How to Handle Job Offer Letters Like a Pro

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If you prepared well and aced your job interview, an offer letter will be in the mail (or your inbox!). It is a formal proposal to begin employment at a company. And it confirms any verbal offers you received from an employer in person or through a telephone call.

Job offer letters include:

  • The job title or position

  • Salary or wage, as well as benefits and perks

  • An acceptance deadline

  • The desired start date

  • Training information

  • Instructions on how to accept or decline the job offer

Job Offer Letter Conditions

Job offer letters can be brief, containing the above information. At times, they are more specific, so examine the details carefully. They may contain contractual rights or amend conditions you agreed to during discussions with the hiring party. Employers can add clauses on work responsibilities, and salary and benefits.

  • Signing bonuses - It’s likely you discussed any bonuses as part of salary negotiations. Does the letter contain the agreed bonuses and amounts?
  • Other bonuses - Are bonuses guaranteed or discretionary? Are they annual or more frequent?
  • Salary - Does the letter show a salary increment structure, and does it meet your expectations?
  • Other benefits - Is the list accurate? It states standard perks such as insurance, vacation time, and contributions to a retirement fund. Did you secure other benefits during salary negotiations like stock options or extra vacation time instead of cash? Does the letter reflect those agreements?
  • Job responsibilities - These must correspond with the position. The letter should state the job title as well. If the company downgrades your job in the future, you can use the letter as evidence in any dispute resolution proceedings.
  • Work hours - Offer letters usually state official working hours, but look for company policy on overtime and holiday pay.
  • Legalities - Watch out for other conditions that affect your rights and your career path. For example, mandatory arbitration limits your power if you have a dispute with your employer. Non-compete and non-solicit clauses should also contain limits to their validity.
  • Privacy - Watch out for conditions that affect your right to privacy at the workplace.

Extending the Acceptance Deadline

You won’t learn you secured the job through an offer letter. In most cases, an employer offers a candidate the job after the interview process or via a conversation in person or on the phone. Under some circumstances, you may need more time to consider your options. It’s best to tell the employer as soon as possible, giving them a workable reason for the delay.

If you have other offers on the table, it’s best to be honest with the hirer unless you expect a negative reaction. The worst-case scenario is they refuse the request and insist on an answer. Then you must accept or decline.

Beware of using potential offers as a bargaining chip as this can backfire. Approach the topic in a candid and professional manner. And never bargain with verbal offers. They aren’t real until they’re in black and white. The Muse has excellent advice on dealing with multiple job offers.

Accepting a Job

When you accept a job, a brief acceptance letter is professional, and it’s an added record of job requirements and expectations. Use a business letter format and:

  • Express gratitude for the offer

  • Summarize the payment package as you understand it

  • Formally accept the job

  • Confirm the start date of employment

Send your letter with the signed documentation from the company. Address it to the person who made the offer when mailing it. If you send an email, use your name in the subject line. Keep your acceptance letter brief and professional to maintain the positive impression you made on the employer.

Declining a Job

If you think the job isn’t the right fit, you should still tell the recruiter in writing. A letter doesn’t leave room for confusion. The hirer knows where they stand and can move on to other candidates.

From the interview process through to negotiations, you build a relationship with the recruiter. A polite letter is a good way to keep the relationship intact. That’s why it's not advisable to criticize the staff or the company. You may come across them as your career develops.

When you want to work at the company but the package is not attractive, try to negotiate a better deal. If that doesn’t produce results and you must decline, express your disappointment. Show you were eager to work for the company, but the remuneration was a sticking point. The hirer may reconsider the proposal.

A letter to decline a job offer gives:

  • An expression of thanks and gratitude

  • A statement to decline the offer

  • A brief reason for the decision

Job offer letters sometimes act as job contracts. Once you sign it, the conditions are binding. Make sure you agree with the contents and raise matters you’re not clear about with the employer.

This article has been updated by Laurence Bradford.