How to Put Together an Offer + Keys to Negotiation (Guide to Hiring, Part 5)


“You’ve got to start this transparent, vulnerable relationship from the minute you meet them because it will permeate the rest of your employment relationship.” - Kathleen Quinn Votaw, author of Solve the People Puzzle: How High-Growth Companies Attract and Retain Top Talent

In our Guide to Hiring series, we’ve covered How to Write Dynamic Job Descriptions, How to Hire for Sales, Hiring for Support, plus how much to consider paying both your sales team as well as your support team. Since we’ve already covered compensation, in this article, we’ll provide a few tips on putting together an offer and a few keys to negotiation.

At this stage, we’re assuming you’ve already been through the screening and interview phase and now you are ready to make a job offer to your candidate. Depending on the position, some prefer to discuss salary range during the first screening of a candidate and then finalize through the offer process. Regardless of which stage of the process you have the conversation, It’s imperative that you continue with absolute transparency and vulnerability and that you set the tone for negotiation largely by asking questions about the candidate’s needs and mostly, by being very direct

Before You Make an Offer Ask These Questions

The offer is a very emotional decision for the candidate and is sometimes an awkward dance for both employer and candidate. Nobody likes to talk about money and many employers fail at making a solid offer because they become timid around compensation issues. “Don’t,” Kathleen Votaw warns, “be very direct.” 

But also remember, to help alleviate that emotional tension, it’s critical that you uncover what’s most important to the candidate, what their intrinsic motivation is for taking this job. You might find out that compensation is just one important aspect but that work flexibility ranks equally as high. A recent article in Forbes cited that workplace flexibility often outranks pay as the number one benefit, and “companies that offer employees flexibility in the form of telecommuting, flexible schedules, and unlimited PTO, helps employees maintain a positive work-life balance …. reducing workplace stress, boosting mental well being and encouraging productivity.”

To uncover these aspects, ask these questions directly: What’s important to you? Is it all about the money? What other benefits are important to you? What’s going to make you want to join us from a compensation and benefits perspective? 

And mostly: What will make you feel valued?

Include all the Benefits 

When putting together an offer, we focus mostly on the compensation package, to our detriment. As mentioned above, flexibility ranks as high as pay and for some, health insurance can rank equally as high. Because of this, we shouldn’t gloss over benefits and focus only on pay. 

Fact is, when you think you’re hiring a candidate at $50,000 per year, you’re actually hiring them at a far greater sum when you consider the investment in insurance, training, equipment, and more. Knowing the value and expressing this value to the candidate enhances the package you are offering, so be sure you include all of the benefits. To help you jump-start your list, consider all that your company offers:

  • Insurance: Go beyond percentages. If you pay 50% of your employees' premiums, put a dollar value to that, insurance is a benefit that costs the company money and just like when we provide “free services” to our clients, we should always communicate the actual value. Providing these numbers enhances the value of the offer. 

  • Flexible work environment: It’s the #1 benefit demanding by employees today. Since it’s so important, clearly outline what a flexible work environment looks like. Help them imagine what a day-to-day work life looks like with a flexible schedule. Remember that candidates innately distrust their potential employers, not because they consider them untrustworthy, but because it’s a scary decision and their guard is up, they are skeptical. If you say you offer a flexible work environment, prove it. 

  • Equipment/tools provided: It goes without saying that providing all the essentials tools -laptops, cell phones, software programs- are crucial to establishing success but don’t take this for granted either, it sounds unimportant but a cell phone and laptop are our most important tools, let them know what you are willing to invest. 

  • Holidays/Vacation/Paid Family Leave: What holidays do you honor? Do you celebrate special occasions? (Example: One distributor gives their employees Valentines Day off). What’s your vacation policy? How does it actually work? Do you provide paid family leave? Do you allow dedicated volunteer hours? (One distributor gives each employee a day off to commit that time to a non-profit). Again, do not take this for granted, it’s a crucial part of your benefits and an important part of the negotiation phase.

  • Professional development: Just as with insurance, professional development costs the company money and is a significant value, plus proof that you are willing to invest in your team. Sharing the value of professional development shows your commitment to their success. One distributor provides a $1500 annual professional development budget for certain roles, if you do something similar, be sure to include that value in the offer. 

  • Miscellaneous: Do you provide an on-site gym or gym membership? Yoga classes? Are you a dog-friendly office? What other benefits do you need to mention? 

Each additional benefit you offer enhances the overall compensation package and since some benefits are of equal value to compensation, it’s important that you do not trust these benefits to memory. Write them down and codify them, do not simply touch on them in verbal passing, spend some time on each so that you can clearly communicate the value.  

A Few Final Tips

As you work through the offer phase, remember that it’s critical to remain flexible. Because it’s an employee’s market, be ready to negotiate and stay open to compensation alternatives in order to meet your candidate halfway. For example, if you’ve offered a $50,000 salary and they need $60,000, keep sign-on bonuses or year-end bonuses in mind, but keep an open mind and keep the conversation positive.

And be sure you provide (and receive!) a confirmation of everything in writing. If you are providing a contract, include a statement regarding the scope of the work, detailed fees, and timelines. Leave nothing to chance so that you can focus on the most important work ahead of you, onboarding an excellent candidate! 

Lastly, most importantly, remember that the hiring process is a negotiation and people make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally, especially when it comes to their livelihood. Jim Camp wrote that “decisions are largely emotional; not logical” and neuroscience has proven it. “This finding has enormous implications for negotiation professionals,” wrote Camp, “People who believe they can build a case…using reason are doomed to be poor negotiators because they don’t understand the real factors that are driving the other party to come to a decision. Those who base their negotiation strategy on logic end up relying on assumptions, guesses, and opinions….What the negotiator can and must do, however, is create a vision for the other side to bring about discovery and decision on their part.”

In short, think more like an artist and less like an accountant, paint a picture of what life will look like in your organization, reveal your vision in inspiring ways, be direct with the details and be human.

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