This is week four in our series of time-saving tips for recruiting your next hire.  In case you missed the last three, here is a summary:

In Fail Fast we suggest asking candidates to “take me through your background, the 10-15 minute version” as an early, high priority question. This will test if the candidate can communicate concisely and clearly, and if his/her interests and accomplishments, at a high level, appear to be a match for the role?

In Hit the Gas, we warn against becoming complacent once a few great candidates are solidly in the interview process. In today’s environment, you could (seemingly all of a sudden) go from several candidates to no candidates, even when many of your candidates aren’t actively looking for a new role.

In What are Your Questions, we suggest that you let the candidate query you early on.

Tip number four is to discuss the elements of total compensation, including base, incentives and benefits, early and often.

Why discuss compensation early and so often?

I learned the value of continuous compensation discussions from my large private equity client. By the offer stage, everything had already been agreed. It made the process so easy. From then on, that’s how we’ve worked it at Colosi Associates.

It seems logical and prudent, right? Yet just last week, an executive called and asked my advice about compensation for a job he was likely to be offered.  The large, international firm recruiter he was working with had barely a few words about it along the way. It happens too often, judging by the number of professionals who reach out to me to ask for advice when we’re not working together.

In California, and an increasing number of states, you can’t ask someone’s actual salary history. But you may ask “What are your expectations?” As a recruiter, I always add: “I’ll be happy to share what our market experience has been when working with candidates of various levels of prior accomplishments, that have been hired for similar roles.” While we work for the client, it’s important that the candidate is compensated fairly. If not, the risk of the placed candidate leaving early, or not leaving their current role at all, rises.

It’s also important to float the scenario of what will happen if the candidate gives notice. I may say, “It’s clear that your boss/ your organization values your work. What will be the reaction if you resign? If your organization offers you a nice pay raise, it seems you’d just have to stay.”

This question tests if it’s just comp that would motivate someone. Or, if we can create an opportunity around a number of factors, based on that individual’s personal goals that would be motivational enough to leave. It has to be something the current boss can’t “counter” including other factors beyond comp.

Finally, we strongly discourage written offers until the terms have been agreed verbally. Sure, at times we don’t come to agreement after the paper is presented. But it’s rare - if you’ve been discussing compensation terms early and often, including the summary of benefits. A person may say that they will only change employers if they can get the same health providers. You don’t want to find that out at the end of your hiring process.

The result? Only three times in 17 years have we had a written offer from one of our clients not accepted by the candidate. When I hear potential candidates say they’ve received offers they turned down, or a prospective client lament about counter or rejected offers, the bubble above my head reads, “That’s a shame. Most of this could have been avoided.”

Talk early. Talk often. Talk to us about what this means for your search strategy.