Put simply, an official offer of employment comes in the form of a letter or document inviting you to accept a specific post, which should be signed by someone in authority, eg a manager of the organisation. It is possible that you will receive a telephone call to offer you the job in the first instance or be told on the day of your interview but remember that until you receive something in writing, the offer is not legal. A formal written offer should include the following information:
• Your name and the name of the employing organisation.
• The date of the offer.
• The job title and department/location.
• Salary details.
• Period of notice required for either party to end the contract.
• Your start date (it may state that this is negotiable).
It may also give:
• your hours of work;
• your holiday entitlement;
• details about pension schemes, bonuses, salary reviews, company car schemes and other benefits.
If there is additional information you feel you need before accepting the job, you should make contact with your prospective employer as soon as possible.
Conditions The offer may be conditional upon a number of things:
• satisfactory references from your nominated referees;
• a satisfactory medical examination, either because of the nature of the work or as a means of meeting the requirements of the company’s pension scheme;
• a specific classification of degree, either as a requirement of the employer or an associated professional body if professional training is part of the job (if you don’t make the stated grade, don’t assume that all is lost but contact the employer to discuss the situation);
• satisfactory completion of a probationary period (the duration should be specified);
• acceptance by a given date (this can pose problems if you have other applications in the pipeline – see ‘Making a decision’ below).
MAKING A DECISION
Timing A common problem for finalists and graduates can be the timing of offers. The employer of your dreams is running late in completing its selection process but you have had an offer from another, less preferred, organisation. Should you cut your losses and secure the offer you have or take a risk, turn it down and wait for the one you really want?
The following pointers may help.
• It is worthwhile going to see a careers adviser to re-examine your options and weigh up the pros and cons of each. Think beyond starting salaries and look at the total packages being offered: firm ‘A’ might offer you a generous joining bonus; firm ‘B’ may offer better training and prospects.
• Contact your preferred employer and ask how far they have proceeded with your application and when you are likely to hear of their decision.
• Contact the employer who has made you the offer and ask if they are prepared to extend the acceptance date.
Above all, don’t accept an offer that you feel unhappy about; you secured one offer – you can do it again.
It could be that you have an interview approaching with an employer who you view on equal grounds to the one who has made you the offer but would still like to go to the interview to find out more. Explain to employer ‘A’ that you have another interview and, in order to make an informed decision, you would like to attend. You can’t stretch their patience forever – they need to know your decision so that they can offer the position to someone else, if necessary – but as long as you keep them informed and do what you can to reach a decision quickly, they should be happy. If the interview with employer ‘B’ is several weeks away, you could contact them explaining that you have received another offer and ask if the interview can be moved forward.
It’s worth bearing in mind that it can cost a company over £10,000 to recruit a single graduate so it is important for recruiters to secure the right candidate. If you are pressured into making a decision quickly, ask yourself whether you want to work for a company that is asking you to make a hasty and ill-informed choice.
Multiple offers If you are fortunate enough to have several offers and there appears to be little between them, you may need to revisit your original list of needs. Measure these against things like location, company culture, approach to training, how you felt at interview, etc. It is worth trusting your instincts but you still have time to do some extra research if it will help you make a better decision.
Try to answer these questions:
• What are the responsibilities, pressures and demands, both intellectual and physical, of each job?
• Does the work that you will be expected to do conflict with your values?
• Will you be given training? Few employers expect you to be 100% effective from the start and most expect to train you while you are working for them. What form will the training take? Who pays the fees? Is study leave given where appropriate?
• What will the salary be? How much of your salary will be commission/performance-based? Are there overtime payments? What are the opportunities for promotion and salary increases?
If you accept a job and later find you have made the wrong decision, all is not lost. Applying for other jobs in light of this experience and with a greater knowledge of your needs, skills, experiences and values, usually results in a positive outcome.
ACCEPTING OR DECLINING AN OFFER
Accepting an offer A contract of employment has two parts: the letter offering you the job and your letter of acceptance.
Write to thank the person making you the offer, using any reference number they have given and enclosing any information that has been requested. You should also mention the date of the letter and quote the full job title and starting date, if stated. Accept the offer and say that you are looking forward to starting work with the organisation. Keep a copy of this letter as, along with their letter, it forms your contract of employment. As the word ‘contract’ implies, by accepting the offer you are making a legal undertaking. You should not accept a job with the intention of rejecting it later if something better turns up.
Declining an offer If you decide that the job is definitely not for you, write back, thanking the organisation for the offer and politely decline it. You might find yourself working with or applying to that organisation again at a later date so it is worth remaining on good terms. Send the letter as soon as possible so that they can offer the job to someone else.