Close the Deal and Land the Candidate

When it comes to closing the deal and making a hire, a miss is as good as a mile. Furthermore, if you buy into John Sullivan’s philosophy that there is a war for talent (I certainly do), then be advised that losing a candidate you wanted to hire is a big loss. With this in mind, and in no particular order, here are 18 ideas to consider that will support closing the deal and making that critical hire.

  1. Be sure the candidate understands the position. This means that the candidate needs to know exactly what they will be doing, how it fits into the overall scope of work, and why it is important. This will not be accomplished by simply handing the candidate a position profile! Take the time necessary to explain the role the candidate is applying for very carefully.
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  3. Gather information. No one likes to be blindsided at offer time. Obtaining such basic information as:
    • Complete compensation history
    • When the candidate is up for their next review
    • Whether the candidate is interviewing at other companies
    • Whether the candidate has any other offers

    Possessing this information can save you from every recruiters nightmare: having a deal blow up at the last possible minute.

  4. Be sure the offer is right. Know what the candidate wants to accept the position and make an offer that is in alignment with their expectations. Companies that try to save a few bucks here and there by low-balling candidates and hoping for the best are pathetic.
  5. Chill, never grill. Grilling is for steaks and shrimp over hot coals. Interviewing is a process that is open, friendly, and probing. It should make the candidate feel valued. Never grill a candidate.
  6. Shoot for the perfect candidate interviewing experience. Please see my article, Make Believe They’re Coming to Your House. It tells the whole story.
  7. Create a career path. The best candidates want to know not just where they will be starting but where they can go if they do well. Give them this information even if they do not ask for it. If you make candidates see the possibilities, you have created a career path that will allow them to visualize their future. This is no small accomplishment.
  8. Explain the challenge. Every business has a challenge, whether its to gain more market share, to develop the next level of technology, or to lower costs. Lay out the challenge right upfront and get the candidate excited about being a part of the solution. This gives their work meaning and dignity.
  9. Generate excitement. Is your company a great place to work? If so, tell the candidate and tell them why. Whether it be softball games, flex time, pizza on Friday, free lattes, promotions based upon results, or just a group of smart and funny people that make you feel good — make sure the candidate knows what’s exciting about your company. If they can sense the excitement that brought you to the company, it will help them to see why they should be there as well.
  10. Communicate constantly. Keep the lines of communication open full tilt and let the candidate know what is happening. If there is a delay, for any reason, let the candidate know. Tell them what the next step is and when it will take place. Remember that a guessing candidate is not a happy candidate.
  11. Sell the opportunity. If you don’t present the position in its best light, why should the candidate have any interest in the job? Accentuate the positive and illuminate all of the great possibilities. Remember, a candidate is looking not just at the immediate benefits of a new position but also at the future possibilities.
  12. Take the candidate out to lunch. If you go to lunch only to eat, you are missing the point. Breaking bread is a centuries-old tradition that tears down walls and builds relationships as well as trust. You can learn a great deal more about what really makes a candidate tick over a quiet lunch than you can at all of the interviews that will ever take place.
  13. Take them on the tour. Very few candidates are given the nickel tour of the company or even the area in which they will be working. This ten-minute tradition is a great way to make the candidate feel valued and comfortable. Anything that adds to the candidate’s comfort level will support closing the deal.
  14. Understand what the candidate wants. The candidate is not there to make you successful in filling positions; they are there to further their own career. If you don’t know what the candidate wants in their next position, you can’t sell them on why this is the job for them. Ask them one simple question: “What is really important to you in your next position?”
  15. Remain flexible. Flexibility is the oil that lubricates deals. I once worked with a no-brain hiring manager who lost a deal over $500 a year. This will, after taxes, not even pay for a cup of coffee a day. Don’t let that happen to you. Remain as flexible as possible on any issues that will help to close the deal. Items you can possibly be flexible on include:
    • Doing some work from home
    • Professional development opportunities
    • The title for the position
    • Cubicle location
    • Start date
  16. Be a consultant. At the end of the day we must do what is best for our company as well as our candidate; anything less violates our fiduciary obligation to do what is right. As much as we need to sell, we also need to see that the fit is a good one. If it is not a good fit, pass on the candidate, tell them why, and then bring them into your network. You will both be better off for taking this action.
  17. Drive the process. Recruiting is a push business. If you want to be successful and productive, you need to push hard enough to make things happen. You can’t close a deal if you don’t have an offer in hand. Do all that you can to prevent hiring managers from procrastinating, because time kills all deals. In the end, it is often the recruiter who is blamed when hires falls apart.
  18. Develop a capture strategy. Please see my article How to Develop a Capture Strategy, as it outlines all that needs to be done in terms of planning and executing a great close.
  19. Be sure you have a plan B. No one was ever sorry that they had a plan B. This can be anything from creating a position for an industry star or lobbying for a consulting assignment until a requisition opens, to an offer letter with an extended starting date. It does not matter what your plan B consists of. All that matters is that you have one.

Please be advised that deals are closed and candidates are hired with a lot of skill and a bit of luck. In all probability, no single above-mentioned idea alone will make the difference. However, if utilized where appropriate, each one will help to provide you with a greater edge, create more momentum, and possibly tip the scales in your favor.

Howard Adamsky has been recruiting since 1985 and is still alive to talk about it. A consultant, writer, public speaker, and educator, he works with organizations to support their efforts to build great companies and coaches others on how to do the same. He has over 20 years' experience in identifying, developing, and implementing effective solutions for organizations struggling to recruit and retain top talent. An internationally published author, he is a regular contributor to ERE Media, a member of the Human Capital Institute's Small and Mid-Sized business panel, a Certified Internet Recruiter, and rides one of the largest production motorcycles ever built. His book, Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals/The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne McGraw-Hill) is in local bookstores and available online. He is also working on his second book, The 25 New Rules for Today's Recruiting Professional. See if you are so inclined for the occasional tweet. Email him at


2 Comments on “Close the Deal and Land the Candidate

  1. Howard, a good article and a refreshing new subject to discuss. (See I can agree with you……except the war bit of course)

    Passive candidates are far more likely to be the troublesome ones than active because it is unlikely they were looking to change their jobs when first approached.

    With that in mind, job acceptance is something that needs to be tested right from the very first conversation as part of the testing the counter offer process.

    We have lost 4 candidates this year who turned job offers down. Could any of them have been prevented? I’d like to think that they could could but I’m not so sure.

    If we are honest with ourselves, the signs are always there but if the candidate is keen to progress and the client is keen to interview, it would take a very brave person to pull the plug. We all hope that it will work out once they meet and often it does.

    I lost one 2 weeks ago who after 2 months of interviews, and a very good offer decided to turn it down. He just could not let go of the bonus he is likely to receive in January 2006, or rather his wife couldn’t even though the package was a lot better.

    This could be point 19. Find out if their partner is happy.

    If we ever get wind of the partner’s concern, we always try to speak to them when the candidate is not home. In this instance, we missed the signs.

    I have found the best action, and I guess plan B is to always have a backup candidate. As a seach company, we always have more than one candidate anyway and our personal goal on every assignment is to give our clients a problem of which candidate to choose.

    Of the four instances mentioned above, three have been filled within 2 weeks by the backup candidate.

    The latest one I hope will be the same. (famous last words).

  2. Remark about the potentially troublesome passive candidate:

    Yesterday a post (by Jason Davis) popped up on his recruiting website about the subject/it follows:

    Been At the Company Too Long

    I know I am going to get flack for this posting.

    I remember reading many years ago a recruiting book that said that as a recruiter, no matter what the skill set of the candidate, if that candidate has been at the same company for 10 years or more, you should take a red marker and draw a big x through it and throw it in the garbage. Pretty harsh eh?

    Well, I can say for the most part, the author of that book is right.

    You have to ask yourself

    1. Great Skills? – Yes
    2. Past opportunity to leave? – Probably
    3. Have they received an offer in the last ten years? – Probably
    4. Accepted a counteroffer? – probably
    5. Is this a good use of my time? – probably not

    Now, I am not saying that every candidate who has been at the same company for 10 years will prove to be a colossal waste of your time but for the most part, they will. Of course this does not apply to every candidate.

    How to combat this – Don’t try, your recruiting life is too short. Remember you (the recruiter) control your business or at least you should.

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