The Definitive Guide to the Offer Letter Process

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At last, you’ve done it! After a grueling recruitment process and seemingly endless interviews, you’ve found the perfect candidate to fill your position. They have the knowledge and skills that they need to shine in the role. Better still, they are excited about your business and enthusiastic about your brand. Their values are aligned with yours, and their personality is a great fit for the dynamic of your team. 

But while you can’t wait to welcome them into the fold, you know that their recruitment is not yet a done deal. You still need to formally offer them the position in writing. 

An offer letter can be sent physically or via email. However you choose to send it, getting it right is essential. Not only does it need to include all the information the candidate needs to give an informed acceptance, it should help them feel good about the prospect of joining your team. Let us guide you through the process of composing an offer letter that will help you secure your dream candidate.

The importance of building rapport before you start writing an offer letter

Throughout the recruitment process, it’s essential to consider what motivates candidates. Compensation is important, sure, but candidates are looking for more than money. They’re looking for a place where they can belong. They want an employer who can help them achieve their career goals and a team who’ll make workdays a pleasure rather than a chore. 

As such, it’s essential to start building rapport with candidates early on in the recruitment process. Show them that you have an interest in them as a person, and not simply in terms of what they can do for you. A friendly tone and genuine engagement can go a long way in ensuring a positive response to your offer letter. 

Even something as simple as referring to the candidate by name can help reassure them that you see them as a person rather than an employee-in-waiting. 

What to include, and never leave out in an offer letter

An offer letter is not a legally binding contract. A successful candidate does not legally become your employee until a contract is drawn up and signed. Nonetheless, it’s incumbent upon employers to consider the wording of their offer letters carefully. It’s vital to include all the right things, as well as what to omit.

For instance, an offer letter needs to include all salient information that will enable the candidate to make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to accept the job offer.

This includes:

  • A company logo / header
  • A summary of the job title and description
  • Whether the position is full-time or part-time (include hours per week)
  • The position’s reporting structure
  • A proposed starting date
  • Any necessary probationary period
  • Starting salary, compensation, bonuses, benefits, etc.
  • A section to be signed by the employer and employee
  • Information on how to formally accept the offer (verbally, in writing, etc.)
  • An expiration date for the offer
  • Contingencies of employment (e.g. receipt of references, pending background checks, etc.)
  • A disclaimer stating that the offer is not yet legally binding

The above should never be left out as they ensure that the candidate makes as informed a decision as possible. 

Your offer letter must, however, omit any language that makes the candidate think that the letter itself is a legally binding contract. It’s also advisable to avoid making promises that you may be unable to keep in the future such as alluding to long-term job security or making promises of future earnings. 

How to involve the whole team in the process – hiring manager, talent team and HR

After completing the first draft of your offer letter, it’s well worth involving the whole team in its potential re-drafting before sending it to the successful candidate. Your hiring manager and HR department may want to ensure that you have not omitted any important information about the position that the candidate will need to be aware of. Whether your HR team is in-house or outsourced, they will be able to help you check that the letter contains everything that is needed from their perspective. They can also help reassure you that you have not used any problematic language that may imply promises that you are unable to keep in future. For added reassurance, it’s worth asking your legal team to give the letter a once-over to ensure that you have not inadvertently run afoul of any state or federal employment laws. 

Your talent acquisition team should also be involved in the drafting of your offer letter. They will be able to ensure that it is appealing as possible to the candidate, making subtle changes to its wording to increase your chances of an acceptance. 

Getting more pairs of eyes on the letter will also ensure that its wording is consistent with your company’s brand identity while checking all the right boxes for the candidate. 

You may choose to forward the letter to different departments via email, inviting them to make suggestions to a live document. Alternatively, you may want to schedule a meeting with relevant department heads / representatives to craft the final draft of your offer letter together. 

How to handle a rejected offer

No matter how much effort you put into your offer letter, there’s always a possibility that a candidate may reject your offer of employment. 

However, while it can be galling to lose out on a great candidate, a rejected offer is also a potential learning opportunity. Just as job applicants often request feedback when they are unsuccessful in a job interview, so too can businesses request feedback from candidates who decline a job offer.

They may be open to negotiations if you can be flexible with pay, benefits or terms for the right candidate. Alternatively, you can offer the position to the next best candidate if you can imagine them being just as good a fit for your team.

They may also be able to provide you with suggestions for how to make your brand more appealing to future candidates. For instance, if the candidate feels very strongly about ethical and ecological matters and this is not a key part of your branding, bringing this to the forefront in your online copy may check this box for future candidates.

Make candidates an offer they can’t refuse

Your offer letter is more than just a formality. It’s an opportunity for businesses to help candidates better understand the nature of the job they’re being offered, providing the information they need to make an informed decision. When done well, an offer letter can also help to reassure candidates that they’ll be making the right decision by accepting your offer and joining your team.

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