Do I Need To Use An Offer Letter?

Yes, offer letters are still needed. While they are not legally binding documents, they can validate a job offer, promote the new opportunity, and build excitement about working for your company with the candidate.

“It’s clear communication that helps improve the chances for future success and it requires very little work,” says HR consultant Max Dubroff, SHRM-SCP.

The benefits far outweigh the costs, and in the spirit of diversity and inclusion, the importance can be magnified even more by cultural differences, points out Dubroff. And in reality, job seekers feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when receiving an offer letter.

“The great majority of candidates will appreciate the offer letter,” says Dubroff. “The offer letter is a norm that both communicates and celebrates. I know I read my offer letter numerous times and showed it to my family.  Why miss out on the opportunity to amplify the candidate’s excitement?”

Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., SPHR, a Human Capital Consultant in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, counsel’s job seekers to get any job offer in writing, telling them that before you get an offer in writing, there is no offer.  So job seekers are looking for them, and employer should provide them.

“Many times, a potential employer will string along a candidate, even talking about start dates, parking, and other practical details of the job prior to handing over an offer letter,” says Lasson.

Many candidates think that they are hired and the job is set, only to find out that a recruiter or even a hiring manager was speaking prematurely.  

“So, there is definitely a professionalism issue with recruiters having such dialogue prior to anything formal being put on the table,” says Lasson.

In addition, candidates may be weighing more than one opportunity at once.  In most cases, offers are “staggered” and not on the table simultaneously, points out Lasson.  

“Often, candidates will be depending on a phone conversation with a recruiter being an offer, after which he/she might discount another opportunity,” says Lasson. “As I have told those whom I advise, you only have leverage to put one of the opportunities on the hot seat if you are actually holding the card.  In the era of Glassdoor being somewhat of an equalizer, few employers are likely to rescind a formal offer they have put into writing.”  

Offer letters are even more important for candidates who need to relocate.  Many want to see the letter to start the next process of providing a resignation letter at their current job and starting the stressful process of relocation.

Dubroff says a good offer letter includes:

  • Congratulatory/celebratory comments
  • The company/organization
  • The team/department
  • The job
  • The supervisor
  • Conditions of employment (full/part-time, temporary/regular, exempt/non)
  • The pay (if an annual salary is given, make sure the primary reference is to the weekly salary)
  • Instructions for the first day
  • Excitement for the future

There might be references to other details, information, or policies referenced in the letter or contingencies built in based on a background check or medical exam, says Lasson. That said, an offer letter is not legally binding and does not constitute a contract.

But they are simple and can help job seekers feel valued and that you as an employer are making a commitment to them.  

“Candidates who are uneasy without an offer letter might wonder about the organization’s commitment to them in the long run if they are not even willing to commit at the beginning,” says Dubroff.

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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