Just like in sales, closing is part science and part art. The science is your conversion rates, iterating on your process, all the way down to your close rate. The art is personalizing how you close each candidate.
There are a lot of things candidates have in common when picking a job, but then there are many things that are highly personal. The art is understanding when to apply general best practices vs. when to tailor to each candidate.
This section will cover high-level best practices, a framework for how candidates make decisions, and specific tactics / best practices for how to close at every step of the recruiting funnel.
High-level best practices
- Ask questions to understand your candidate’s motivations. Everyone has different motivations. Knowing what motivates your candidate will help you sell to them. Also, if your candidate has the wrong motivations (e.g. cash comp), they may not be the right fit to begin with. A big part of this will be asking the right questions.
- Start closing early. Closing is an on-going process that begins with your initial reach out, continues with your first coffee chat, throughout the interview process, through the offer stage and even beyond, until your employee’s first day. Do not wait until you make an offer to start closing someone. It doesn’t feel genuine and candidates won’t like it.
- Run a tight process. One of your competitive advantages as a startup is speed. Use that to your advantage. Keep momentum strong by always having a next step.
- Make sure your candidate is ready before making an offer. The single biggest mistake I see founders make when closing is extending an offer when they are ready to make the offer, as opposed to when the candidate is ready to accept.
- Use a comp data set (e.g. Option Impact) to make your offers. Align on a compensation philosophy that allows you to be consistent and transparent when making offers. If you’re going to negotiate, know what your levers are before jumping in.
- Get creative and involve the entire team. As a startup, you can get super creative with the close by tailoring it to each individual. Get your whole team involved, whether that’s co-founders, founding team members, investors, advisors, and even customers!
- Spot curve-balls and handle them quickly. It’s critical to know about competing offers, counteroffers, and exploding deadlines from other companies, so you can respond quickly.
Every candidate has different motivations. Understanding their psychology is key to knowing how to best position your opportunity. There are a couple of frameworks out there, ranging from theoretical to practical (e.g. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, McClelland’s Needs Theory, 5F’s from Who).
I like the 5 F’s (Fit, Family, Freedom, Fortune, Fun), because it’s practical:
- Fit — Is the company a good fit for me & my values?
- Family — Will I be able to prioritize my family?
- Freedom — Will I have freedom and autonomy?
- Fortune — What’s in it for me financially?
- Fun — And then how much fun are you going to have?
Most candidates will consider at least these 5 categories and sometimes more. The art and personalization is in figuring out how the stack ranking works.