Four Mistakes To Avoid When Writing A Job Offer Letter

Written by Christi Hayes and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

There is a feeling of relief when you complete the process of reviewing resumes, holding interviews and making the decision to hire the person who appears to be the perfect candidate to fill the vacancy in your organization. All that is left to do is compose a job offer letter to the individual you hope will become your newest employee, but you might want to take a few minutes think about what you are about to write.

You might intend for your letter to be nothing more than a notification of what you hope will be good news to the person you hope will accept the offer, but depending upon what you put into it, lawyers and judges might interpret it as doing much, much more. Your offer can become a legally enforceable employment contract unless you take care to avoid these four most common mistakes.

Mistake 1: Asking the prospective employee to sign and return the letter

This first mistake might not seem like such a big deal. All you want is to have something in writing to show that the individual got your letter, but what you intend might look different to a judge when the employee tries to enforce the letter as an employment agreement later on. People who ask the job candidate to sign and return the letter usually include language asking the person to do so as an acknowledgement and agreement to its terms.

You can avoid issues about the intent of the letter by simply stating that it is not a binding contract. Mentioning that the employee will be presented with a formal employment agreement at a later date could help to make it clear that the letter is not that agreement.

Mistake 2: Using vague terms that can be misinterpreted

Employers frequently mention salary and other benefits in the job offer letter. Care must be taken to use language that is clear and unambiguous. For example, referring to the compensation as a yearly or annual salary can be interpreted as a commitment to retain the individual for a full year.

Mistake 3: Not being clear about the offer you are making

Many offers of employment are subject to the individual undergoing a satisfactory background check and fulfilling other conditions, such as passing a drug test or providing a transcript as proof of the possession of a college degree. If the offer is conditional, the job offer letter should make those conditions clear.

Mistake 4: Not outlining the hiring process clearly in the letter

For most organizations, a letter notifying the successful candidate of the offer of employment is merely a step in a process that began when the position was advertised and continues after the job is accepted. It is a good idea to outline the steps the applicant must take before he or she actually begins working for the organization and the names of the individuals who will be in charge.

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