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Check out our weekly blog posts and see the latest news and discussions happening in the HR world of business.

What To Do When Your Top Candidate Has A Competing Offer

You spent weeks, maybe even months, searching for the right person for the job. You interviewed countless folks who didn’t meet the mark, whittled it down to a few key contenders, and finally, all unanimously voted that you’d found your dream candidate. You excitedly call them up to learn that another company feels the same way as you, and now your dream candidate has not one but two offers on the table and needs to “think it over” before they can make this big decision.

Is there a way to salvage this offer? A formula for making them pick you over the other guy. Well, depending on who you ask, there just might be! 

Don’t dilly-dally: 
While we would never recommend that you speed through the hiring process, since that significantly increases your risk of making a bad hire, there is definitely merit in having an efficient and streamlined candidate evaluation system. Before even placing your help wanted ad, assemble the key decision makers for the hiring process, determine a timeline for a decision, and discuss any steps along the way where inefficiencies have occurred in the past. Perhaps you struggled to get all the interviewers to meet with a candidate on a single day and will need to troubleshoot solutions, such as doing a combination of zoom and in-person meetings, or maybe you need to prompt folks to provide feedback on candidates by sending out a survey as opposed to waiting for an organically written email to promote swifter responses (and thus expedite a decision!) 

Use your time wisely: 
Sure, when you’re conducting an interview you’re seeking to determine whether the candidate is a good fit for your company, but they’re also evaluating whether this is a company they even want to work for. With this in mind, you should use the entire hiring process, from the placement of the help wanted ad through to the extension of an offer, to present your company in the best possible light and make sure that your candidate finds this opportunity desirable. As we touched on above, your hiring process should be organized and streamlined to demonstrate that your company values these attributes and you should also make sure that you are showing the candidate how their skills and your needs match up throughout the process.

Be upfront and honest: 
There is nothing quite as frustrating as going through the whole job search process with a candidate, only to find out at the eleventh hour that their salary expectations or career goals simply don’t align with what you are willing or able to offer. To avoid this snafu, make sure you are having open and honest conversations from the start. We’ve noted before that putting a salary range in a help wanted ad, while may be viewed as crass by some old school HR folks, actually helps candidates to better understand whether they are qualified for the role and can do more to attract talent than it will to deter it. However, we should note that even if your salary expectations are far apart, the gap can be bridged for some employees if they feel the opportunity is worthwhile or it provides other desirable perks, such as a shorter commute or even a better benefits package, so make sure that you have a grasp of what is important to this employee and leverage this information to showcase your business. 

Understand the other offer: 
When a candidate has a competing offer, you can absolutely ask what the offer entails. Without being too invasive, inquire about the compensation and benefits package, but also ask questions about what they like about the competing company and the job opportunity. Ask if there are any sticking points or factors that hold more weight in their decision. If applicable, note how your company, or this position, addresses those concerns and help the candidate to see how your company may be better than the competing offer. If your salary is lower, for example, you can talk up the perks that you offer or the career ladder potential for the position. The experts note, however, that now is not the time to revise your offer unless you were low-balling them in the first place (which in and of itself is never recommended as it can cost you key talent!)  


Lay the groundwork: 
One HR expert suggests that you’ll be far likely to ever run into the competing offer scenario if you create a “passive candidate pipeline,” meaning that you collect the resumes of folks interested in joining your company without actually having a job opening and “shop” from that pool when the need arises. In considering these candidates first, you can be assured that your candidate is already interested in your company and that they already see the value in joining your business and thus are not likely to be entertaining multiple offers. Another excellent candidate pipeline avenue is that of employee referrals, as these candidates get the inside scoop on your company from their friends and you thus have an embedded source that can help with the hard sell should the need arise! 

Early offers:
A second scenario that also bears consideration is what to do if you’re still whittling down your own prospects and haven’t even made your final selection, but you find out one of your front runners has a competing offer. Rather than convince yourself you must make a decision immediately, experts actually recommend that you slow the process down all together.  After all, we know how costly a bad hire can be! Instead, take a look at each of the candidates in your pool and determine if the one with the offer is a true front runner at all or if there might be a better candidate in your midst. If there is a better candidate, or you truly weren’t sure if he or she was the right person for the job, having someone state that they are considering other offers can organically reduce your candidate pool and help you to refocus your efforts on those that are truly interested and potentially a better fit for the role.   In either scenario, should you lose out on what you believe to be your dream employee, don’t automatically shut off communications. Let them know that you remain excited about their candidacy and should they find themselves in the job market in the future, you would welcome the opportunity to sit down and chat about available openings. Keep their resume on file and plan to periodically check in with them to ask how the new job is going and certainly if your company lands a big deal or launches a new product that may be of interest to their career goals. Sure, you may have lost out on the star candidate now, but if you keep them on the radar you may be able to slot them into a new role not too far down the road.  

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