Evaluating An Offer Letter

By Joe Stein

Evaluating an Offer Letter
For many job seekers the conclusion of a strenuous recruitment process is the receipt of an Offer Letter. All the oral communication back and forth both in interviewing and negotiating is summarized in a final written document. Offer Letters are most common a Human Resources practice for Managerial, Technical, and Professional positions.
Why are Offer Letters fairly common in these areas? One, these positions typically have a larger degree of negotiation than others, areas such as compensation, benefits, and review procedures may differ not only in these type of positions, but also within the position. Depending on your negotiation skills, qualifications, and the employer’s needs you may be able to secure more than others during the process. These positions also are less likely to be confined by rigid wage structures or other policies. So with all of these variables and potential variances it important for all parties that the end of the negotiation be signed and documented. This will serve to eliminate any confusion by either party regarding the terns of the agreement.
Be wary of an employer who after a lengthy negotiation is hesitant or refuses to place the offer in writing. A knee-jerk reaction would be that the employer does not plan on abiding or adhering to the terms negotiated. Both parties should want to enter the Offer Letter process because it signifies the end of negotiation (no going back to the “well”) and begins the process of notice (if applicable) being given and focus being placed on starting your new job.
So what should you expect in an Offer Letter? Typically the Offer Letter is a follow-up to a phone (or in-person) conversation where there is an offer to join an organization. At this time, ask any questions and receive any clarifications you may need. The Offer Letter is a written follow-up to that conversation, not a time to spring surprises or new information. Let’s take a few paragraphs and break down a typical Offer Letter so that you can concentrate on the terms and accuracy of the language rather than taking a crash course in the nuances of the subject.
The Offer Letter should have a warm tone to the reader. Remember your prospective new employer should be thrilled that you are potentially coming aboard. The language of the document, with the realm of a primarily factual document, should be welcoming.
Position/Reporting Relationship: The position title should be clearly spelled out in the document. Remember titles do mean something on the Resume. They can reflect upward progression and career development. You do not want to accept an offer not knowing the title and be disappointed. For example, if you thought you are joining an organization as a Senior Engineer you don’t want to discover your title will be Engineering Specialist after joining the organization. The Offer Letter should also clearly spell out the reporting relationship you will have to another. You should have spent time with your future supervisor during the recruitment process, so this area should never shock. An enlightened organization will also spell out the Compensation Grade of the position. This will serve to help you benchmark the position compared to your current one and others.
Compensation: The base salary, whether it is in yearly, pay period, or hourly form should be outlined. Make sure your exempt/non-exempt status is clearly defined. This area also normally includes your next salary review and when your next performance appraisal will happen, this may not necessarily be the same time, so doesn’t assume. If there is any additional compensation such as a bonus or an incentive program make sure that it is indicated and defined as clearly as possible. If there is a sign-on bonus document the amount and when payment will occur.
Relocation: If you are accepting the position to move back into the WNY area…Congratulations!   We are glad to have you back! Make sure that any relevant information on relocation and temporary housing is clearly defined.
Health/Welfare Benefits: It is impossible to go into much detail in this category due to the complexity of the topic. Just make sure the basics of the benefit program are outlined including what is covered (medical, dental, prescription, vision, etc.) and when is your eligibility. If you have negotiated to have your prospective employer cover your COBRA until eligibility arrives make sure it is documented.
If the companies committed to any training programs or tuition assistance make sure that is included in this document. 
Time-Off Benefits: Review to make sure all your time-off is outlined. This includes holiday, vacation, and personal and/or sick time. This is an area that employers will likely have maneuverability to negotiate, so make sure anything you achieved beyond the policy is in writing. If there is some “extra time-off” to handle the relocation (if applicable) make sure that is clearly defined.
You will be expected to sign the Offer Letter and return it to the Employer. I suggest sending it by courier or certified mail. Don’t sign if you still have questions. Don’t be afraid to call and achieve clarification. I would be wary; however, to use the tool for continued negotiation. The Offer Letter, as already stated, is a symbol of closure and documentation. Further negotiation clearly sends the wrong message to your prospective employer.
Don’t forget that an Offer Letter can be a final point of reflection. You need to make sure that this position is absolutely right for you. Respect the time needs of your suitor, but don’t be pressured into a quick signature. Take time to review the document and reflect. It is in the best interest for all parties that you start knowing and accepting the details of the agreement. The typical time is 48-72 hours for return of the document.
A follow-up phone call should be made to your prospective employer informing them of your intentions. If your have signed, call them to inform them that you have and will be giving notice. Then notify them when notice has been given, so that an official start date can be determined. Good communication helps all involved.
As always, best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of wnyjobs.com readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
Joseph Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional
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