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Views from the Talent Pool: How To Lose a Job Offer in 10 Days

By Kevin Flynn, Vice President of Recruitment

You’ve made it through the interview process and received an offer. However, don’t pop the champagne cork quite yet. You’re not at the finish line.  Some job offers state explicitly that they are contingent on something specific, like reference or background checks. Others may not spell it out so clearly, but the reality is this:  every job offer can be rescinded at any time.  We’ve seen many examples of organizations souring on a candidate based on their interactions after an offer is made.  Kind of a scary thought, but one that’s easy to mitigate. Follow our advice for what to do (or in some cases, NOT to do) in the days following the receipt of an offer, and you can make a seamless transition from candidate to employee.

Day One – On the day you receive your offer, respond with enthusiasm and gratitude.  Even if you’re not 100% convinced, even if the salary is lower than you expected, even if you still have a lot of thinking to do, this is a big moment. Respond quickly, express gratitude, set a clear expectation for when you’ll make your decision and let the organization know if there’s any additional information that will help you decide. 

Day Two – For some people, once they’ve received the offer, their communication style changes.  The professionalism, formality and responsiveness they showed throughout the interviewing process suddenly drops.  Your communication style during the offer negotiation period is just as important as before. Just because you have a job offer, it doesn’t mean you’re suddenly buddies and you can take longer to respond or you can end email exchanges with emoticons.  Treat every communication as if it’s being vetted as an important piece of evidence supporting your ability to be successful in this role. 

Day Three - It’s not unusual to need to take some time – usually up to a week—to make your decision.  You should give the organization a sense of how you’re using that time- I’m going to talk with peers and professional mentors of mine, or I need to do some diligence to ensure relocating is a smart move for my family.  Asking for some time is normal and ok.  With that said, don’t ask for an absurd amount of time. If you need more than a week, there should be some extenuating circumstances that you’re prepared to share with your employer. If you don’t, they’ll assume you’re waiting on another offer or using their offer to gain leverage at your current organization.  No one likes to feel like the fall back plan.  This is the biggest culprit behind rescinded offers.  Make sure you’re respecting everyone’s time and treating every organization like your first choice until the moment you make your decision. 

Day Four – Remember the long conversations you had about your salary requirements during the interview process?  Remember the range you gave?  So does the organization. Don’t dramatically raise your range after you’ve received an offer.  You certainly can negotiate within or slightly above your range, but if you’ve said you’re looking for 120-140K, don’t all the sudden push for 160K at this stage of the game.  For the hiring organization, this can feel like a stick up.  Also, this can backfire.  If an organization feels pushed above the range they’re comfortable with, they’re likely to say, “I wonder if we can get someone better for 160K,” and then re-open the search to see what the market looks like at that level. 

Day Five – You suddenly remembered that you’re looking to work a 4-day week or that you need to work from home? Bring this up with your prospective employer well before the time of an offer. Changing the conditions of non-financial employment requirements at this stage in the game can be a deal breaker. 

Day Six – It’s understandable to want to address any potential red flags that may have come up for you during the hiring process.  You should do exhaustive vetting of the organization and the opportunity to ensure it’s the right fit for you.  However, in doing so, use your discretion and good judgment to maintain the utmost levels of professionalism. Whenever possible, address red flags directly with your potential employer, as opposed to listening to gossip or hearsay about the organization.  Also, keep in mind this type of feedback can be tough to hear for an organization, so it always helps to be specific, as opposed to making sweeping negative generalizations.  For instance, say, “In my interview, I heard a program team member say they haven’t had any exposure to fundraising.  Is that an intentional decision or something that’s developed informally?”  As opposed to, “There isn’t a culture of philanthropy across the organization and that worries me.” 

Day Seven – For offers that are contingent on reference or background checks, give your prospective employer EXACTLY what they want. If they want three references total including two managers and one direct report, don’t provide the contact info of Board members or peers instead. If there is a specific reason why you can’t provide the type of references they are requesting, be transparent about why.

Day Eight – Don’t go social in your decision making. A Facebook status or Twitter post of “Finally got that job I wanted…now I’m not sure if I want it!” is bound to go horribly wrong for you.  You should certainly rely on a small group of professional and personal contacts to give input, but talking to everyone you know or ‘crowdsourcing your decision’ only serves to slow things down and confuse you. 

Day Nine - Continue to be discrete until things are wrapped up, signed on the dotted line, and your start date is set. Don’t “share the great news” until it’s a done deal.  You may even ask your new organization how they’d like to externally message the hire and how you can play an effective role in that messaging strategy. 

Day Ten - Remember we work in a small, highly-connected sector.  How you manage your transition out of your current role is very important.  Burning bridges or acting unprofessionally on your way out will damage your reputation and could, in the worst case scenario, cause an organization to rescind their offer.  Give the right amount of notice, offer to help with transition planning, and continue to speak highly of your organization and former colleagues (and if you can’t speak highly of them, don’t speak at all!). 

By following our 10 recommendations of how to conduct yourself post-offer,  you are showing respect and professionalism, honoring commitments, and positioning yourself for high-expectations in your new role.  Even if you ultimately turn down the offer, you’ll have left a great impression and garnered new fans and supporters.  Most likely you’ll leave the organization saying, “We’ll hire him/her someday.” 

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