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How to Handle a Contingent Job Offer

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When the hiring manager finally says, "We'd love for you to join our team – I'm extending you an offer," that's just the beginning of another stage in the selection process. Granted, receiving a job offer is a terrific accomplishment in your job search, but you're not at the finish line just yet. The first job offer is contingent upon completing several pre-employment steps, such as a background check, drug test, criminal history report and, in some cases, salary and benefit negotiations.

Background Check

Provide all the information required for your background check to ensure that it goes through without a hitch. If you have questions about whether you'll pass the background check, do a self-check before you start your job search. Job seekers in certain fields and occupations must have a clear criminal history. Even a seemingly slight disciplinary blemish in some fields – such as, health care, elder care or working with children – can affect your ability to successfully pass a background check. For example, the Illinois Health Care Worker Background Check Act has a number of disqualifying offenses that include attempting to commit certain crimes. If you have no worries about your background or criminal history, then you needn't worry about any adverse action causing an employer to rescind the job offer.


Offer to provide references to your prospective employer. Even if the company gives you a contingent job offer, there's a possibility it could be rescinded, although you should approach your future employment with a more positive frame of mind. Nevertheless, if you have solid references who can give objective, clear and convincing information about your work habits, professional traits and your suitability for the job, encourage your new employer to contact them. Prepare a list of at least three professional references and one personal reference. Remember to ask your references for permission to use their names and contact information before you give the list to the hiring manager or recruiter handling your job offer.


An overwhelming percentage – up to 90 percent – of hiring managers don't give their best-and-final salary offers the first time around, according to Barbara Safani, a career strategist and owner of Career Solvers. That means everything could be up for negotiation when you have a contingent job offer. When you receive the conditional offer, one of the first questions you should ask is "How many of these items are negotiable?" Tell the recruiter or hiring manager that you're interested in some mutually agreeable changes to ensure you're on the same page before the final offer. When you put it this way, it affirms that you want to work for the organization, you're comfortable with the negotiation process and that you have confidence in the ability to find common ground with your new employer.


When you're comfortable with all the terms and conditions of your job offer and you get notification that you've passed the background check, drug screen and reference calls, ask for a final written job offer. Don't quit your current job until your new employer acknowledges your written acceptance of the final job offer. Until this happens, anything is possible so carefully planning your exit means waiting until you send written acceptance to your new employer before you tender your resignation.


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.

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