How to Craft a Compelling Offer Letter

So you’ve found what appears to be the perfect candidate for your startup’s open role, yay! You may feel elated at the prospect that all those tasks will soon be handled and your company can continue on its path of denting-the-universe and all that jazz. But don’t break out the party hats and champagne just yet…

In today’s employment market, especially in major hubs like San Francisco, New York, or LA – the employment market is CRAZY competitive. As you’ve been courting your candidate it’s likely they’ve also been interviewing at rival startups or being wooed by a Unicorn with their free breakfast, lunch, and dinners.

How do you get this person to decide that your role + your company is the best fit for their career path? Hopefully you have an attractive compensation package (made up of equity, benefits + salary/bonuses), which is critical—but it’s not the only factor. In this article we’ll outline the true + tested components of a compelling candidate offer letter.

Time is of the Essence

Great candidates are in constant demand. If you find the right person, don’t leave them hanging. Make the offer as soon as possible – ideally, immediately after you’ve checked references and decided with the key stakeholders that this is your ideal candidate. Sometimes there will be details you must iron out with higher-ups in your company, get those done quickly and then call the candidate with the offer. You’re less likely to lose a top candidate if you get back to them fast rather than arrange another face-to-face meeting to make a formal offer. After they accept your verbal offer, make sure to send a formal employment letter outlining all the aspects. A sample employment letter from Workable is here.

TL;DR

  • Decide fast (after references and interviews are complete)
  • Make a verbal offer
  • Follow-up with a formal letter of employment

Show Your Cards

Let the candidate know their qualifications for the job are the best you’ve seen. Keeping your cards close to the vest suits the interview process, but when you find a candidate who ticks off every box and more, show your appreciation for their skills. When the employer is obviously enthusiastic about a candidate, that plays a large role in the person’s final decision regarding offer acceptance.

TL;DR

  • Explain why you and your team are excited
  • Highlight some of the positive comments from their references
  • Show your excitement for them to join

The Negotiation Dance: What Can You Offer?

Often there may be a time during the interview process, or after the verbal offer, where the candidate pushes back on a few things. It could be salary, PTO or even the ability to work from home a few days a week. This is completely normal and part of the dance. First find out what the candidate wants, and what they *need*.

Examples of *wants*

  • Vacation. Time off matters to a lot of people and if your company is still stuck in two-weeks-vacation-for-just-about-everyone mode, that puts you at a disadvantage. See if you can offer some flexibility. Perhaps the week between Christmas and New Years is as slow for your company as it is for many others. Offering that week off, in addition to standard vacation time, might seal the deal.
  • Flexible hours. Great talent is more and more asking for flexibility in terms of the hours they need to be in the office, or “on” if they work remotely, in return for them giving your startup A+ results. Does your company offer flextime or the opportunity to work remotely on a regular basis? For a parent of young children, that could prove decisive.

Examples of *needs*

  • Pay + equity. Be sure to explain how your employees, or contractors, are paid and if applicable explain in detail how bonuses work, what triggers them, etc. In terms of total compensation it’s often wise to be prepared to offer a range. This means 3 or more points on a band that lists the base salary from low to high, with corresponding bonus and/or equity considerations.
*note this is an overly simplistic version, you’d need to calculate what your equity is and will be worth when you actually do this exercise (good to tap your startup lawyers for this formula)
  • Education + perks. Give the candidate information on all the perks the job entails. Will the candidate have the opportunity to further their education at the company’s expense? Is there a profit-sharing plan? Accentuate anything that makes your company stand out from the crowd.

Putting a Ring On It

“May I Consider the Job Filled?” Inc. magazine recommends asking the so-called “killer question” if you really want a candidate and think they are responsive. It’s simple: “I’ve already interviewed good candidates for this job. Can I tell them the job has been filled?” Odds are overwhelming you’ll receive an honest answer. Perhaps the candidate needs a day or so to think it over, but most people will let you know one way or the other right away. No one wants to take a job away from a qualified candidate unless it’s the job they really want.

 

*** With special contribution from Jane Meggitt. A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, The Motley Fool, nj.com, The Houston Chronicle, and Financial Advisor.