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C
losing the deal—persuading the candidate to say yes to your job offer—is an exciting part of the recruitment process. It's also a crucial step; you don't want to lose the candidate you've worked so hard to land.

Recruiting experts and practitioners outlined the following tips to ensure that top candidates are eager to join your organization when the offer is presented.

[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Create an Offer Letter Without Contractual Implications]

1. Always Be Closing

Experts agreed that if there's any suspense about whether the candidate will accept the offer, you haven't done your job.

"That's a question that recruiters ought to have the answer to or have a high probability of knowing when they present the offer," said Stu Coleman, partner and senior managing director at WinterWyman, a Boston-based talent acquisition firm.

Catherine Jaeger, a talent acquisition manager and senior corporate recruiter at Walmart, said, "Closing a candidate really begins at the beginning of the process. The easiest way to close a finalist candidate is setting realistic expectations at the start."

From the initial conversation, Jaeger goes over the day-to-day duties of the job, as well as the benefits, compensation, schedule and anything else she can think of. "That's because I don't want to get [candidates] to the end of the process and have them not be interested or give them an offer they can't even consider," she said. "That's wasting their time and ours."

Rachelle Roberts, a senior recruiter at ICF, a management consulting firm in Fairfax, Va., said presenting the job offer shouldn't feel like a cold call. "You should know what they are looking for, what their concerns are, their 'magic number' for comp, the tipping point to get them over the line."

Coleman peppers the recruiting process with a series of pre-closing queries. "When you first present the position, ask what they think about it, how the role fits for them and how they see themselves adding value to the organization," he said. "Query them after each interview stage and ask how it went. Ask them throughout whether they can see themselves working there."

2. Be Transparent

Practicing transparency helps build trust between candidates and the organization so there aren't any surprises at the 11th hour, said Debbie Zoerkler, vice president at recruiting and staffing firm Top Talent Professionals in Ellicott City, Md.

"Be consistent throughout the process and make sure the offer letter outlines all expected salary and benefits, performance timelines, and all other critical information regarding the company and the position," she said.

Sarah Greer, a recruiter with Ruby Recruiting in College Park, Md., suggested, "When possible, bring the candidate in to meet the team and tour the office to give them a glimpse of the work environment and energy firsthand."

Katrina Collier, candidate engagement expert at The Searchologist consulting firm and author of The Robot-Proof Recruiter (Kogan Page, 2019), added that giving candidates the opportunity to ask questions, responding with the answers to those questions, alleviating any concerns and showing empathy will go a long way to "yes."

"If you do that during every step of the process and show that you're on their side, that you're their champion, closing should be a snap," she said.

It's stressful for candidates who are leaving their current employer, so the more positive the recruitment experience for them, the more likely they will accept your offer, Zoerkler said.

Jaeger compared the process to working with a realtor when buying a house. "People prefer to make a career move with someone they trust," she said. "If you're just having the initial conversation and then showing up again to make an offer, they won't feel comfortable with you or trust you."

3. Know Your Candidates

Greer said that engaging with candidates from the outset helps immensely when you reach the offer stage. "Find out what motivates your candidate and makes the job meaningful," she said. "Highlight the impact of the role in the organization or how it makes a difference in the world. People want to know that their work has purpose."

The hiring process allows recruiters to act like coaches or mentors, especially when talking to recent college grads entering the job market, Roberts said. "If you find out about their career-growth goals, you can inject that into the conversation and better sell the company."

4. Stay in Touch

Jaeger said that if communication is high during the process, recruiters will know if something significant has changed for the candidate. "If they got a promotion or changed their mind because of something in their personal life, you would already know about it, so there's no shock when it comes to an offer," she said.

She advised recruiters to check in often with candidates, follow up after interviews, confirm whether they still feel comfortable and excited about the opportunity, and go over any concerns they have. "Make the whole process less transactional," she said.

That includes checking in to let them know there is no news, Collier said. "It shows you haven't forgotten about them," she added.

5. Anticipate Obstacles

Collier noted that "you can do everything right throughout the process and still be shocked by a curveball at the end—the candidate can't get his kids into the school he wants, or the spouse refuses to relocate, or the current employer makes a counteroffer."

Coleman asserted that some candidates, when confronted with an offer, will come clean and reveal they are being considered by other companies or rethinking their move.

"You should cross out any avoidable obstacles beforehand by asking what their significant other or their family thinks about the opportunity, and about any other positions they have been interviewing for to head off a competing offer at the last minute," he said.

Finding out what candidates would do if their current employer makes a counteroffer is also important. "Ask them what they would do if [their employer] came back with more money, more responsibility, a better title," Coleman said. If they have been presented with a counteroffer, "remind them of the reasons why they wanted to leave in the first place and that it took announcing they were leaving to get that bump in pay or higher title."

Collier added that in some instances, you just have to bow out, and in these moments, it's important to be gracious.

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