21 Oct 22
Taking a break from talking about team roles, I want to briefly share some points of conversation my father and I have had regarding extending offers to potential new team members. Assuming the interview process went well and the team agrees that they would like the candidate to join the team, the offer is the official "welcome to the team".
An offer sets the tone for the candidates journey joining the team. I believe the engineering manager should make the offer, or whomever the candidate is going to report to. This establishes the relationship and lets the candidate know who will be looking after them and helping them in their journey. Obviously there are organizations that have dedicated people that handle the entire process, extending offers included. But I'd at least advocate that the hiring manager be a part of the offer process. In my opinion, it's a little awkward to have the offer letter go out with a start date and the new team member not hear from the hiring manager between the interviews and the start date. But I digress...
I'm not going to cover the key pieces an offer should contain in this post. It's not what I want to focus on. I want to focus more on an offer setting the expectations of employment. My father has shared a number of stories with me about offers and onboarding new team members. I want to focus on what I feel are some key pieces.
First, we've discussed not leaving unknowns to the offer. Have the hiring manager or the HR contact ask the questions before putting anything in writing. Getting surprised in an offer is not a good impression. Nike discusses everything with candidates and comes to a verbal agreement before confirming everything in writing. It can slow things down with the back and forth, but everything gets talked out between human beings, rather than the employer surprising the candidate in the offer letter in writing. Writing feels permanent and some candidates won't feel comfortable pushing back once it is in writing. That is not a good tone to set. The alternative of discussing everything first gives both parties the opportunity to ask questions and collaborate. It is also a perfect time to set proper expectations with the candidate so they can know what to expect in the first day, first 60 days, and so on. A lot of candidates I have interviewed want to know what success looks like in the first 60 days. This is a great time to talk about that, before the offer is accepted. I, personally, always want to know what I am getting into at least in the short term before signing on the dotted line. I want to feel confident I can be successful and I'd rather know that before accepting the offer.
Secondly, we've talked numerous times about expiring offers. Having the conversations before everything is in writing allows both parties to discuss acceptance and timelines. Sending the message that an offer expires in 72 hours feels like a legal proceeding and not an invitation to join a new team. So what if someone takes a week to decide? In this market, they are probably talking to multiple teams and giving them some time means they get to decide if they truly want to join your team. Rushing a candidate that you've already decided you would like to have on your team doesn't do anyone any good. My father shared with me a story about someone that was given an expiring offer while interviewing with other companies. The offering company was trying to lock up the candidate and not give them time to explore other opportunities. Guess what happened? The candidate accepted the offer and asked for a start date of at least two weeks out assumedly to be respectful to their current employer. However, during that time, they continued to explore other opportunities and found one that they felt was a better fit. The day before they were scheduled to start, they contacted the company whom they had accepted the expiring offer with and informed them they wouldn't be showing up for their first day. There is no penalty for doing that. The company imposing the clever expiring offer ended up wasting a ton of time in the process and solved nothing. Expiring offers don't safe guard anything. Having conversations with candidates to make sure there is a shared understanding about the decision to join the company and the new team is better in the long run.
Remember that the offer is emotional for the candidate. They will be excited or disappointed. They may need some time to decide if it is really what they want, especially if relocation or some other large impact on their lives is involved. And for the employer, offers present an opportunity to make candidates feel safe in their decision to join the team.
The point my father makes is not treating the offer letter as a formality. It's an opportunity to set the relationship between the employer and the new team member off on a good footing.