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How to ensure the best people choose to work for you, not your competitors.

Posted over 8 years ago by Rob Markwell
48467229 M

As an employer in the marketing and creative sector, you will have undoubtedly experienced the shortage of good candidates when looking to recruit. And once you do find the good ones, they are often in demand.

The salary you’re offering and the kudos of your brand is hugely important, but often not enough to seal the deal and get your preferred candidate on board. How you structure and deliver your recruitment process from start to finish has a crucial part to play as to whether your chosen candidate chooses to take your offer or a job with your competitor.

We have produced various articles on the importance of developing a strong employer brand, but here we focus on how to deliver your job offer in the best possible way to ensure that your desired candidate chooses you.

Be on the money

The first thing to tackle is the sensitive topic of money: it is important that you have a clear understanding of the candidate’s current package and expectation way before you get to final stage interview.

Realistically most people want an increase when moving job (unless it’s a change in career direction or relocation from London); after all they are taking a risk by leaving an environment where they are respected and proven, which is why it’s key to not only know what they are currently on, but what they want moving forwards. This will help you to iron out unrealistic increases earlier on rather than facing a nasty surprise at the eleventh hour.

You must also consider the high chance of counter offers. With the market being so prevalently candidate led, many employers look at a counter offer as a short term, more cost effective solution. Unfortunately it’s widely acknowledged that the majority of employees who accept counter offers still leave within nine months, because the salary increase serves only to be a temporary silencer for why they were looking to move in the first place. However, if they do accept it, you’re back to square one, so the possibility cannot be ignored: the last thing you want to do is enter a bidding war. We advise our clients to make a solid but fair offer from the outset; throwing money at the problem isn’t always what matters here; it’s structure and delivery.

Thought through delivery

Once you have agreed the salary and package, make sure you have each and every detail together: salary, benefits, holidays, campaigns they’ll be working on, job title, and ideal start date. The aim here is to be able to deliver a fully rounded job offer with no back and forth – an offer that only mentions salary and job title feels somewhat half-baked.

On top of the facts, be prepared to talk them through your feedback during the interview process, why you think they’ll do well within your business, your vision for them and the exciting things ahead. Tell them about training and career progression; use current employees as a case study (Bob started in this role and is now heading up a team). If you are working with a recruitment partner, make sure you relay all of this information so that they can give your job offer the delivery it deserves. The more information the better.

Whoever makes the offer, make it via the telephone first: as exciting as a job offer can be, receiving first news of it via email is faceless and removes your opportunity to bring the details of the offer to life.

Once you have gone through the offer on the phone and have backed it up in writing so that they are able to digest the intricate details of the offer and package, you should still take the opportunity to expand on the opportunity. This doesn’t mean simply sending a two-line email with a few bullet points highlighting salary, holiday and job title – you’ll be undoing the good work from detailed telephone exchange.

Decision time

Moving jobs is a big decision so don’t be offended if the candidate does not give you a yes on the spot, they might need some time to digest or even consult with their better half. However, if they ask for an extended amount of time to decide, politely investigate why. Are there any concerns or reservations? Perhaps they are waiting for another job offer that they might perceive as a better option? As much as you must respect their timelines, you must manage your own interests and extract this information without being pushy. If it’s Friday and they want the weekend, or they want 24/48 hours to consider the offer, that’s perfectly acceptable however if they’re asking for a week, alarm bells should ring...

Countering counter offers

Once you do have their verbal acceptance, they will need something official in writing in order to hand in their notice.

A common mistake by employers and recruiters is to think their job is done and to take their foot off the pedal. When the candidate is at the point of handing in their notice, their current employer has the opportunity to try and retain them. This is the employer they have worked with for a long time and built a rapport, or even friendship with, so if losing the candidate is going to create issues for their business, then survival instinct kicks in: “what can I say or do to make them stay?” This might be more money, promises that things will change, promotions are round the corner, or at times, even bad-mouthing their future employer (we’ve seen it all).

A wise candidate will see through this and will question why it took them to hand in their notice in before these promises made an appearance. However, leaving a job is an emotional journey and that’s why counter offers are dangerous all round – delivering a strong and sincere job offer is paramount from the moment you decide this is the candidate for you.

If the candidate lets you know that they have been counter offered, firstly ask to understand the full details of it. On the softer promises, this gives you an opportunity to sell back your opportunity as much stronger and to reinforce those messages from the initial offer. It’s always worth reminding the candidate why they started looking in the first place; give them some time to digest the situation, perhaps follow up with an email, but it should always be about reinforcing the same solid message. Don’t be afraid to put your case forward but don’t be pushy; this is likely to have the opposite to the desired effect. If it comes to it, review the offer of salary but we strongly recommend going in strong from the start to minimise risk.


Once you’ve overcome all of these hurdles, it’s time to start treating them as a valued member of your team. From the moment the candidate accepts your offer, think about how you can positively reinforce their correct decision every step of the way from your offer exchange and welcome letter, to their welcome and introduction on day one.

Make sure you know which day they are handing in their notice and make sure you speak to them that evening. Invite them for a drink after work with the team, or any other opportunity to start to build relationships with you and your team.

You may fly past the counter offer stage without a moments pause but remember that they are still working their notice at their current place and therefore their current employer still has their ear; share recent news (an account win, an exciting new campaign they’ll be involved with) with them so they feel part of the business even before they actually start.

Once they are in situ, it’s worth remembering that the induction process is everyone’s responsibility, not just HR’s. Welcome the candidate and take an interest in them, create a tailored program to help them settle in; small things make it memorable and personal.

Remember that 90% of people make the decision to stay or leave in the first 6 months of a new role - the benefit of a consistent, well structured induction, is better performance, increased engagement and higher retention.