You Don’t Have a Job Offer Until You Receive an Offer Letter

offer letter

The wait is over. You got a call from your soon-to-be manager or human resources and you got the job. Did you? No, you did not. It is not an offer until you receive letter, which serves as the legal basis of employment. A verbal offer is great—worthy of celebration, but the employer is not bound to fulfill on that offer. If you want to protect yourself, then ask for the job offer in writing. Most companies will send an offer letter to go along with the verbal offer. Wait until you receive the offer in writing before you do anything.

It’s a critical document that you need to read carefully

Your offer letter should include important points such as the following.

  • Your position title
  • Your salary and when you are paid
  • Any bonuses you may be entitled to
  • Explicit guidelines on how to achieve those bonuses
  • Benefits such as health care insurance, 401K, disability
  • Paid time off (PTO) such as vacation time, sick time, personal time
  • Your official starting date

Summer internship letters are different. The points to review include title, salary if a paid position, start and end dates.

In addition, you will likely have to sign a confidentiality agreement and a document that allows the employer to initiate a background check. Read these carefully as well.

Not right, don’t sign until it is

Let’s say during the interview process, you were told that after a 3-month trial period which some employers call an internship, you would be considered for a full-time permanent position. However, when you read the offer letter, there is no mention of this nor does the letter include what is expected of you in order to become an employee. Regardless of how hard you’ve worked, you could be out looking again after three months.

If any of that information is missing or doesn’t match what you were told during the interview process, then you have to have the offer letter updated. You’re probably thinking, I haven’t started yet and I’m causing trouble. No, you are not. You were chosen out of all of the potential candidates because the employer feels that you have something to offer. If you feel the letter does not represent what you were told, you need to raise your voice. The employer will respect you for paying attention to the details, following up and speaking up.

What can be negotiated

When you’re just starting out there aren’t a lot of perks such as additional vacation days or a commuter allowance or flex time for you to negotiate. Salary is one thing you can.

The salary for an entry-level position is most often set long before the employer meets you and makes a job offer. When you get the offer letter, you’re surprised by the salary—and not in a good way.  Should you just accept it? Perhaps. But after you do some research,, and other salary calculator websites are excellent resources, you learn the salary offered is considerably below  the average starting salary for the position and marketplace. The employer is offering $30,000 when the marketplace average is $40,000. You now have something to discuss. However, if the employer is offering $38,000, do you really want to fight over $2,000 probably not.

You can try to negotiate a higher starting salary or negotiate a shorter time frame for a performance review that is accompanied by a salary increase. The employer can always say no but at the very least you’ve shown you’re decisive and reasonable.

Use a win-win negotiating technique

Here’s an approach to help you get what you need in the offer letter.

“_____ (name of boss), I’m calling you with some very good news. I would like to accept your offer and I’m looking forward to working with you and becoming a valuable member of the team. (Wait for their positive response.) I am committed to working with you, and as my future boss there is (are) a (two, three, some) minor issue(s) about the offer that I want to make you aware of. I don’t know if you’re able to make changes in this (these) area(s), but I’d surely appreciate your looking into that possibility. Namely, would it be possible to _____ (name changes)?”

If you are just too uncomfortable negotiating salary, then before you sign the offer letter talk to your manager and ask questions that will give you a higher degree of confidence. For example:

  • What are the promotional opportunities of the position?
  • How and when will my performance be reviewed? Will this include a salary review?
  • What kind of salary progression would be expected in the first three to five years?

 Your job offer dictates the direction of your career

The importance of a job offer can never be understated. The final job offer that you and your employer agree to will set the foundation for the next several years of your career.



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