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Closing the Deal

You have now identified your preferred candidates and are ready to make offers of employment. Is there anything to think about? Should someone pick up the phone and just make the job offer informally? Send a letter? Do both?
Sign on side of street that reads "We like you too."

Question 1: Who should the offer come from – HR? The prospect’s supervisor? A department head? The internal recruiter?

The answer will depend on variables such as how “high up” the position is, whether the company wants to create a particular feeling of connection between itself and the prospect and heighten the prospect’s feeling of importance, and convenience. The choice rests within each company’s discretion.

Question 2: Should you send a formal offer letter?

Some companies make verbal offers, followed by written offers confirming key details. Others simply mail or email the offer letter and ask for responses. Whether the company chooses to do one or both is a matter of company culture. The more complex the compensation plan and benefits structure, the more useful an offer letter is. Offer letters are also a good idea if the offer is conditional.

Female business executive offering position to male professional

Question 3: What should the offer letter say?

Offer letters are often the only “agreement” between an employee and the company, so care should be taken with the content. Companies should avoid over-promising, and employees should question substance that is incorrect or incomplete, rather than carelessly signing off on the letter as presented.

The subjects routinely covered in an offer letter include the following:

  • name of position

  • to whom, the person will report

  • requested start date (or date range)

  • basic schedule or at least whether full-time or part-time

  • exempt or non-exempt classification

  • brief overview of duties

  • equity grants and how that works – “per XYZ agreement”

  • bonus opportunities – can refer to other company plans or merely point out there may be opportunities

  • commissions – either referring to a company plan or giving a basic overview if a simple program

  • base salary or hourly rate

  • benefits

  • at-will employment

  • reference to other agreements the employee will be expected to sign, such as a non-compete or confidentiality agreement

  • contingencies that may result in withdrawal of the offer, such as failing a background check or a job-related medical evaluation.

The offer letter is also a suitable place to accomplish these tasks:

  • instruct the employee that he/she must not use the confidential information of anyone else

  • confirm that the employment will not violate any other contracts and/or

  • confirm that the employee has already disclosed any existing agreements that may impact the ability to fulfill your job responsibilities

I suggest providing the other mandatory agreements with the offer letter. This allows the prospect an opportunity to digest the agreements, ask questions, and decide whether any of them are a true impediment to acceptance of the job.

Question 4: If your position requires verification of physical capabilities or satisfaction of specific medical standards, now is your chance.

Other than addressing pre-hire accommodation needs, the American with Disabilities Act (covering employers with fifteen or more employees) prohibits medical inquiries and examinations at the pre-offer stage. Moving forward with this step should be covered in writing, so expectations are clear. The EEOC provides resources you can use to give yourself a basic education in the legal parameters of medical inquiry, such as:

Female African-American executive interviewing job candidates

Question 5: Should you put a deadline on acceptance?

Imposing a deadline is helpful if filling the position is time-sensitive. If the No. 1 offeree declines, you want your best chance of making successful offers to back-up choices before they accept offers elsewhere.

Congratulations, you’ve filled the position! Next step: we move on to orienting the new hire and getting off to a good start actually doing the work.

Nothing in this blog post is legal advice. The content provides general information only. Contact a qualified attorney for counsel tailored to the specifics of our situation.


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