Get It in Writing

You’ve worked hard, your resume has done its job, and you have been told by a great employer that an offer will be forthcoming. What do you do now? Go out and celebrate? Well, yes, but you need to do something else. You need to make sure you get that offer in writing.

Most executives and senior management are provided employment offers that are very extensive. The offer outlines multiple items ranging from salary to benefits, bonuses to the details of a golden parachute. Most large employers have a standard written offer of employment that is presented to most management level staff members. Smaller companies may not be so formal in their hiring practices.

It is important to get the job offer in writing for many reasons. A written offer reduces misunderstandings and will decrease the potential for future disagreements or of you being fired unfairly. While a handshake and a “welcome aboard” might confirm employment, they don’t outline the terms of that employment. The written offer should spell out many things including salary, benefits, job security, severance pay, notice of termination, and other issues. Read it carefully. If you feel uncomfortable about any part of it, consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law.

But what if the employer doesn’t provide an offer in writing? What if the offer is oral? It is incumbent on you, the new employee, to put it in writing. Write a letter of acceptance that outlines all the terms of the position as you understand them. At the end of the letter, put in a statement that gives a specified time limit for the employer to respond or the letter will be considered a valid contract of employment as written. If the employer is okay with what you have captured in writing, he doesn’t have to respond. If there are changes or misunderstandings, the letter will serve to bring those to light immediately before a work arrangement has been cemented. Send the letter by certified mail with return receipt requested so you can verify receipt.

Consider getting changes in employment status in writing. I had an acquaintance who wished to relocate closer to his aging parents who lived in a small, rural town. His employer agreed to allow him to telecommute, something he already did three days a week any way. The other days he either worked in the office or traveled. It seemed like a terrific arrangement.

The worker made all the move arrangements and put his house on the market in preparation for making the change. The house was on the market for ten months but finally sold. The employer knew about all this the entire time the house was on the market and never said anything. The moving vans came and loaded everything up. The last week before the worker was to make the transition to his new location, his new supervisor called him in and told him they had changed their minds and that he couldn’t telecommute. What was he to do? He had already sold his house and his family and household items were in the new location. He had to quit.

He ended up consulting an employment attorney and winning some small compensation from the company in the form of COBRA benefits and no-contest to unemployment but that was nothing compared to his lost compensation. He had held a $100K job and had executed a move to an area that did not have his industry at all. His mistake was not getting the promise that he could telecommute in writing in the first place.

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