The end of a successful job search generally is a job offer, and even a verbal offer can be encouraging, especially if you aren't concerned that you might have difficulty passing a criminal history and background check or a drug screening. However, before you celebrate the end of dispatching cover letters and resumes and preparing for interviews, wait until your new employer acknowledges your own written acceptance to a final job offer, which should always be in writing.
Path to a Job Offer
Interviews conducted in person give the hiring manager an opportunity to learn more about your experience and how well your professional background prepared you for your career. An interview also gives you an opportunity to articulate your communication skills, which are key to showing that you're worthy of serious consideration, and ultimately, that coveted job offer. Throughout the face-to-face interview, the hiring manager is contemplating two considerations -- whether you have what it takes to perform the job duties and whether you'll fit the organizational culture. Making a hiring decision usually rests on those two propositions, the latter being the most subjective in making a job offer, verbal or written.
If a hiring manager is exceptionally impressed by your expertise and qualifications, as well as professional traits that show you mesh with the workplace culture, you could receive a job offer before the end of the interview. The hiring manager might not specifically state that you're going to get the job, but statements such as, "Can you stay for lunch so I can introduce you to the team," or "We'd love to have you join our team" are pretty solid indicators that a job offer is in the works. At this point, your confidence in receiving a job offer is justified. But, until the hiring manager actually says, "I'm going to make you an offer" or "If I extended a job offer, how likely is it that you will accept?" it's too soon to say you have a verbal offer in hand.
Verbal vs. Written Offer
Most verbal job offers are conditioned upon you successfully passing pre-employment steps such as a background check, drug screening and, in some cases, a skills assessment. Even then, the employer should provide you with a written job offer and make it clear that a final offer is contingent on those pre-employment steps. Again, it's still too early to celebrate and certainly too early to tender your resignation from your current job. Get the written job offer and deliver your written acceptance of the offer before you invite your significant other and friends to congratulate you on your new endeavor.
Get It in Writing
After you meet all the conditions of the verbal offer, ask for the written job offer if the company doesn't automatically provide you with one. If necessary, email the hiring manager or the recruiter to request it. Keep copies of all hard copy and email communications wherein you request a written offer, and in your correspondence, include pertinent dates, such as the date you received a verbal offer and when you were notified of passing the pre-employment steps. If the company stalls on providing you with a written offer, you have the right to be concerned about how diligent they are about handling official employment matters. Also, maintain copies of responses you receive concerning your request of the offer in writing.
Rescinding the Job Offer
It doesn't hurt to be cautious. If you negotiated the terms and conditions of the first written offer, get an amended copy that reflects any changes. In addition, get a firm start date, particularly if you sense that circumstances out of your or the employer's control may result in the hiring manager rescinding the job offer. Even written job offers can be rescinded, despite your successfully passing all the pre-employment steps. Budget and finance matters could create an instant hiring freeze or your new job could be put on hold by a high-level executive.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.