Offer with Confidence

How much thought goes into the salary you offer new candidates

Written by: Daniel Shaw
3 minute read
Image: Offer with confidence

How much thought goes into the salary you offer new candidates

and how can you be confident of making the right offer?

How many times has one of your recruitment processes come unstuck at the 11th hour because of salary? Maybe you’ve lost a candidate to another company’s offer, or maybe they just stayed put? And how many times have you really analysed what went wrong and why they didn’t accept?  

Have you considered that what someone earns in their job is more than just a number on a payslip? It’s a validation of their perceived worth and value in the eyes of their employer, and it can mean the difference between a happy and motivated employee, and a disgruntled and resentful one. Which one do you think will be excited about working for you and really give it their all to get results? 

The secret to securing a candidate’s acceptance can depend on several factors, but one of the key ones is certainly the money that they will earn. And there are two ways to approach this: the objective way that says “this is the fixed salary range and we will stick to it”, and the subjective way that says “what do we feel would be appropriate to offer this individual candidate and what evidence have we used along the way to reach this decision? 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the objective way is the wrong way. Money is not objective; it is highly and sensitively subjective. Every candidate you interview will come with a different set of personal and financial circumstances. Unless you dig into these during the interview process, you won’t know how to put together an offer that will appeal to them.  

So how can you arm yourself with the right information to attribute financial value to a role? Well, for starters ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do I know what my competitors pay for the same level role? 
  • Do I know how all my existing team feel about what they are paid for this level of role? 
  • When people leave my company, how often is salary cited in their exit interview as the driving reason? 
  • When offers are rejected how often is money the main reason it falls down? 

There are basic methods you can use to get the answers to these questions. For example, you can use a trusted recruitment agency to give you some market and competitor analysis around salary surveys so you can broadly benchmark the role in the wider market. You can conduct an internal anonymous survey to assess how your employees feel about their payslips. You can make sure exit interviews include probing questions about salary (people will be at their most honest when they have nothing to lose, and an exiting employee will be refreshingly honest with you if you ask in a constructive and honest way). And when candidates do reject your offer, you can ask if it was a financial decision or if other factors were at play. 

Visibility, transparency, honesty

If you don’t discuss money at the outset (see stage 4 of the employee journey), then you’re just ignoring the growing elephant in the process that will eventually squash your offer further down the line. This doesn’t mean pinning someone down to a number at the start, it just means sanity-checking that their expectations are in line with the number range you have outlined before you invite them in to interview.  

Being transparent about money –  along with all the other non-financial benefits that will make up a final offer –  is the best way to gauge how bought in your candidates are as they move through the process. If you’re looking for someone to grow and develop in the role, then tell them how their salary will grow and develop as well. When are the pay reviews, what were the average percentage rises for people at their level over recent years, what macro and micro factors play a part in those pay reviews etc. 

Be honest throughout, empathise with the candidates’ expectations on an individual basis, be clear about what is negotiable and what is fixed. After all, surely it’s better to lose them now than 3-6 months into the role? When people hear phrases like “market rate” and “competitive salary on offer”, what they are really hearing is “we’re not telling you yet” and that can sow mistrust and doubt from the outset. That’s very hard to unpick down the line.  

An offer is the prize at the end of the contest. Do you deliver it that way?

Job hunting is competitive for both candidates and clients alike. Now I’m not saying that an offer needs to be delivered with champagne and sparklers and an oversized check presentation, but making the candidate feel like they are special does go a long way. Hearing the financial offer should be a proud moment for them (we’re going back to the idea of validation at the start of this blog). Delivering the offer positively and with enthusiasm – coupled with a confidence that based on all your discussion to date the money is exactly on point – will build their emotional engagement from day one.