A reader needs a reality check about job offers, in the July 28, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.
How important is getting the job offer in writing? And specifically what should I look for when I receive it? Thanks.
Job applicants are often so grateful to get an offer that they cast prudence aside and put their future in jeopardy. Don’t succumb to the thrill of an incomplete job offer. I would never, ever accept an offer I didn’t have in writing, and I’d certainly never resign another job to accept it. Any company that declines to put it in writing is trouble.
Is the job offer in writing?
A purely oral offer of a job puts you in a bad spot. If the terms expressed to you don’t match what you find when you start work, you’ll have little to rely on. Good luck arguing your case without anything to prove it.
Now, an employer can rescind even a written job offer. We’ve discussed this elsewhere. But this is not just a matter of the offer being bona fide; that is, for real. The more likely problem you’ll face if you don’t insist on a job offer in writing is that the details of the deal could deviate significantly from what you thought you agreed to. For example:
- The offer the manager expressed to you was for the job of Marketing Manager, but the business cards issued to you list you as Marketing Representative.
- The offer was for “$75,000?” But your bi-weekly paycheck is for $2,790.
- Your new boss said, “No problem, it’s part of the offer” when you asked for three weeks’ paid vacation, but six months into the job HR says “No dice!”
- Healthcare benefits were described as “industry standard,” but don’t include levels of coverage you’ve always had.
Either you get the job offer in writing, or you’ll probably be disappointed.
What to look for in a written job offer
Here’s a short list of just some of the key things to look for in your written job offer:
- Does it include all the terms that were agreed to in your discussions?
- Is the job title what you understand it to be?
- Does it include a firm start date?
- Does it refer to other documents, like the company’s benefits plan and employee policy manual? (You’ll want copies of any documents incorporated by reference.)
- Does the “fine print” include surprises that were not discussed, like a non-compete agreement that might restrict you from pursuing jobs with other companies in your field and industry?
- Is the compensation explicitly and clearly stated?
- Do any promised bonuses, commissions or incentives include a clear, objective definition of what they’re based on? (A bonus might seem generous until you realize it’s not achievable.)
- The offer should state who your supervisor will be. It’s not uncommon to interview with one manager, but to report to someone you’ve never met – and can’t get along with.
There’s more, but we’ll stop here for now. (I hope readers will add to this list!)
The offer should be signed by a manager of the company, not by a headhunter or other agent. If you have it in writing, you’re in a better position to protect your interests if you need to take legal action. If an offer is made only orally, you don’t have as much leverage, though successful legal action has been taken over unwritten offers, too. (Bear in mind that I’m not an attorney, and this isn’t legal advice.)
The more complex the job offer or employment agreement, the more you should consider having a good attorney review it. Bottom line: Get it in writing.
Have you ever been burned by a job offer that wasn’t in writing? What do you insist must be included in a written job offer? How would you advise this reader?