What's changed since the last time we spoke?

Why Ask This Question?

Simply stated, you should begin the candidate closing process with an assumption that if all the ingredients are there now that were there during the counteroffer role-play, then the candidate should accept your offer. If there is a change in plans on the candidate s part, now is the opportunity to share that with you. Again, the last thing you want to do is jump the gun and make an offer only to have it put on hold because of unforeseen circumstances. Controlling the offer process is, after all, the first thing that a candidate watches you do.

Analyzing the Response

Nine times out of ten, the candidate will respond that nothing has changed. In that case, you've got the green light to move forward. And again, you'll have pre-closed the individual via this conditioning process that you've been taking him through since your counteroffer drill.

On the other hand, if something has changed, like a sudden increase in responsibilities at the present company, a significant raise, or another job offer, or if the idea of relocating suddenly loses its appeal, then you re pushed back a step to the information-gathering stage that occurs in the counteroffer role-play. Find out what s changed, where the candidate stands on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of his interest in the position (see Question 89 in Chapter 16), and then go back to the drawing board to see if there is anything you could offer to fix the problem.

Red Flags

Beware candidates who suddenly request long time frames to come to a decision. Ideally, the candidate will have had enough opportunity during the multiple rounds of interviews to research your organization, speak with the key players in his area, and determine what your performance expectations are. As a matter of fact, the resignation drill purposely surfaces questionable issues so that these last-minute delay tactics are avoided. Of course, there may be a legitimate reason why a candidate needs an additional twenty-four hours to determine his course of action. But asking for more than twenty-four hours is unacceptable.

Candidates who request an additional week or more are usually waiting to hear from a different company about another offer! Putting you off is the only way to buy time to see whether they can generate the offer they really want. This is unfortunate timing for you because you re the backup job offer. If that doesn't hurt your feelings enough, keep in mind that, statistically, the chance of having your offer accepted, even if the individual s primary job doesn't come through, is marginal at best. People who tie their hopes to one job that ends up falling through usually decline the secondary job offer. That s simply human nature: Job number two most likely won t ever amount to the lost opportunities offered by job number one, reasons the candidate, so he passes on both.

How to Get More Mileage out of the Question. If you suspect that a candidate is stonewalling you in an attempt to wait for another offer, communicate your perceptions openly:

''Dennis, I've found that people who suddenly need more time at the finish line typically haven't gathered enough data to make an informed decision. What's holding you back from saying yes to our offer?''

If you get a vague response, probe further:

''Dennis, I want to start our relationship on the right foot, and I'd appreciate a candid response. My bet is you've got another offer on the table that might have more appeal to you than ours. If that's the case, I understand. Still, I'd like to know where we stand relative to your other offer.''

At that point, if your perceptions are correct, the candidate will admire your intuition and respond to your legitimate concerns. You'll learn what your chances are of landing this individual, and you can prepare either to wait out his decision or to line up other candidates.

Caution

What you don t want to do is attempt to convince the candidate at the finish line that your offer is superior. His focus is definitely on the other offer—otherwise you would have heard an ''I'll accept! already. So persuading him that you re better than his other suitor puts you at a disadvantage in the negotiation process: It will appear that you re begging as you shoot down the other company or try to resell your own. Again, by now, you've done all the selling you have to. Make a firm commitment to your own plan of action and respect the individual s right to plan his own destiny.

 
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