How to Handle Job Offer Letters Like a Pro

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If you aced your job interview, you'll soon receive an offer letter, either in your mailbox or your inbox. This letter serves as a formal proposal for you to begin employment at the company and confirms verbal offers made to you during the interview.

Job offer letters include such things as:

  • 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

Some job offer letters are basic in nature, while others are more specific, so examine the details carefully. The letter may contain contractual rights or amend conditions you previously agreed to.

Employers often add clauses regarding work responsibilities, salary, and benefits including the following:

  • Signing bonuses: It’s likely you discussed bonuses as part of your salary negotiations. Make sure the letter contains the agreed upon bonuses and amounts.
  • Other bonuses: If bonuses are included in your employment package, check to see if they are guaranteed or discretionary and annual or more frequent than annual.
  • Salary: If your letter shows a salary increment structure, see if it meets your expectations.  
  • Other benefits: Make sure the list is accurate and outlines standard perks such as insurance, vacation time, and contributions to a retirement fund. If you secured other benefits during salary negotiations like stock options or extra vacation time instead of cash, make sure the letter reflects those agreements.
  • Job responsibilities: These must correspond with the position. You also want to make sure the letter states the job title. If the company downgrades your job in the future, you can use the letter as evidence in any dispute resolution proceedings.
  • Work hours: Job 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 also limit your ability to secure other business.
  • Privacy: Watch out for conditions that affect your right to privacy in the workplace.

Extending the Acceptance Deadline

Sometimes, after receiving a job offer you find you 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. Try to approach the topic in a candid and professional manner

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

Beware of using potential offers as a bargaining chip because this could backfire. They aren’t real until they appear in print. And never bargain with verbal offers. The Muse has excellent advice on dealing with multiple jobs offers if you're lucky enough to be in that situation.

Accepting a Job

When you accept a job, a brief acceptance letter is expected. It serves as an added record of job requirements and expectations. Use a business letter format and include the following:

  • Your gratitude for the offer
  • A summary of the employment package as you understand it
  • A formal acceptance of the job
  • Confirmation of your start date

Send your letter, along with any 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 when interviewing.

Declining a Job

If you think the job isn’t the right fit, you should let the recruiter know in writing. A letter removes any confusion and the recruiter can move on to other candidates.

It's likely that during the interview process, you developed a relationship with the recruiter. A polite letter is a good way to keep the relationship going. Who knows, you may run into them again as your career develops.

If you're declining an offer because the package is not attractive, but you want to work at the company, try negotiating a better deal. If that doesn’t produce results and you must decline, express your disappointment. Show you were interested in working for the company, but the remuneration was a sticking point. The hiring manager may reconsider the proposal.

A letter to decline a job offer should include the following:

  • An expression of gratitude
  • A statement declining the offer
  • Your reason for declining the offer

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 with the employer that you’re not clear about.