The Offer

“Is it okay to put a lot of details into my offer letter to a candidate? I like to add details about benefits, a description of job duties, and other information so I’m sure the candidate has all the information they need.”

Your HR Survival Tip

We have seen offer letters like yours that are several pages long and feel these are usually a bad idea. An offer letter is technically a legal contract and you want to keep it very simple for that reason. When you add a lot of other information, it’s very easy to end up with conflicting information between that employee’s letter and other documents. Those conflicts are where you could end up in trouble.

When creating an offer letter, don’t include anything that is written elsewhere. If your Employee Handbook outlines benefits, leave it there. If your job descriptions include job duties and responsibilities, leave them there. Ideally, the offer focuses on information that is specific to this person for this job, such as:

  • The job basics: Title, exempt or non-exempt, full- or part-time, start date, and manager’s name and position.

  • The pay: Be specific as an hourly rate for non-exempt or per period for exempt. “You will be paid a $2,500.00 salary per semi-monthly pay period (annualized at $60,000).” This wording is specific and there is no way a crafty attorney could say we promised the full $60,000 even if the employee quit.

  • The legal language: Always include at-will language stating either party can terminate the employment relationship for any reason, at any time, and with or without notice.

  • The deadline: If you don’t put a deadline on when you need the candidate to respond, you could be left waiting longer than you want. Usually, three business days is fair.

  • Their acceptance: Don’t forget to add a place for them to sign and accept your offer.

Overall, be very careful with your language. Using “will” is a promise, while using “may” gives you some wiggle room. Instead of stating “you will receive a bonus,” it’s much better to say “you will be eligible to participate in our bonus program.” Words have weight legally.

Rather than making the letter all-inclusive, add attachments. A page highlighting your “current” benefits, the job description, the bonus or commission plan, your procedures or policies, etc. make great attachments and ensures the information is the same for each person receiving it. Many companies have cut back on certain benefits in the past year or so. However, if you had those details in an offer letter rather than keeping the information in a company policy, you might legally still be held liable for continuing what you promised in that offer letter. Rethink what you’re truly offering in that letter.

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