter to the candidate in a package with a company polo shirt; it immediately made the candidate feel she was a part of the team.

Candidates truly value open, direct communication and an appropriately timed process. As important as it is to expedite the hiring process, it should never move so fast as to overwhelm the potential employee or undermine an organization’s thoroughness. Conversely, taking too much time puts you at jeopardy for losing the ideal candidate to your competition. By putting forethought into the hiring process, you can ensure candidates will think well of your company, your organization will not be put at risk — and you’ll successfully hire the people you want!