Congratulations! You got the job! The news you’ve been waiting for will probably come in the way of a phone call from the hiring manager or recruiter, but it’s usually followed by an official job offer letter.
“You’ll likely be asked to sign that letter if you accept the position. But, before you do, it’s important to understand what to look for in the offer and what the letter can and can’t do for you,” says Dave Benjamin, Practice Director – Professional Services at The HT Group. He recommends looking for the following in your job offer letter:
Details of Employment
It’s time to get in the weeds and note whether the job matches your expectations. Dissect the job offer letter, looking for the following details:
- Job title
- Company/division name
- Work location
- Starting date of employment
- Job description
- Reporting structure
- Salary/compensation (including commission structure, if applicable)
- Benefits information and eligibility (including a schedule of when they kick in)
- Signature area to acknowledge the offer and confirm acceptance
Balance Careers offers examples of how these details may be worded in your offer letter. Comb through these details and be sure they 1) are included and 2) align with what you expected. If not, you have every right to ask the hiring manager or recruiter to clarify, make a counteroffer, or decline the offer.
A job offer letter isn’t necessarily an employment contract or agreement, which holds additional legal implications. In states like Texas, job offer letters usually denote that the employment relationship being proposed is at-will, which means the employer can terminate the position at any time, with or without cause, and the employee can resign likewise. This wording can take some employees by surprise, but it’s common practice in the Lone Star State.
Conditions of Employment
Job offers are often conditional, which means they’re contingent on a few additional steps, even after you’ve signed and accepted the position. Those conditions (if they exist) should be laid out in the letter and often include actions like a drug test, background check, reference check, completed noncompete/confidentiality agreement, and/or required security clearance or certifications/licensure. If you fail in any of these areas—or if the employer made a mistake or changed their mind (which can happen)—the job offer may be rescinded, usually through another letter.
Job offer letters are often concise, but they may be accompanied by documents or clauses like a noncompete, non-solicit, nondisclosure (NDA), mandatory arbitration or other agreements. Certain agreements and clauses are standard depending on your job position and level (tech workers, salespeople, and executives can undoubtedly expect them). Texas is an employer-friendly state, which means that these agreements are common and may look very different from what you might see in other states like California. You may not be shown the documents until after your initial job offer acceptance but, whenever they appear in the process, be sure to review them carefully.
No Letter at All
Employers aren’t legally obligated to send a written job offer letter. Some are afraid to do so because every word can be scrutinized and interpreted as an unintended contractual obligation. If you receive a verbal job offer with no mention of a written follow-up, feel free to ask for one. However, you may not get it.
“At that point, you need to follow your gut. At the very least, check your notes and send an email asking to confirm the terms as you understand them,” Benjamin notes. “A refusal to try to clarify employment details at this stage is a red flag. Any reputable employer or recruiter will expect you to want all the information about the job on the table by then.”
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