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Shouldn’t a verbal offer be put 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. A company seeking verbal acceptance prior to issuing a written offer is not all that unusual. The company is looking for an indication that you will take the job and not pursue every detail in a prolonged negotiation. What they do not want to do is invest time and energy in creating documentation that may become a tool for the job candidates to go back to current employers and negotiate a stay package.

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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 both parties are clear on the components of the offer and there are no misunderstandings.

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If you want the job, you can start negotiations before you have the written offer. Let them know that you are excited about the offer and 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 such as benefits and retirement contributions. There is nothing preventing you from documenting the offer based on your conversations and asking for their review and agreement as a precursor to receiving a written offer.

Your desire for written terms will not be a reason for them to pull back their offer; showing an inability to be flexible and understand their desired process might.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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