Verbal vs. Written Job Offers

At Alliance Careers, our assistance to candidates doesn’t end with the interviews conducted at the hiring conference. Our job isn’t complete until we have guided them all of the way through the offer negotiation phase. Where it can get tricky is when an offer is verbalized before being put into writing. When it comes to job offers, you may have read advice from career experts that tell you that you should always get a job offer in writing. We can’t argue against that – it’s solid advice. 

But it might surprise you that we often advise our candidates to decide on an offer before that offer has been put in writing. While that may seem like a contradiction to the previous statement, it’s really not. To understand why it’s not a contradiction, you also have to understand what some companies need to go through to get an approved offer in writing. In short, they face some of the same bureaucracies that you deal with in the military when you need something approved by a senior leader. Need an example? When you submit your resignation letter to the Army, it may 3 – 6 months to get the final approval in writing. Thank goodness the civilian world doesn’t move that slowly! Yet, in many cases, there is a formal approval process for job offers to be approved by senior leaders and then formalized in writing. That approval process might mean additional paperwork, background investigations, drug tests, etc. Each of these steps consumes valuable time and resources of a company. Time and resources that cost money, by the way. We mention the financial aspect because in the military, seldom do you put a dollar figure on paperwork. Yet administrative and paperwork costs are very real financial concerns to businesses. 

So that’s why there will be times when we may ask our candidates to decide on an offer before fully seeing it in writing. In the verbalization process, a company should clearly inform the candidate of the essentials: salary, benefits, etc., but not in the formal way in which a written offer is presented. Here’s the reality of it: a company may not want to go through the time and expense of putting all of that together only to find out that the candidate wasn’t going to accept the offer in the first place. Makes sense right? They simply want a reasonable expectation that you will accept it before going through the administrative procedures. To be clear, we can’t say that this is true of all companies – some companies whip out a written offer before it’s even verbalized. But we see this situation play out often enough that we need to advise candidates of the possibility.

But as stated, we are there to assist our candidates every step along the way.  If for some very strange reason, a written offer doesn’t match what was verbalized (a rare occurrence, by the way), we’ll go to work sorting that out for the candidate. We would not want you to immediately accept something materially different than what was verbalized.