In today’s candidate-driven market, job seekers have many opportunities to choose from and have the ability to be very selective in the job they choose next. If you want your opportunity to stand out and put yourself in the best possible position to make this hire, then you need to adopt a strategy that many skip: the preclose.
The preclose is a technique that lets the candidate know early on that you are considering them while gauging their interest, understanding their priorities and enabling you to quickly identify and address any obstacles that might prevent them from accepting an offer.
The time to start preclosing a candidate is as soon as you believe they’re a viable candidate. Let’s take a look at what this looks like at each stage of the hiring process.
Preclose step #1: The phone interview before the phone interview
It all begins with a phone screen. Recruiters are usually the ones who make this call to tell candidates more about the position and the company and to assess their experience.
Preclosing at this stage takes the form of a few questions. The goal is to identify any roadblocks and address them quickly to allay any concerns the candidate might feel early on. Don’t worry about compensation just yet.
Here are a few common questions to help you get at the candidate’s concerns and truly understand their priorities:
- Besides compensation, what other factors go into your decision-making process?
- Does anyone else play a part in your decision to accept a job?
- What is your top concern or question you need answered before making a decision?
- How do you rank this opportunity among the others you are considering? Why?
From these questions, you might learn that the candidate is concerned about long commutes or is looking for growth opportunities. You could respond by highlighting work-from-home options or your company’s culture of promoting from within. The great part is that you now have a preview into the psyche of your candidate and the factors that could ultimately influence their decision to accept your offer or not.
From here, let the candidate know that someone from the team they’ll potentially be working with will be calling them shortly for the actual phone interview.
It’s important that you keep the gaps between contact with the candidate short and that you meet the deadlines you set for yourself. As the old adage goes, underpromise and overdeliver.
Preclose step #2: The actual phone interview
This next step is similar to the previous one. The difference is that it’s usually the manager on the team who’s making the call and that they might delve deeper into what the position entails.
They are also moving the preclose process forward. This time, it means asking variations of the same questions that were asked before, as well as reinforcing the way those concerns were addressed.
You are also beginning to ask the candidate questions about compensation, their interest in the scope of the job and diving deeper into the other opportunities they are pursuing in their job search.
It’s important that the candidate understand that this compensation conversation is not an official offer (yet). You’re just gathering information to put them in the best possible position to receive a competitive and enticing offer if the conversation moves forward.
If the candidate volunteers what they made at their last job, you can expect that they are looking to make a bit more—at least 10%, say. If you plan to ask, be sure you know what the regulations surrounding this sensitive subject are in your area first.
You shouldn’t overlook the candidate’s interests or concerns with the job scope. At this stage, you might still have an opportunity to address and close the gap. Is the candidate concerned about the job title? Are they concerned about the amount of travel? Did they think the scope and responsibilities were bigger? All are important questions to validate. Your assumptions can be your biggest enemy.
It’s also vital that you understand what and who (when you can) you’re up against. You should be asking the candidate about the other opportunities they’re pursuing in their job search and how they’re evaluating them.
Preclose step #3: After the on-site interview
By the end of the on-site interview, you should have a pretty good idea about whether you’re going to go with this candidate or not. If the answer is yes, it’s time to kick the preclose up a notch.
The focus here should be to not only test the candidate’s interest and concerns but send them a clear message about your own interest.
The former can be accomplished by doing things like asking for references or when they can start. Both of these questions are relevant, but pay attention to how the candidate answers them. Do they sound excited at this new opportunity? Are they dragging their feet? Your interpretation is where the art of the process comes in.
Job hunting is stressful. At this stage, the candidate is often trying to gauge your interest in them and wondering if they should hold out for a job with you or look elsewhere.
Simply conveying your interest can ease their mind and keep them from writing you off.
There are lots of ways to let the candidate know you are interested. It can be an email from a senior leader, a video from the hiring manager highlighting your company’s culture or a lunch with the team.
A little can go a long way here.
Red flags and blind spots
Hiring managers tend to be an overworked lot. They have to do this intricate dance not only with this candidate but with others at the same time. With such a subtle art as preclosing, it’s very easy to miss some key parts of the process.
Here are some of the usual blind spots:
- Focusing only on comp and not on career development or job stretch. Compensation is important, but it’s not the only thing candidates are considering. Also important is your company's culture, job security and the candidate’s opportunities for growth, among others.
- Not addressing the candidate’s concerns from start to finish. Once you’ve identified the potential roadblocks to their acceptance, you need to tailor your interactions in a way that addresses them.
- Not taking the time to fully understand how the candidate makes decisions in their job search. Understanding how they make their decisions makes it much easier for you to tailor your interactions with them. Do they need to run the decision by their significant other? Are they currently employed and just testing the waters? Do they want to work for a company that does good for the world? All of this is information you can use.
If you get the preclose right, then this should put you in a good place for the next step: the official offer. How you go about this step can sway the odds of the candidate’s acceptance. You’re going to want to get this one right—and we’ll have more on that topic very soon!