Making Great Offers Without Much Money: Non-Monetary Offers

Many managers complain that during tough economic times it is difficult to give candidates the “big money” that it takes to get them to say “yes” to an offer letter. There is no need to fret however, because when you survey candidates about their job acceptance criteria, you often find that more than 50% of the weight goes to non-monetary aspects of the job. Unfortunately most compensation departments are clueless when it comes to making the non-dollar aspects of an offer appealing. What this should mean to the smart manager is that, whether you can give them the money or not, be sure to make the majority of the offer enticing by giving them what they want in the non-monetary areas. Identifying What They Want Great non-monetary offers focus on meeting the job acceptance criteria of each individual candidate. There are a variety of ways to identify what candidates really want. Some of these methods include:

  1. Asking them directly to fill out their own dream job sheet
  2. Doing a survey (or focus group) of candidates and employees to identify general “need” areas
  3. Showing them a list and ask them to force rank the top ones
  4. Asking those that reject (and accept) why and use it to modify your offers
  5. Asking new hires (candidates) why they quit their last two jobs

Elements of Non-Monetary Offers Non-monetary aspects of an offer may be grouped into 4 areas. They include:

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  1. The job itself
    • An opportunity to do “the best work of your life”
    • Choice of challenging projects
    • Spending a majority of your time doing what you’re good at/like
    • Promise of job rotations
    • A chance to supervise
    • Opportunity to take risks, make decisions, and stretch you brain
    • A chance to work with/on the latest technology
  2. Flexibility
    • Choice of schedule
    • Choice of team members or co-worker
    • Ability to work at home periodically
    • Approval authority
    • Opportunity for self management
    • Pick your own title
    • Offer opportunities for more pay based on results
    • Job sharing opportunities
  3. Other
    • Developing a plan to keep them on the leading edge of knowledge
    • A self-development plan
    • Opportunities to be mentored by a senior person
    • Lifestyle benefits
    • Showing them their work will “make a difference”
    • Opportunities for internal exposure and public recognition
    • Open access to company information
    • Give then the latest equipment/software
    • Opportunity for increased (or decreased) travel
    • Relief from control policies or procedures
    • Offer security and stability (a contract with a minimum term)
    • Offer to sponsor their Visa application
    • Offer their spouse/significant other a job
    • Outline where they can reasonably expect to be in two years
  4. Their manager
    • Offer a plan for honest, frequent two-way communication
    • Opportunities for being recognized and rewarded for their performance
    • Periodic meetings with management
    • Ask them how they like to be managed
    • Explain how you will treat them like a mature adult

Other Things To Do to Improve Offer Acceptance Rates

  1. Spend half of the interview selling
  2. Let only people with the best “sales” skills sit in on interviews
  3. Do post mortems (3 months later) to find out what part of the offer caused them to say yes and what they didn’t like about our offer
  4. Ask them if you are close, and what they need to close the deal, periodically during the process
  5. Estimate the cash value of “soft benefits” like relocation, educational assistance, etc. and educate them on their value
  6. Give your manager side-by-side comparisons of your firms offers compared to the leading competitors

Conclusion No one would argue that money doesn’t play an important part in offer acceptance. But smart managers utilize the non-monetary aspects of an offer to their best advantage. Most people are in jobs that contain large areas of tedium and the mundane. Use that as an opportunity to offer them a job that is significantly different than their current one. Talk with the candidate (or survey many) to identify what would really excite them and then have the courage to actually offer it to them. Yes, you are taking a risk by making bold offers (if you fail to deliver), but if you follow through you can increase offer acceptance by as much as 25% by adding non-money features. And by the way, if you have time, offer to restructure the current jobs of your top performing current employees…it may also lower turnover significantly! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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.



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