Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part 2 of 2

It seems that nearly every recruiter, at some point in his or her career, has been forced to present an offer that was an insult to the candidate and an embarrassment for the recruiter.

In the first part of this series, I addressed actions that can be taken prior to initiation of the recruiting process and in the initial stages of the recruiting process. Now my attention will turn to actions that can be taken during the offer phase of the recruiting cycle and a listing of non-monetary offer components that often don’t receive the focus they should.

Things to Do During the Offer Stage

The way you design the offer stage of the recruiting process can have a dramatic effect on offer acceptance. Some things to consider include:

  • Offer them a salary re-opener. A salary re-opener three or six months after they start is a powerful tool. The reason that this works is that neither they nor you can really know how good they are until they actually start work.
  • Make the offer in person. Anyone who understands psychology knows it is harder to turn a request down in person than over the phone. In addition, it’s easier to make arguments that overcome their concerns or to ask for more time when offers are made in person.
  • Same-day offers. If you do a good job exciting the top candidate during the interview process, it’s a good idea to make the job offer before they walk out the door. After they go home, they have more chances to hear negative feedback from colleagues, friends, and family, as well as to receive other job offers or counteroffers from their current boss. Some even offer “exploding bonuses” to spur action, which decrease in amount the longer an applicant “mulls over” the offer.
  • CEO calls. The single-most successful offer closing tool is having a CEO call and ask them to “join us so that you and I build this company together.” A passionate and personalized call from a senior executive (generally someone they didn’t meet) works almost without exception. A handwritten note from the CEO attached to the offer letter is also a nice touch.
  • Coworker calls. Having employees ask the candidate directly to “join the team” can be compelling because it shows that their peers “want” them. The request should be done relatively soon after the final interview and with some level of excitement. Sometimes a phone call right after the offer is actually received can also be effective.
  • Influence the influencers. Improve your chances of getting family support by sending them information about the company. Sometimes a simple gift or a sample of the company’s products sent to the home will also make a difference. Talking to references and mentors about the positive aspects of the company and the job can also help improve your acceptance rates.
  • Total comp? Be careful when you throw around the term “total compensation” because to many candidates, that’s a red flag meaning that they’re not going to get to take home pay that they really want. If, however, you offer benefits, relocation, performance bonuses, stock options, or other things that do have significant economic value, make sure that repeating them is part of the offer process.
  • The offer-letter format. Another reason why offers are rejected is the form and format of the offer letter itself. Letters with a lot of fine print are turnoffs. Letters that leave out key “promises” that were verbally discussed during interviews will invariably frustrate the candidate.
  • Post-deal information gathering. Getting a candidate on board is not the end of the offer process. Identify what went right, lessons learned, and what went wrong. After a delay, ask candidates who rejected your offers “why” and ask the candidates who accepted what factors led to acceptance. Also, give each of the finalists, the manager, the recruiter, and the new hire a satisfaction questionnaire to identify where during the process they were treated well and where they were not.
  • Make them a great “non-monetary” offer. Sometimes a title, working at home, a dress-down atmosphere, the opportunity to work on a “wow” project, great equipment, rapid learning, the fact that you are a “green” and socially responsible firm, or that you provide an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives is more powerful than money.

Elements of Non-Monetary Offers

While few studies exist to determine whether the emphasis placed on compensation during recruiting is candidate or employer driven, a number of studies do prove that consideration is given to a multitude of others factors, few of which have been formalized by organizations as a component of the employment offer.

Article Continues Below

Non-monetary aspects of an offer can be grouped into four categories:

1. The Job Itself

  • An opportunity to do “the best work of your life”
  • Choice of challenging projects
  • Spending a majority of time doing what the candidate is good at/ likes
  • Promise of job rotations and stretch assignments
  • A chance to supervise or lead
  • Opportunity to take risks, make decisions and stretch their brain
  • A chance to work with/on the latest technology

2. Flexibility

  • Choice of schedule
  • Choice of team members or co-workers
  • Ability to work at home periodically
  • Opportunity for self management
  • Chance to pick their own title
  • Opportunities for more pay based on results
  • Job-sharing opportunities

3. Their Manager

  • A process for honest, frequent two-way communication
  • Opportunities for being recognized and rewarded for their performance
  • Periodic meetings with management
  • Personalized motivation
  • An opportunity to make decisions
  • An individualized learning plan to keep them on the leading edge of knowledge
  • A self-development plan or budget

4. The Company

  • A firm that is socially responsible and environmentally friendly
  • A well-respected product
  • A focus on innovation and risk-taking
  • Opportunities to be mentored by a senior person
  • Work/life balance opportunities
  • Opportunities for rapid internal movement
  • Showing them their work will “make a difference”
  • Opportunities for internal exposure and public recognition
  • Open access to company information
  • Opportunity for increased (or decreased) travel
  • Job security and stability
  • Opportunities to sponsor their work visa application


Having to present offers that are going to be perceived negatively on their financial merits alone is an experience that recruiters have always had to endure, and one that will likely continue, but it doesn’t have to impact your offer acceptance ratio.

Organizations need to become more adept about making offers in a way that doesn’t focus the attention on compensation to begin with. Hopefully, you will find elements in each stage presented here beneficial.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



1 Comment on “Increasing Offer Acceptance Rates When Your Company Pays Crummy Wages, Part 2 of 2

  1. Dr Sullivan,

    Where were you during the 8 years I was a recruiter? This was a major hurdle for many of the positions I recruited for (due to many and various reasons). I came up with a few of the solutions you recommended, but having all of these would have made a big difference in my ability to get the BEST candidate every time. I’m saving this article, and will recommend it to the clients that I train. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *