job search tip 54Once you have received an offer, do not postpone letting the hiring authority know your decision for more than one day. When the candidate asks for a delay the employer could conclude that either the candidate is not very decisive or that the candidate is going to use the offer to leverage another opportunity. I’ve known hiring managers that rescinded an offer on the spot when the candidate did not appear decisive in their acceptance.

Until a candidate has accepted an offer, most hiring authorities feel absolutely no moral obligation to that candidate. Hiring authorities, just like anyone else, fear rejection. It’s not uncommon for an employer to make an offer then become scared when the candidate asks for a delay and so offer the job to the next candidate…. without even telling the first candidate.

Get it in writing

Contrary to what most people think, a signed offer letter, except in very rare instances, is not a legally binding implied contract. Candidates often think that because they have signed and accepted an offer letter, they have some sort of legal right to the job. So you know, most states are employment-at-will states, which means that the employer or the candidate can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for just about any reason – except that the employee cannot be terminated for an illegal reason like race or age discrimination.

Unless there is a clear or implied long-term promise of employment, the candidate has practically no legal recourse if the job doesn’t materialize – even if the offer is spelled out in writing. Even with the clear long-term promise, the candidate must still document hefty damages to justify an action in law.

There are, however, two major reasons that you should be sure to get a written offer with as much detail as possible. The first reason is that at least 30 percent of the time it will be different, in some way, from what you have discussed with the hiring authority. These usually are not major mistakes and often result from inadvertent mistakes by the H.R. Department or administrative staffer whose job it is to write letters. Sometimes things get lost in translation.

The second reason you want to get an offer in writing is to be sure that your paychecks reflect your agreement – including benefits and benefit deductions. It is not uncommon for an earnings agreement, whether verbal or written, to be handled by a number of people before it is entered into the payroll system. These are normally just human errors, but the shock of something like this doesn’t make the start of a new job any easier. You don’t want any surprises, so have as much detail in the offer letter as is reasonable.

Set a starting date

Most people think that this is an easy thing to do once you accepted a job, but as I’ve mentioned before “it isn’t over ‘til your butt is in the chair,” – even then it might not be over. You’ll want as little time to go by as possible between the time you accept the job and when you actually start the job. Why? Because strange things do happen.

When you have accepted the offer, you should try to get to the new job as soon as possible. It is rare to have something happen to the job between the time of accepting the offer and actually starting the job, but it can and does happen. I have seen companies sold, head counts for new hires frozen, changes in management, and all kinds of other things that may alter the status of the situation just before the candidate shows up for work.

I recommend that if the starting date is more than two weeks away, you try to take the hiring authority to lunch during that period, or make some other effort to keep yourself in his consciousness.