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Don’t let applicants use your job offer to earn a raise

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Issue: Your dream candidate wanted the job offer only to negotiate a raise at his or her current job.

Risk: You waste loads of time and effort on a candidate who never was serious in the first place.

Action: Ask the right questions to weed out such snake-oil salesmen early in the interview game.

Most of your job candidates sincerely want the job. But others may simply try to use your offer as a tool to negotiate a higher salary from their current bosses or other potential employers.

Advice: Try to determine early on whether job candidates are just using you as a bargaining chip. You can save lots of time by dismissing candidates who were never truly interested.

"This is crucial, whether you hire for a small or a large company," says Paul Falcone, author of 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire. "You have to make the job offer without shifting control to the candidate."

So how do you find out if applicants are serious? Falcone suggests asking the following questions before making an offer:

  • What would you have to change at your current company for you to stay? 
  • If you were to give notice right now, what would your company say to keep you? 
  • If we make you an offer today, when would you be able to accept it or reject it? 
  • If we were to make you an offer, when would you be able to start? 
  • At what point dollar-wise would you accept an offer, and at what point would you reject it?

This last question is the most important. Reason: The word "reject" raises the notion that the candidate won't win the offer. Sincere applicants will reduce salary demands, says Falcone.

Avoid last-minute surprises. Say an applicant wants a week to think over the offer. Your response: "People who need more time at the finish line usually have another offer on the table. If that's the case, I'll understand. Still, I'd like to know where we stand relative to your other offer."

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