Asking Questions Can Make You A Better Leader

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said the ability to be a great leader comes down to one very important skill: asking questions. The challenge is that too few leaders, managers and employees know how to do this well.

Here, we share these insights from business author Michael Lindenmayer on asking good questions and other key elements of Socratic leadership.

1. Quest For The Best Answers. The key to getting your team to embrace questioning is to help them see it as a tool to get the best answer versus an interrogation. In getting the best answer, everyone has a role to play and different insights to bring to the table. If it feels like an interrogation, morale will drop and defensive attitudes will stifle the ability to find the best answer. So, make the quest for the best answers a part of your corporate culture.

2. Be Humble: Admit You Don’t Know. Check your ego at the door when finding the best answers. If a team member is missing an answer, then the next question to put forth should help them find it. This eliminates any excuses and sets everyone right back on the path to finding the best possible answers.

3. Build Stamina: Get a Brain Work Out. Most people can handle only a few questions before they experience cognitive overload. Too many questions with too few answers kicks in the flight response. People can shut down. The good news is that people can build up their stamina so that they can handle more questions. The best way to do this is to work the brain out like a muscle. Engage. Rest. Recover. You will get stronger and better at asking questions and engaging in the quest for answers.

4. Empower Everyone. Want to unleash the potential of your team? Then ask questions and be up for digging for the best answers. Also encourage others across your team to ask questions. When asking questions becomes part of your company culture, you drive consistency across the organization.

5. Concentrate. If you want good answers, you need to concentrate on getting them. Our brains are splintered by multitasking. Stanford Professor Clifford Nass’s research showcases how multitasking both reduces the speed of decision-making as well as the quality of the decisions generated. Instead, engage in thinking that is deliberative and logical. It helps you clear through the rapid, automatic and subconscious default settings that often guide us and push us further to get at thoughtful decisions.

6. Questions For The Three P’s. The three P’s are: possibilities, probabilities and priorities. Certain questions generate possibilities. Other questions sharpen the team’s ability to assess the probable outcome of potential decisions. The third set of questions help empower team members to prioritize. Learn to apply different questions to the three P’s; it will help advance your endeavor.

Try this Socratic method with your team. Determine great questions you will ask your team that will advance your mission.

Source: Michael Lindenmayer, a Forbes contributor, is a purpose-driven entrepreneur, writer and systems designer. He is the co-founder and CEO of Toilet Hackers, a social enterprise focused on securing 100 percent sanitation for the 2.6 billion people living without a toilet. He is an advisor to Sesame Workshop’s Global Health Initiative. And he is on the advisory board of the Girl’s Fund at the World Wide Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. He also collaborates with the leading minds at the University of Chicago’s Booth Business, where he is an associate fellow at the New Paths to Purpose Project.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

Four Reasons To Be A Lifelong Learner

Continuing your education and learning as both an individual and as a professional is important. While you may already be a very capable marketer and you read plenty on the subject, but learning is a lifelong skill that keeps one motivated.

It’s a popular belief amongst many professionals that continuing education should be reserved for people who need to learn new skills to stay employed. But, lifelong learning can benefit everyone. What’s more, lifelong learning can also directly benefit your employer, so it’s important to let them know that you wish to continue your professional development.

Today, we share the career benefits of professional development and education from career writer Mariliza Karrera.

1. It Keeps You Current And Up To Date: According to research, adult learners are the fastest growing segment pursuing education. The reason behind this trend is the fact that many professionals are beginning to realize that to remain competitive in the ever-changing world of business they need to stay current and updated. This is especially important since recent graduates may be a threat to your position as they will be more up to date with the changes in the industry.

And it’s not as simple as learning a few computer skills here and there. Professionals across all industries should closely follow trends and seek to provide depth in industry knowledge to remain relevant.

2. It Can Motivate You: Lifelong learning can also help make you happier, which in turn, can make you more productive. According to one study by economists at the University of Warwick, employees who are happy can be 12 percent more productive than unhappy employees.

Therefore, it’s especially important for professionals who aren’t satisfied with their careers to try and learn something new. The process of applying the new information to your job can help stimulate your brain and help you become more interested in your work. So, if you feel like you are losing interest in your career, consider signing up to learn a new skill. You might find meaning in your career again.

3. It Can Help You Grow Your Network: If you are interested in changing careers, taking a course is the first thing that you should do, not just because you’ll need to learn new skills but because it can also help you grow your network. Continuing education is a great way to meet other professionals in your industry. Your teacher or instructor is a great professional connection, so make sure that you form a close relationship with them as well.

4. It Helps Keep You Employed For Longer: According to recent data, it’s estimated that by the year 2020 over 60 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education. Many professionals are beginning to realize that a bachelor’s degree is not sufficient. You can’t expect information you gained before you started your career to keep you up to date, especially at the rate that the world is changing. Continuing education will help you remain equipped with valuable tools and information, and it will help you achieve the career development you seek. Keep in mind that the more current you keep your knowledge and skills, the better your chances are of remaining valuable to the team.

Source: Mariliza Karrera is a staff writer for Career Addict, the leading online career and employment website that provides tools and industry knowledge to help people succeed in their careers and achieve professional goals. Career Addict provides a wide range of services, from a comprehensive career advice blog and professional CV writing services to a state-of-the-art job board.

Managers: Pay Attention To The Back Row

I recently read an article about a woman attending a  Zumba class at the local recreation center. It’s a class made up of all ages of women and men (yes, men do Zumba too) from high school to retirement age. Some people try it a few times and never come back. Some are seasonal attendee, and there are the regular diehards-those of us who show up as often as we can.

Over time, a pecking order has emerged among this hodgepodge group. The back row is typically made up of newbies who are trying to learn the steps or who have a difficult time keeping up in class. The next two rows are typically a mix of regulars and sporadic attendees. Some of them are uncoordinated and need some extra space to move around in. Others in these rows tend to be somewhat experienced, but they don’t want any attention as they go through the steps. In the next two rows, right behind the instructor, are the regular attendees. They know the steps, they put in 100 percent effort and sometimes they even throw in some additional moves or use hand weights for the added challenge. Finally, we get to the front row-those who do Zumba alongside the instructor. Obviously, space there is tight here, so this self-appointed, elite group is typically comprised of three to four proteges who like to interact with the instructor and don’t mind having all eyes on them.

During the time in this class, what she noticed about the front row. No matter how crowded the room is, these people always make their way to the front assuming they have a reserved spot there. These participants like to observe themselves in the mirror and they are confident in knowing all the steps. This group has confidence, expertise and there’s a sense of elitism. But if anyone else from the class attempts to step into the front row, there’s an unspoken threat that they don’t belong there.

One of the most difficult jobs as a manager is to create a fair and equitable approach to team development and team dynamics. In an environment where personalities and personal agendas impact team dynamics, sometimes the loudest get the most attention and others with potential but softer voices go unnoticed.

As a leader, what can you do to optimize your team members to get the most creativity and productivity? Try these steps:

1. Manage the spotlight. Every team has a super star—that individual or group of individuals who stand out. They are experienced at what they do and they let others know it. While they might be cordial to the team, they control the team culture. They believe they deserve the spotlight and can take up the boss’s time and attention because of this.

It’s easy to give into these individuals because they make their presence known. Sometimes these individuals will self-appoint themselves as “second in command” due to their tenure or experience. Be careful with this as it can be confusing, and frankly, degrading, to other team members. As a leader, you certainly don’t want to discourage high performance. However, you also need to manage your time and attention across your entire team if you are going to optimize the team and get results. These individuals do best when they know they’ll have time with you, so set up one-on-one meetings with these individuals so they can share ideas. And make it clear that your job, as the leader, is to set the direction and goals. It’s not up to them.

2. Give the second and third rows a chance to break through to the top. Often there’s great talent on a team that’s held back or doesn’t get exposure because of the front-rowers. Take time to identify that second- and third-row talent. Who does their job well? Hits deadlines? Brings new ideas to the table? Identify those individuals and give them some additional responsibilities that will grow their exposure across the organization. Whether it’s running the next staff meeting or planning the next corporate customer event, give them their own spotlight moments that won’t get overshadowed.

3. Groom those diligent attendees into front-row experts. Remember the team members who show up each week and are getting better and better at their skill sets. These team members might not have the skills down like other team members, but they are learning and have the potential to be part of the “front row” someday. If that’s the case, invest in these team members. Send them to professional development programs to hone their skills. Set them up with mentors in your organization. Help groom their skills and give them the confidence that they are up-and-coming high performers. By investing in them, you are not only building your bench strength for the future, you are also building employee engagement and, hopefully, employee tenure.

4. Don’t let those back-row success stories go unnoticed. Finally, don’t ignore the back row. The truth about the back row is that some of these team members will drop out or move to other teams. However, there are a few who will begin to move their way up in terms of skill development.

Be available to coach these back rowers and provide them with clear direction and instruction. With these team members, you’ll need to be proactive, reaching out to them individually and assessing their level of interest and engagement. By spending the extra time, you can determine where there are opportunities for improvement and where there are gaps in skills and contributions to the team.

There is also the opportunity to identify back-row success stories. These are individuals who quietly and unassumingly contribute in a very significant way to the team. Discover these successes and let others know.

Pay attention to your team dynamics and adjust the time you spend with team members based on their level of expertise and visibility.

Source: Cassandra Johnson is a tech-savvy marketing communications consultant and freelance writer. She reports on the latest trends in the promotional products industry, public relations, direct marketing, e-marketing and more. She supports clients in a variety of industries, including promotional products, hospitality, financial services and technology.

The Real Facts About the Coffee Shop Effect

Myfavorite invention of all time is the one I can’t live without—my laptop. It’s not because of its powerful software or its ability to create content, but because of its flexibility. My laptop gives me

freedom. I can work in the office, from home, by the pool or at my local Starbucks. Changing my work location helps me with productivity when I get brain fog or writer’s block. In fact, I can often get more done in one hour at Starbuck’s than in an entire morning at the office. The question is, why? Freelance writer Kat Boogaard asked this question, too, in her recent blog.

1. Your brain loves novelty. Boogaard says that the human brain has been proven to constantly seek novelty, rather than the repetitive and mundane. It’s a classic case of “shiny object syndrome.” Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’re always keeping your eyes peeled for what’s new and exciting.

When you’re presented with something different, your brain releases dopamine. Known to many people as the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine was previously thought to be a reward in itself. Recent studies, however, have shown it’s more closely tied to motivation—meaning dopamine inspires you to seek out a reward, rather than acting as a reward itself.

So, by creating a fresh, new work environment, a la Starbucks, you are providing a blank canvas for your brain to get stimulated. By focusing on your to-do list in your new environment, you are exercising your brain’s neuroplasticity. So, what you see as being more efficient in a different location is your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain’s ability to think about things in a new way.

2. You easily fall victim to unproductive routiness. We all have routines in our lives, and sometimes these routines, or rituals, are comforting. However, sometimes these routines can become—well, so routine—that they are unproductive. That’s why, when you need to put something together for work, it’s easy to get distracted by the blackhole known as Facebook or Twitter, or another social media channel. Sometimes a different work environment helps to counteract these bad habits and get productive again.
Boogaard shares this quote from Ralph Ryback, M.D., in an article in Psychology Today. He says, “Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation.”

Pay attention to what productivity boosters you enjoy most and think about how to incorporate them back at your desk.

3. You set intentions to get more done. Is it the actual change of environment that makes you more productive, or is it your intention to work better or smarter in the new environment? Boogaard says that it’s both of those things. Changing your work environment does indeed have an impact on your brain and your level of motivation. But, there’s a lot to be said for good intentions as well. It’s as if you’ve snapped your brain into saying, “I’m going to get through my list.” Intention can be a powerful tool.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, William A. Tiller, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, is quoted from the book, Intention Experiment, by Lynne McTaggart, as saying, “For the last 400 years, an unstated assumption of science is that human intention cannot affect what we call physical reality. Our experimental research of the past decade shows that, for today’s world and under the right conditions, this assumption is no longer correct.”

In other words, your intention makes a difference. The next time you feel like you’re just barely slogging through your workload, consider heading to a new environment with the intention of getting things done. You’ll likely be surprised by how much it helps your productivity.

Source: Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer and blogger who finally gathered her courage, sprinted away from her cubicle, and started her own business. Now, she lends her voice to various brands and publications to help them craft content that engages their audience. Beyond that, she helps other hopeful freelancers figure out how to jump ship from their jobs and create their own heart-centered and hustle-filled businesses.

Build Brand Value Through Events

To build a brand today, you need to be known for more than just your product. You need to be known for your knowledge, expertise and experience. Events can be a great way to engage others and immerse them in your brand.

Just look at Dreamforce, the annual event hosted by Salesforce that brings together more than 170,000 marketers and digital technology experts from 91 countries. It’s an experience that includes speakers, motivational keynotes, a top-of-the-line trade show, concerts, philanthropy and more that all contributes to the brand equity of Salesforce.

Here we’re sharing these tips from Tony Delmercado, COO of Hawk Media, to help you creating events that epitomize your brand.

1. Know the “why” behind your event. The first thing you need to do—before anyone will trust you or become a loyal fan—is consider what real, emotional connections you can build between your customers and your brand. Then you need to understand why you are hosting the event. Why do you incorporate your brand when you do? Any event you plan should embody your brand’s values and message, so try to infuse your company’s core values into the activities wherever possible to produce a unique and memorable experience.

2. Focus on the right things to develop your event. There are a many logistics involved in event planning. The key to developing the most engaging events lies in knowing who you are as a company and why you exist in the world. What are your core values that need to be represented? Your reason for existing, in other words, needs to spur everything you do, large or small.

3. Involve your most enthusiastic staff and customers. This isn’t just about the people working the event. Proactively seed the audience and the venue with people who are superfans of your brand, even if they’re not the most knowledgeable on how your company works. Enthusiasm spreads.

A great way to create a strong emotional connection to your brand is to hold an event packed with your most ardent supporters. These people can help shape a more personalized vibe at the event, so that the overall experience helps your guests see and understand how your company truly “gets” them.

Also, cherry-pick your own team members and put people either on the agenda or in the audience who you think will have a positive impact during smaller, one-on-one conversations. This is akin to getting your three best guests on your list because you know they’ll be the life of the party and set the tone for the room.

4. Align the event with your broader mission. Can you take your brand’s purpose in the world and grow an event around it? Dreamforce is a primary example of this. At this event, they had 20 monks leading daily mindful sessions and attendees help stuff 1,500 backpacks with school supplies for hurricane victims—both representative of the core values of Salesforce.

Hosting events is a fun and exciting way to grow your brand. If you focus on your why, you’ll get to connect with people in strategic positions, craft killer experiences that build affection and loyalty in your customer base, and grow your business by introducing it to new potential customers.

Source: Tony Delmercado is the COO at Hawke Media and the founder of 1099.me.

Create Your Own Magic With These Three Steps

Have you ever done something difficult at work, but made it look easy? Maybe you solved a problem, helped a client or negotiated a deal in a way that astounded your colleagues? It felt amazing, right? Inspiring delight and wonder is powerful—even addicting. It’s this sense of awe and power that also drives magicians to do what they do, and why people love them for it.

What most people don’t realize about magic shows, though, is that it’s not all props and performance. To truly surprise and delight, a seasoned magician uses his expertise. And you don’t have to run away with the circus or even learn a single magic trick to apply magical thinking to your business or career.

Today, we reveal three secrets for creating the wow factor at work developed by Kostya Kimlat, a magician with more than 20 years of experience.

1. Innovation And Lateral Thinking. Magicians have always had to work backwards: They come up with a surprising effect and then devise a means to accomplish it. They must consider all mental, visual and physical tools available. To continue astonishing people, a magician can’t stick with the same tactics. Their tricks must constantly evolve, but here’s the key—their approach to developing new material stays the same: Magicians start the creative process by acting as if anything is possible.

To be creative and innovative, you have to be able to see existing resources as more than they are. You must seek methods and technologies unknown to you (and maybe to others). You can’t do any of those things when you decide preemptively that any end goal—a new product, service, client or corporate structure—is outside the range of what’s possible.

2. Perception management. No magician’s trick is complete with only physical tools and technologies. To fool someone, a magician must do something the other person doesn’t know, recognize or perceive. Knowing and managing an audience’s perceptions are what make the trick.

Similarly, to excel at work, it’s not enough to just be creative. You must also accurately understand what people around you perceive—what they believe and expect. Before an important meeting with a client, your boss or employees, do some digging on what your investors believe about your company before you present. Find out what delighted or disappointed them at the most recent board meeting—and why. Do the research beforehand to more deeply understand what others believe they know, how they see you and what they are looking for, and you’ll be able to deliver and even dazzle by going beyond expectations.

3. Social Intelligence. Highly successful magicians aren’t just good at tricks. They’re great entertainers. They pull people in. Why? They read people in a way that others don’t. Perception management—the ability to understand how people perceive you and what you do—is a skill that can be learned, developed and refined. If you practice taking the perspectives of others enough, you’ll develop a powerful tool: social intelligence.

Being a great thinker doesn’t just mean having great ideas; it’s understanding and anticipating the thoughts of others. It’s knowing how they think and feel, and making informed guesses on how they will react. It’s about being ready instead of reacting in panic.

You can practice the same strategies at the office. Constantly assess what those above, below and beside you are perceiving, what they expect and how they feel. Do this not just during crucial moments, but at every point of interaction. Do it well enough and it will be what sets you apart. It will become your magic, your own wow factor.

With these three magician’s secrets, you can bring innovation and lateral thinking to your job. Wow your coworkers by anticipating what they’re going to think or say at the next meeting, and astonish them with your masterful ability to connect and communicate with anyone you meet.

Source: Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, Fool Us. Kimlat speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician to improve sales and customer service.

Hook Top Candidates With Great Storytelling

It takes an average of 27 days to hire a new employee, according to a recent survey, but the best candidates are off the market within 10 days. In today’s tight job market, it’s a challenge for many executives to convince top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.

To become better at hiring and training, Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, suggests taking the approach of a storyteller. Give candidates lots of facts and figures about your company and then tell them the right story.

Core Values Are Key. Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values. Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive an organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Some examples of core values include statements such as:

  • We go the extra mile for customers
  • We do whatever it takes to get the job done

Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.

The Core Value Storytelling Formula. For every core value, the company should capture a true story that represents that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core value storytelling formula:

1. Start with a main character. Every story starts with a character who wants something: your client. Make your main character likable so the listeners will root for them.

2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the protagonist’s way?

 

3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. Heroes cannot succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provide.

4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.

5. Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).

6. Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Put Stories Into Action. After you’ve identified the core value and have examples to share with candidates, persuade future hires—and educate current employees and customers—with these opportunities:

During a job interview. Don’t start the interview by telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared information about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.

At weekly staff meetings. During staff meetings, tell a story to illustrate one of your core values.

At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core-value selling.

On the company website. Detail for clients and potential clients the power of story by promoting core-value stories on your website.

In company collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade others on an emotional level. Utilize storytelling as a key strategy for showcasing your core values.

Three Ways To Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive criticism can be a very sensitive area. It’s an opportunity to identify areas of improvement, but it can also mean bruising an ego here or there.

In her recent blog post from The Muse, author Kat Boogard shared three ways to give constructive feedback, which we’ll outline below.

1. ” You always …” Always. As Boogard says, “always’ seems like such an innocent word, but when used to give feedback, it can quickly put someone on the defensive.

As she points out, “always” can imply that there’s a mistake that has happened on a frequent enough basis that you can chalk it up as something that person repeatedly does. Maybe that’s true. However, constructive criticism is hard enough to swallow without being made to feel like you’ve been making the same mistake for a long time.

So, when giving feedback, drop the “A” word.

2. “Everybody has noticed that …” Sometimes when you receive feedback, it can feel embarrassing or disheartening, especially when you didn’t realize there was a problem to begin with.

Implying that everyone has noticed will make the recipient feel like they’ve been talked about and that negative comments were made.

When giving feedback, there’s no need to relay the details of every single complaint. In the end, it shouldn’t matter how many people have commented. What matters is that the person is aware that he or she needs to fix it.

3. “If I were you …” Constructive criticism is generally better received when it’s rooted in fact-as opposed to just opinion. This phrase, “If I were you …” can come across as judgmental.

Remember, not everybody works the same way, which means that just because you’d do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the way that other person is doing it is wrong and warrants correction.

Providing feedback can be a positive discussion and an effective step toward improvement. By demonstrating respect and basing feedback on facts, not judgement or opinion, you’ll create a positive foundation for next steps to improvement.

Source: Kat Boogard is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor on the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she’s usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco.

Getting To The Customer Experience Finish Line

This week we focuse on the trend toward declining customer satisfaction scores and what your organization can do to pull ahead of this problem. The solution, of course, is dependent on your organization recognizing that, because of higher expectations set by customer experience leaders such as Amazon, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, customers expect an ever-improving experience. Being good at what you do is no longer enough.

In his recent blog post, “Why Good is a Four-Letter Word,” customer experience author and speaker Jay Baer writes: “Exceptional brands understand that the customer experience finish line is a mirage, and are constantly upping their game.”

In research for his book, Talk Triggers, Baer discovered that most organizations could take cues from leaders to do more to improve customer experience, but choose not to. Why? Because they believe that being satisfactory in the products or services they provide is good enough. It’s not.

In today’s experience economy, where any competitor can copy what you do in virtually no time, having satisfied customers is not enough. To truly succeed you need to create rabid fans of your products and services. You must provide an experience that turns customers into advocates who are willing to help you share your story.

According to Baer, “Good enough is not enough. Good is the minimum prerequisite required for you to remain in business. Good does not create conversations. Good does not turn your customers into advocates. Good is not the goal.”

His recommendation is to create a series of checkpoints. Set the specific goals needed to dramatically improve your customer experience and make each a checkpoint. When you get to a checkpoint, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and start working toward the next checkpoint. And keep adding to your checkpoints because as soon as you reach one, your customers will very likely have increased their expectations once again.

Outline your customer service checkpoints, and start your journey to an exceptional customer experience.

Source: Jay Baer is president of Convince & Convert, a global keynote speaker and emcee, host of the Social Pros podcast, an inductee into the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s also the author of five books including Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.

Four Ways To Close Your Best Candidate

No matter how large and successful your business, you need to hire great talent to succeed. Getting that talent is 100 percent a sales process. Perhaps, the most critical stage of this process is extending a job offer to the prized candidate.

Once you’ve found the ideal candidate, follow these three proven steps from Patrick McHargue, director of talent at PromoPlacement, to successfully make the job offer and ensure it’s accepted.

1. Formalize Your Offer. The first step to extending a job offer is getting the offer down on paper in an organized and easy-to-comprehend way. Focus on the main points and make the offer clear and to the point. If you make it too complex, you’ll likely confuse the candidate.

The offer letter should be on your company letterhead and include the following:

  • An introduction that expresses your excitement and hopes for a long relationship
  • Title of the position being offered
  • Potential start date
  • Compensation/pay period
  • Overview of health insurance benefits
  • Number of sick, personal and vacation days
  • Space for the candidate to sign to confirm their acceptance of the offer

2. Sell The Opportunity. The recruiting and hiring process needs to be a marriage of your human resources and sales/marketing teams. In today’s highly competitive talent market, you need to sell the candidate on why he or she should join your company. Sell your company culture, your growth rate, opportunity for promotion and your company’s position in the market place. Sell whatever you must sell about your company and the opportunity. Make it compelling or you will lose your candidate.

3. Present Over The Phone. The single most important aspect of extending a job offer is how you present the offer to your candidate. There are several ways but by far the most effective method is to review the offer over the phone with your candidate. To do this, schedule an offer call with your candidate. Email the offer letter just before your call and read it over together on the phone.

This method is the strongest option for two reasons. First, it allows you to get the genuine first reaction of your candidate as he or she is seeing the offer for the first time. Second, it segues perfectly into a close.

4. Close! Offer your candidate the opportunity to join your team and close the deal. As you read over and review the offer letter with your candidate, clarify any questions that he or she may have. Then get the person on board by saying something like, “Would the second or the ninth be better for your first day with the team?”

Extending a job offer the right way is all about presenting your candidate with reasons to want to join your team. Follow these simple steps and your offers will be accepted far more often, and you’ll have a strong advantage over competitors in the talent war going on now in the promotional product industry.

Source: Patrick McHargue is the director of talent at PromoPlacement, an industry search and placement firm. He grew up in the promotional product industry, earned an MBA ininternational business, and managed a $35 million sales territory before focusing on the development of tools and services to benefit the promotional product industry.