What to Expect in a Job Offer

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Getting a fantastic job offer can be an exciting moment in someone’s professional career. But if you are a military veteran that has never received a written job offer before, maybe you have wondered what it will actually look like. What types of things are actually included in a job offer? After having secured thousands of job offers for our JMO candidates, here is a brief description of what we have found to be very common.

The Offer Letter

The offer of employment  is generally a short and sweet document, usually no more than a single page. The overwhelming majority of offer letters are fairly basic and contain these 5 elements:

  1. Your job title.
  2. Your compensation and how it is paid. Most companies pay either bi-weekly (26 payments/year) or semi-monthly (24 payments/year).
  3. Job Location.
  4. Start date (day which your employment begins). Sometimes the date may be indicated as a range. In other words, it may specify a “no earlier than” and a “no later than” date.
  5. Suspense date for you to sign and return the offer. This may be just a few days (3 or less) or a couple weeks. Shorts suspenses of less than a week are very common.  If this is the case, it’s not necessarily that the company is rushing you to make a decision. The fact is they may have already verbally extended the offer well before putting it in writing. So the written offer simply memorializes what you already knew.

The Rest

There is a strong chance that the offer letter contains other very important information. These items may be included in the actual offer letter itself or as separate attachments. The following is a fairly comprehensive list of what is possible:

  1. Description of bonus potential, whether signing bonus, performance-based, or discretionary.
  2. Special allowances such as relocation, company vehicle, laptop, cell phone, etc.
  3. Enumeration of the company’s observed holidays and description of their vacation benefits (2 weeks is fairly typical)  and/or paid time-off (PTO) allowance.
  4. General descriptions of other benefits such as medical, 401(K), etc.  Do not expect a detailed description; normally it is just a statement that you are entitled to these benefits as spelled out in their benefit guide (which may be included a separate attachment).
  5. Special instructions. While these instructions can vary, it is perfectly normal that the offer is contingent upon such things as passing a drug test, a background check (criminal and/or financial), or the signing of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or non-compete agreement.

In many cases, the offer of employment will specify that you are an “at-will” employee. Simply put: an “at-will” employee can be terminated with or without cause at the discretion of the employer. Although this may seem harsh, it is also very normal. Welcome to corporate America! Keep in mind, this also means that you have the right to terminate your own employment at any time.

Special Agreements

A few words about the agreements you may be asked to sign.

A non-disclosure agreement is the corporate world’s version of operational security or OPSEC standards. Generally, employees have to agree not to disclose proprietary information (aka trade secrets) to any person or party external to the company. These agreements may also specify parameters related to the proper protection of electronic media, removal of documents from the workplace, etc. An NDA might also specify that you are relinquishing your rights to any patents, copyrights, or other intellectual property that you create or contribute to in the conduct of your job functions within the company.

As far as a non-compete agreement, there is no real military equivalent. In its most basic form, a non-compete specifies that if you leave the company for any reason, you agree to not accept employment from a competing firm. It will also likely prohibit the future solicitation of any of your employer’s customers.  A non-compete may include additional clauses prohibiting you from luring any current employees away from the company or disparaging the company in any way. In a nutshell, it is a document that protects a company from many of the harmful things an employee can do upon termination of employment.  

Non-competes can vary tremendously because they are governed at the state, not the federal level. Naturally, some states are less restrictive than others. For example, in California non-compete agreements are not enforceable; this is a contributing factor to “techies” jumping from company to company in Silicon Valley. But regardless of the state, for a non-compete to hold up in court it must have reasonable terms as far as the:

  • Duration of the exclusionary period: typically from 1 to 3 years
  • Geographic area it covers: it would be unreasonable for a company that only does business on the east coast to prohibit your employment with a competitor operating solely on the west coast.
  • Scope: a manufacturer cannot prevent you from working for all other manufacturers. The document should define or describe what the company means by a competitor.  That definition cannot be too broad or it will be indefensible in court.

Understand that the failure to sign such an agreement (if required) nullifies the offer of employment.   

In sum, there may be more to an offer than meets the eye. At Alliance, we help our candidates understand their offers and assist them in the finer parts of negotiating those offers. If you would like to learn more about our services, let us know.