What It's Like to Make a Job Offer

A look behind the curtain at the hiring process.

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Alison Green
I love making job offers. It's a great feeling to call someone up and offer them a job that you know they really want.

There are several different types of reactions when you make someone a job offer:

1. The excited freak-out. I love this one. This is when you call and offer someone a job and they do any or all of the following: Scream with excitement, repeat "oh my god, oh my god" several times, and/or tell you when they hang up that they're going to go call all their friends. This is my favorite. I hang up as excited as they are. It's an awesome feeling.

(The strongest reaction I ever encountered was from a woman who literally put down the phone and screamed. Months later, she confessed that when she'd gotten the call, she'd been drinking at the beach all afternoon. I almost wish I didn't know that, since it was such a fantastic response to have produced.)

2. The pro-forma delay. This is the candidate who makes it pretty clear she plans to accept but she asks for a few days to think it over because that's the responsible thing to do.

3. The play-it-cool. This candidate doesn't give any reaction away. She calmly collects details about the offer and asks for a few days to think it over. You can't get a read on her at all--will she accept? Not accept? You have no idea. Not nearly as fun as no. 1 or  no. 2, but I can respect this approach.

4. The sucker-punch. This is rare and usually happens in regard to salary, work location, or some other major aspect of the job. For example: the salary was posted in the job posting and discussed in the screening process, but suddenly, now that you're making an offer, this candidate announces that she'd need significantly more money. It's one thing if salary hasn't yet been discussed or has only been discussed in vague terms or if something significant has changed about the job, but otherwise this is called operating in bad faith. Don't do it.

Unfortunately, there's also...

5. The unexpected refusal. Usually by the time I'm ready to make someone a job offer, we've talked enough that I have a sense of her level of interest. And people who don't seem that interested don't end up with offers because I'm looking for candidates who are engaged and excited about the position. But now and then a candidate turns down the offer, and my heart breaks. I recover about an hour later by remembering that, ultimately, this is for the best because it's crucial that the match be right on both sides. ... But there's still a plaintive "why doesn't she want us?" feeling, similar to what job candidates experience when they're turned down.

In my experience, the majority of candidates fall into the pro-forma delay or the play-it-cool categories, but, every single time, I'm secretly hoping for the excited freak-out. Nothing beats that.

Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.