How to make a graduate a job offer that they can't refuse
You found the perfect graduate intern. They're intelligent, have great academics, an interest in the world of startups (and your startup in particular), and maybe even a chunk of relevant work experience. The only problem is that another company has a keen eye on this person too - perhaps more than one company - and maybe graduate recruitment agencies involved too (usually well-versed in ensuring their candidate accepts a job offer!). The last card that you'll likely be able to play is the job offer itself. Convincing, personal, and welcoming are all the things a job offer should be to get the grad you want, but how do you achieve this?
Here are the main things to think about:
1. Work out the details
This step is probably something you'll have thought about earlier in the process (perhaps before the interview stage), however, some companies prefer an ad hoc approach to hiring and you might not have the details set out yet. Before making an offer to a graduate, you'll need to decide on the specifications of the role and be clear about what they would be doing at your company. The details in a job offer need to include: position title, salary, start date, length of probation period, any benefits, any conditions the offer is subject to, and the requirements of the role itself. Being clear about these points before offering the job to a graduate will mean that they can base their consideration of the role on the facts of the employment. If they have any questions later, you can then be certain that you can answer them clearly to continue their good impression of your company.
2. Be prepared for a negotiation
Once you've decided on the details of the offer, you should work out what you'd be willing to negotiate on. Is the salary final or is there any wiggle room? Are there conditions of bonuses that can be altered if necessary? It’s also worth bearing in mind offering a quick, guaranteed salary review (after 3-6 months, say) can counteract a candidate’s concerns over the initial basic. Negotiating can be a headache, but the process is easier if you come up with concrete certainties from the outset – rather than going back and forth and regretting the final decision later. The difference between offering £19,000 and £20,000 seems negligible but can actually make a huge difference - purely for psychological reasons. If you need to brush up on your negotiation skills, read up on BATNA and see how you can narrow down yours.
3. Do it over the phone
The key to getting in there before other companies lie in how you deliver the job offer. A phone call is immediate, personal, and more straightforward than an email. You'll be able to discuss the terms straight away and establish whether the grad is interested in accepting. If they don’t seem as enthusiastic as you'd like, don’t be too concerned – graduates are more likely to be tentative about offers as they are early on in their career path. On your end, you have the go-ahead to be as enthusiastic as you like – make them know how much they would mean to your company and the value that you'd place on their professional development. You want them to know that it’s them and their skills that you want – not just the first person who seemed vaguely up for the job.
4. Send it in writing
The next step is putting the job offer into a document and sending it over to your candidate. Make sure everything is easily understood and incorporates everything you might have discussed on the phone. If the offer is on the condition of reaching certain requirements, such as a grade on leaving university or subject to references checking out, then make this obvious in the letter and invite them to get back to you if they have any queries. While the tone of the offer letter must contain a level of professionalism, there are no hard and fast rules that say you can’t inject a bit of personality into it. As with everything in the startup world, a small gesture like a friendly attitude in your offer letter can go a long way towards showcasing your difference from a traditional corporate company – let them know that you do things differently and are ready to welcome them into an inclusive and positive office.
5. Follow up
You'll want to follow up to check that the candidate has received your document. This can either be via the phone or email, but don’t wait too long to send it. While you don’t want to pester them while they make their decision (standard practice is to give a candidate a couple of days to mull things over), there is no harm in sharing that you'd like a swift answer in order to get things moving and make them part of the team. A follow-up chat is also a good chance to find out if they have any last qualms about the position and see if there's any way that you can make your company the better option over their other offers.
Once you have the ‘yes’ that you were looking for you can begin to look forward to their first day. Hopefully, at the end of this process, your new employee will feel genuinely valued by your team and excited to start. As the weeks go on you should continue to check in on your newbie to ensure that everything matches up with their expectations. As you refine and improve your hiring process, bringing the brightest candidates onboard will eventually feel easy!
Need help with the hiring process? BrighterBox connects grads with great startups in London - we can help you make great offers to great candidates. How great does that sound?
*Editor's note: This blog was originally published in 2017 and has since been updated.