Salary & Benefits

No Deal: Let Candidates ‘Sell Themselves’ on an Offer

Imagine this: You’ve found your purple squirrel! She has all the right skills, answered the interview questions exactly how you wanted, and would be the last part of the puzzle to make your team whole. You extend an offer of employment … and she declines.


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WHAT?! As your heart sinks to the floor upon hearing the news, you immediately begin to wonder what you can do to make her accept the offer. However, your company is limited when it comes to the salary amount, and her current employer already offers the same health coverage, so trying to negotiate becomes a challenge. You’ve now found yourself backed into a corner, and you desperately want this candidate for the role. So, what do you do?

Let Candidates Sell Themselves on a Negotiation

Scott Wintrip, president of the Wintrip Consulting Group, suggests asking candidates to “sell themselves” on what it would take for them to work for your company. Wintrip offers a personal example based on his relationship with a client. Wintrip recalls a conversation with the client about finding a cheaper service elsewhere—meaning he was about to lose the client’s business.

When asked what it would take for the client to stay with Wintrip’s company, the candidate asked if Wintrip would be willing to give the client longer payment terms, which Wintrip was able to accommodate, thus winning over the client and his business. While his example can be used as a sales technique, recruiters can also use this trick to get candidates accepting offers in no time.

“I had just experienced the value of allowing [the client] to sell himself on an idea, rather than trying to do the heavy lifting myself,” Wintrip says. “I let the better salesperson sell. Him. Not me. He sold himself on changing his own mind.”

Wintrip offers this sage advice: “Buyers always believe themselves, but only sometimes believe you.” He likens job candidates to buyers by saying, “They’re buying into opportunities. When they say ‘no,’ they’re the most qualified person in the conversation to change it into a ‘yes.’”

If Salary Is Out, What Types of Benefits Are In?

When it comes to negotiations, especially for companies on a tight budget, ask the candidate what it would take for him or her to consider working for your company. If the candidate throws out a salary amount that’s not within range, you should let the candidate know this but then counter with the types of negotiable benefits you offer.

When a candidate gives you a reason for why he or she is declining that offer, use that to your advantage. If the candidate rejects the offer because the commute is too far, ask the candidate what it would take for him or her to come into the office. Does the candidate want the ability to telecommute part-time? Can you offer the candidate a gas reimbursement to change his or her mind? By working with candidates on what they want, you’re allowing them to “sell themselves” on the benefits of working for your company.

As Wintrip says, “Let the better salesperson sell, especially when it’s a candidate who just said ‘no.’” He adds, “If there’s anyone who can get them to change their own mind, it’s them, not you.”