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Employment: Extending the Offer

The story doesn’t end when you decide whom you want to hire—you still need to extend the offer. And then, of course, the candidate needs to decide whether to accept it. The way you extend the offer will say a lot to the candidate about the organization—not just about you. (One of the exciting and challenging things about interviewing allows us to be a part of something that is bigger than any of us individually. “You” represent more than just “you.”) The way you extend an offer will also have a big impact on whether the candidate accepts the offer.

Tips for Extending an Employment Offer

Many organizations extend a verbal offer of employment over the phone and then follow that up with a formal written offer of employment. Other organizations meet with candidates personally and hand them an offer letter immediately upon extending an offer of employment.

Whichever method your organization uses, the manner in which an offer of employment is extended is important and must be approached with the same degree of care that has been infused into the rest of the preemployment process. The following are some particular considerations to keep in mind:

  • Avoid expressing earnings in annual terms. Some organizations choose to indicate what the candidate would earn each pay period, whereas others choose to express earnings in monthly, daily, weekly, or even hourly rates.
  • Be sure to take any potential FLSA-status ramifications into consideration when calculating “breakdowns” that are shorter than one week in duration.
  • Avoid language that alludes to guarantees or assurances of earnings or ongoing employment or dates through which the employee will be paid.
  • Avoid language that hints of any sort of a long-term employment relationship or that speaks of the employer as a “family.” (Although not impossible, it’s a lot harder to fire a family member than it should be to fire a noncontracted, “at will” employee. Don’t make things more challenging by mixing metaphors. Work is work. Family is family. And, to that point, be careful not to hire anyone whom you cannot fire—especially if that person is a family member.)
  • Use the offer letter as an opportunity to reaffirm that the employment relationship is “at-will,” and—if counsel agrees—define what that means.
  • State that the only agreements or promises that are valid are those that are included in the offer letter.
  • State the date by which the candidate must either accept or decline the offer of employment. Ensure that you permit a reasonable period of time—not too much time and not too little.

In short, an overly exuberant offer of employment can cause more harm than good. Such letters must be carefully crafted, and counsel should review and approve the template for such letters before implementation.

Employment Contracts

Some organizations use employment contracts for individuals in certain (often “higher-level”) positions. The contract addresses and outlines different aspects of the employment relationship and is binding on the organization as well as the employee.

Here are some of the boilerplate items that are likely to appear in an employment contract:

  • Identifying information and contact information for the employer and the employee
  • Position title, as well as the duties and responsibilities of the position
  • Duration of the contract, or a specific statement that the contract is indefinite
  • Type of compensation (salary, commission, and so on), frequency of compensation, and formulas for calculating compensation (if appropriate)
  • Benefits, including vacation allotment
  • Clauses covering terms of noncompete agreements, confidentiality, nonsolicitation of clients or customers, and so on
  • Termination clause, which could include conditions under which the employee could be terminated, as well as any mandatory notice requirements that would apply
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