Time spent closing candidates is arguably your most leveraged time spent compared to anything else you could be doing. The old adage “do things that don't scale” applies here; you're dealing with so few candidates that you can do unique and extraordinary things to help increase the chance they accept. Because of this leverage, don't shy away from asking senior people (including our CEO) to help close.
The other adage to bear in mind is “time kills all deals.” We can win offers just by moving faster than the next company.
Most of this section on closing was written by Eric Feldman with additions from Matthew Strassberg.
Prior to closing the candidate, you want to get them as excited as possible about Clearbit. In fact, you should be selling at every touchpoint throughout the interview process. On the first call, you should establish the candidate’s motivations, and then throughout the process be able to reframe the opportunity to align with the candidate’s needs. If you wait to start selling the role at the end of the process, you will probably lose the candidate.
Put yourself in their shoes. Ask the candidate questions to learn about their lives and what they want to optimize for. Is it great management, an inspiring mission, or financial compensation? Hopefully you will have done the groundwork here on the screening call, so you can look at your notes.
We find the typical motivators are cash compensation, scope of role, company growth, culture, location, and industry. You should frame the company's value in a way that’s aligned with each candidate’s core motivations.
Your pitch per candidate will vary, but here are some of the things we suggest:
The five 'fs'
- Fit (talents and strengths match to opportunity and role)
- Family support for joining company
- Freedom to make decisions
- Fortune and glory
- Scope the opportunity—don't be afraid to help candidates do the math.
- If you're interested in working closely with the leadership team, you may be especially suited to Clearbit.
- Share the product roadmap.
- Talk about the other people on the team and their caliber.
- Talk about Clearbit's potential, our latest funding raise, and our ambitions.
- Talk about career progression and the things candidates could learn (and what we can learn from them in return).
Self growth and values
Show how seriously we take self-growth and our values.
- Internally we have an incredible culture of feedback and self-growth. Conscious Leadership and world-class management (Manager’s Handbook) are at the heart of everything we do, and it shows. We score an average of 8.5 out of 10 when we anonymously survey our employees' happiness, and we have only 5% annual employee attrition.
- Send this blog post.
- And these:
- Talk about the amount of fun we have at Clearbit (send pictures of our offsites).
- Therapy via Modern Health
- Education stipend
- If the candidate is in SF, make sure to have them in for lunch.
Provide social proof
- Encourage the candidate to do reference checks.
- For senior candidates, offer to connect them with our investors.
- Send them and their significant other flowers and/or champagne.
- Ask mutual friends to reach out and provide positive references of the company.
Prior to closing the candidate, use this template to prepare the candidate and gather the necessary information to put together an offer. It's important that at no stage do we indicate for certain that they are getting an offer.
State excitement and hint offer is coming soon: “We’re conducting final references, doing a final team sync, but we’re extremely excited about you. Just wanted to take a second to sync here on some final items.”
Pre-close statement: “Assuming we extended an offer to you that made sense financially, do you see yourself joining Clearbit?”
Potential answer one: candidate says "Yes"
If they did not hesitate, and Clearbit is the first choice, ask these additional questions:
- “Have you discussed Clearbit with your significant other or anyone else required to make a decision?”
- “Theoretically, if everything were to work out, when is the earliest you could start?”
Potential answer two: candidate is unsure whether or not they'd join
- Ask very candidly:
- “What questions do you have with Clearbit?”
- “What other options are you considering?”
- Ask candidates to complete the sentence: "I would join the company as long as ___"; they will tell you what is in the way of them joining. Often you'll be surprised at how easy it can be to address their questions.
- Repeat back what they said:
- “What I heard is__. If those conditions were met theoretically, would you see yourself joining Clearbit?”
- Take notes on this and send in a comprehensive email follow-up to the candidate to demonstrate commitment to them.
- Ask "What is your timeline for making a decision?"
Potential answer three: Candidate insists that they just want an offer first and then will consider things after
- The likelihood of them joining is lower, but you just ultimately have to go ahead. Agree with that idea cheerily: “Absolutely! We’re super stoked and will be getting back to you ASAP.”
- Ask, "What is your timeline for making a decision?"
- End with:
- “Great, well, we should be finishing up soon here and we’ll get back to you very quickly. As mentioned, the team is pretty stoked. Talk soon.”
- Follow up this conversation with an email reiterating your understanding of what they’ve said. This builds trust and gives them the confidence that they are being heard (e.g., “What I heard is__”).
Before an offer: do's and don'ts
Do not: Lead the candidate to believe that they can get any added benefits/perks beyond your intended offer unless you are sure they can (e.g., raises, annual refreshes).
Do: Tell them “yes” or “no” only if you are 100% sure. If you are not sure if you are willing/able to give them what they are suggesting, just say something like “I don’t know about that; that’s not typical. I’ll look into it, but let’s assume the answer is no for now.”
Do not: Tell them you will make an offer as soon as you determine they’re qualified for your company. Until reaching that point, do not say or indicate that you will definitely make an offer. After all, you may not.
Do: Say “we like you,” or “it would be great to have you on our team,” etc. Tell them you are very interested, would love to have them aboard, and will be discussing/deliberating/deciding on a compensation package, and that you “hope to reach an agreement with them.”
Do not: Tell them when to expect to receive an offer from you.
Do: Tell them it’s up to them; that you only want to make an offer if you have reached mutual agreement on terms. Candidates are understandably eager to get to the finish line asap, and would love to collect an offer from you asap. But you should only make the offer when the candidate is ready to accept it. You should work with the candidate to get to that point asap.
Do not: Tell them how much time they can have or that they can have time, or refer to any deadline.
Do: Remind them that interviews are ongoing and that you will consider hiring any of those people until the position is filled, so if the candidate does decide they want to work at your company, it will help if they can figure that out as soon as possible. After all, waiting too long may result in the position being filled by someone else instead.
Do not: Discuss any compensation we are thinking of giving them—salary, equity, or otherwise—prior to the offer call.
Do: Tell them about the past, present, and potential future valuation of the company. Give them hypotheticals rather than promises of what will happen in the future. If you do want to talk about the incremental value of an amount of stock that would approximate their offer, then manage their expectations by discussing the value of an amount that is the same or a little lower than what you intend to offer. For example, if you plan on offering .2%, tell them how much .1% is worth. Certainly don’t discuss what .5% or 1% is worth if you plan on offering .2%, as you might inflate the candidate’s expectations beyond what they will get in their package. Sell them even more thoroughly on the things that are not tied to how much you decide to offer them, such as benefits, the job itself, growth opportunities, technology, etc.
Do not: Ask the candidate to email you, or email the candidate anything that desires a response. Your talks with the candidate should only be live (on the phone or in person). Emails can delay communication (and in some cases are not received at all!), they obscure or distort communication, and they are also often used by candidates to create distance. For example, when candidates decide to withdraw from consideration by your company, they almost always decide to do so through email, so that they can avoid confrontation and the possibility of being persuaded otherwise. All of those problematic scenarios caused by using email for communication are the opposite of what you want.
Do: Coordinate your communication with your recruiter. If urgent, then call the candidate rather than emailing them.
Do not: Tell the candidate or give them any indication that they are your top choice, or that you don’t have any other candidates. Even if that is indeed true at the moment, it may soon change, as you should keep pursuing/interviewing candidates until there is no longer an opening. Also, you don’t want to give the candidate a false sense of entitlement.
Do: Tell the candidate that you like them a lot, you think they’re great, etc. Tell them the reasons you like them. People like hearing why others like them, and they tend to reciprocate that liking. One suggestion is to read out positive feedback that the team gave the candidate during the interview process.
Offer and closing
Typically, there are three different methods of making offers to candidates:
- Make the offer with no deadline.
- Make the offer with an immediate deadline (a.k.a. the “exploding offer” or “hard close”)
- Don’t make the offer unless it will be accepted (a.k.a. “Don’t make an offer! Reach an agreement!”)
We recommend the third method for the following reasons:
- We have a standardized leveling system for compensation that ensures that offers are fair; we do not want it to seem like the door is open for negotiation.
- The candidate won't ever be in limbo, mulling over whether or not to accept your offer.
- The candidate won't be able to shop your offer around.
While rare, there may be circumstances where it is best to deviate from this and choose the first or the second method. This is usually when you need to apply some time pressure when there are multiple candidates to choose between.
Make the offer
As with a marriage proposal, the key is not to make the offer until you're sure they're going to accept!
Explain the package
Remind candidates about the work we are doing with our Compensation Consultants to come up with our ranges.
“We worked with a compensation consultant to develop a system of career levels and associated salary ranges. This new system is helping to make offers competitive by paying above market. It also allows us to create a much more fair system for existing and future employees by removing negotiation from the picture; otherwise, we just reward great negotiators rather than basing offers on the market.”
Remember, this system is designed so we pay top percentile of market, rather than market.
Reach an agreement
Ask them, "If we were to make you the following offer (state the offer in full detail, including cash, equity, benefits, etc), would you accept?"
Make the offer
If they say yes, then make the offer. If you skip this step and simply make them the offer, then it is very common for them to ask for a few more things after the fact (e.g., signing bonus, moving expenses, etc). You will then be in the awkward position of having to give these (but then a political culture begins) or starting the relationship on a negative note by saying no.
It is better to get the candidate to pre-agree in full detail before making the offer. Then the relationship begins with a resoundingly positive “Yes! Thank you! I’m so excited!”
You should have covered benefits by this point, but if the candidate has any questions, reiterate the benefits and send over the PDF where they're all covered.
Telling the Equity Story
Some candidates are coming from more established companies where their base salary is much higher. Other candidates lack a deeper understanding of the value of equity and don’t prioritize it when evaluating offers. In these cases, it’s important to not just give offer details, but to tell a story about the potential value the offer represents.
- Make a copy of our equity calculator (ask the People team).
- Fill in salary and shares with the candidate’s offer.
- Explain that we review salary and equity and you can expect to get grants if you’re performing well.
- Discuss best and worst case scenarios - what their equity could be worth in 2–10 years.
- Share the An Engineer's Guide to Stock Options (relevant to not just engineers), and our public commitment to ensure that everyone can exercise them.
Delivering the offer: do's and don'ts
Do not: Make more than one offer. Do not tell a candidate there is wiggle room in your offer or that it is negotiable, or that they can have more time to think about it. The exception is if you are making someone an offer with several options of base salary and equity combinations. Do not increase your offer if a candidate who has said they would accept your offer asks for you to increase it from what they already said they would accept!
Do: When you make the offer, you should expect that they will immediately verbally accept it. That is what they should have said they would do at this point, and you should hold them accountable to their word. So if the person responds to your offer with “I’ll think about it” or anything other than “I accept,” then respond by saying something like “our understanding was that you would definitely accept an offer at this level."
Sending the offer letter
Remember that an offer letter is a formality and is “the fine print” following the candidate’s verbal acceptance of your offer. It should not be a time for the candidate to negotiate further. You should, of course, answer any questions that arise, but as long as your offer letter language is fairly standard, with no unusual terms or surprises, then the candidate should agree to it, sign it, and return it quickly.
Too many candidates are lost because they feel abandoned once they are given an offer or arrive at the company. Think lots of touches!
Send them a congratulatory email and follow up with flowers and/or champagne to them (and their SO). Our recruiting team will coordinate with you to send an email to them and CC the entire company, so everyone can chime in on how excited they are about your candidate joining.
Clearbit is an equal opportunity employer. We value and celebrate how you identify, who you love, the color of your skin, your age (at heart and on paper), the gods you do or don't believe in, and every other belief and characteristic that make you YOU. The more inclusive we are, the better we—and our work—will be.