You Got the Job! Now to Put it in Writing

Q. The good news is I was made a verbal offer! I am concerned because the HR recruiter told me that I had to accept the offer before they would put it in writing. If I push for a written offer before accepting, will they question my interest and pull the offer back?

A. Congratulations on the offer! The company wants you to join them, so believe that. Are you afraid the company will take back the offer if you don’t have it in writing? That can happen in any circumstance, which no one wants to hear.

Having a company look for a verbal acceptance prior to issuing a written offer is not all that unusual. The company is looking for an indication that you will accept and not pursue every detail in a prolonged negotiation. Before negotiation begins, they want to know they are in the right area, and work out some level of negotiation verbally. What they do not want to do is invest time and energy in creating documentation which may become a tool to go back to a current employer and renegotiate a stay package. You may not be showing any signs that this is the case, but it may be something they faced in the past.

There may be other reasons they don’t want to put the offer in writing, but that can’t be your concern. Asking at least once for the offer in writing is totally acceptable; asking if there are any issues that prevent them from putting the offer in writing is reasonable as well. Explain that you want the offer in writing so that both parties are clear on the components of the offer and there are no misunderstandings. If they don’t have a reasonable explanation for why they do not want to put the offer in writing, you need to follow the first line of negotiations – find another way to get what you need and want.
If you want the job, you can start negotiations before you have the full written offer, but after you have the full verbal offer. In a meeting or over the phone, let them know that you are excited about the offer, and are eager to work for the company. Let them also know that this is a serious business agreement and you want to make sure everyone has the same details. Review what they have told you and ask for clarification about more complex areas – benefits, retirement contributions. There is nothing preventing you from documenting the offer based on your conversations and asking for their review and agreement, the precursor to receiving a written offer.
Your desire for the written version of the offer will not be the reason for them to pull back an offer; showing an inability to be flexible and understand their desired process might.

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