At face value the title seems a little ridiculous and elementary, but no decision should be made without some forethought, even if only a few minutes' contemplation. This topic sounds so basic some may think, “DUH!” But when the time comes, many don’t know how to react in a manner that will protect their self interest when it's decision time.
There are basically two kinds of job offers; a verbal offer and a written offer. Sometimes a person will receive only the written job offer, without previous discussion, but a verbal offer always precedes the written. The verbal offer is really sort of a test balloon presented by an interviewer because often a company wants to ensure you will accept before they put it on paper. No hiring manager wants to go back to their boss with egg on their face and admit the person they were enthusiastic about hiring and were sure would accept, in fact, didn’t. So when you approach the end of the interview process and the offer stage, this is your last chance to clarify your questions or concerns, as well as any negotiated points, such as compensation. And no one should accept an offer unless all of their questions or concerns have been addressed.
At a final or near-final interview you may hear something like this, “…we’d like to offer you this position. We would like to offer you a salary of XXX with a possible bonus…” If you have no additional questions and you like what you’ve heard, here is the way to continue in the process to a win-win for both sides and yet still maintain some wiggle room, in case you need or want to get out without hurting your reputation or future status. You’ll say: “Thank you for the offer and I accept conditionally, on a final review of the written offer / contract.” Deliver it however you wish, if you don’t want to sound like a robot, but the message you want to get across, albeit more politely is this, “Yes, I want the job and if it’s as you say, the answer is yes, for the moment, but I'd like to see it in writing.” The key is that you are clearly saying yes while making it equally clear it depends on the contract containing the same things.
In this manner you have accomplished a few things; they know, because you made it clear, that you are interested and to such a degree they will likely stop interviewing additional candidates. This also can help to prevent a last-minute person or internal referral from coming in and scooping this opportunity out from under you because they were either more serious or interested than you’ve been perceived to be – especially if you’ve been elusive, indecisive or vague. Yet, you’ve maintained for yourself a veiled but real escape clause just in case the printed offer or contract differs from what was stated verbally to gain your acceptance.
But be vigilant, until you have a signed offer or contract in your hand you have nothing, and should continue pursuing other opportunities, until such time. For example, it does happen that a person might get a verbal offer and in between the verbal and written offer they will get a call and someone says, in essence, “Thanks, we like you and it’s been fun but we just instituted a hiring freeze.” GAME OVER. Then what? Incidentally, an email or text message saying “We want to hire you” is not a written offer. Spare yourself some grief and avoid the emotional roller coaster. You can’t control the outcome but you can influence the process by being at least as proactive as you are reactive.
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