What is a job offer?
It is likely that you will initially receive an offer by telephone – someone from Resourcing or HR will call you to let you know you have been successful. This should then be followed by a written offer.
A written job offer is a formal letter inviting you to accept a specific post. It should be signed by someone in authority, such as a Graduate Recruitment or HR Manager and should contain the following information:
- your name and the name of the employing organisation;
- the date of the offer;
- the job title and department or location;
- the salary;
- the period of notice required for either party to end the contract;
- the date you will start work (unless this is open to negotiation).
It may also give:
- hours of work;
- holiday entitlement;
- other information, e.g., details of pension scheme, bonuses, salary reviews, other benefits such a company car, medical schemes, employee handbook with the organisation’s rules.
The offer may be conditional upon any of the following:
- clearance by the Occupational Health (OH) team, which may involve completion of an OH questionnaire and/or a medical examination;
- a specific class of degree;
- acceptance of the offer by a given date;
- receipt of satisfactory references from the referees you have nominated;
- security vetting or clearance.
You may also be required to complete a satisfactory probationary period. If so, the duration should be stated.
Keep this letter safely as it forms one half of your contract of employment. Seek clarification, by letter, email or telephone, if there is anything you do not understand or that you think has been omitted. If you are concerned about any aspect of the job offer, make an appointment to see your careers adviser to discuss it.
Although you may feel pleased, flattered and relieved to receive a job offer, it is important that you think carefully about the implications of accepting or declining it. Your experiences with the organisation during the selection process should have given you a good idea of whether it is a company you would like to work for and a job you think will suit you. However, there may be problems with the timing of offers, especially if you have applied for other jobs. For example, the offer you have received may arrive while you are waiting for the final round interview for a job you think you would prefer. If this happens, it is not advisable to accept the offer formally with the intention of declining it later if you receive an offer from the company you prefer. However, individual circumstances vary and you may need to consider a variety of factors, so you might find it useful to discuss your specific situation with your careers adviser.
Whatever you decide, it is important to acknowledge the job offer with thanks and perhaps ask for some extra time in which to consider it. You could try extending the time limit on the offer and/or bringing forward the interview date for the other job, while you continue to assess which job you would really prefer.
Making a decision
In order to evaluate whether an offer is right for you, or to decide between multiple offers (lucky you!), you need to think about a variety of things, including the job itself, the organisation, the location and the working conditions, the salary, training and career development, and your own values and needs. You could then divide these things into a list or spreadsheet of pros and cons for each job.
A few points to remember:
- sometimes the economic climate limits the choice or number of jobs available, and it may be that you will opt for a ‘good-enough-for-now’ job so that you can earn some money and gain some good experience;
- few people find their absolute ‘ideal’ job;
- some jobs adapt to the people who take them;
- your first job is not a job you will have to do forever, but on the other hand, an impulsive leap into a really unsuitable job could mean months of misery. So it is important that you give any offer some time and consideration, so that you can make the decision that is best for you at the time.
Accepting an offer
If you decide to accept an offer, you should reply in writing to the offer letter you have received. There may be a form or a copy of the letter included with your offer that you just need to sign and return. If not, you should write to the person who wrote the offer letter, stating that you are accepting it, and that you agree to the terms and conditions of employment that have been outlined. You should also confirm your start date, if applicable. Your reply constitutes the other half of your contract of employment, so keep a copy and store it safely with the offer letter.
When your offer of employment is confirmed – i.e. no longer conditional, you should immediately decline all other job offers or invitations to interview, and withdraw any outstanding applications.
Declining an offer
You should think very carefully before deciding to reject an offer unless you have something different or better to do instead. If you have been accepted by another employer for a position you prefer, or if you decide to decline for any other reason, write a polite letter to the person who sent you the offer, thanking them and outlining your reasons for declining the offer if you think it is appropriate. Send this letter as soon as possible so that the employer has time to offer the job to an alternative candidate. Bear in mind that your paths may cross again in the future.