How to Respond to an Informal Job Offer by Telephone
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If you're waiting to hear whether your final interview went well enough for the company to extend an offer, don't quit your current job until you're sure the company has received your written acceptance to its job offer. As you contemplate leaving your present employer for another one, live by the adage, "Don't believe it until you see it."
Upon first learning about the company's interest in hiring you, listen to what the hiring manager has to say without interrupting. Then express your appreciation for her confidence in your skills and qualifications. Without laying on the gratitude too thick, say how pleased you are that she selected you as the candidate best suited for the job. In some cases, the recruiter will extend the initial job offer, to which you'd use the same type of response, but express your appreciation for everyone involved in the decision-making process.
When you receive that highly anticipated call, don't get so excited that you immediately reply, "When do I start?" The first question to ask is, "When can I expect to receive your formal, written offer?" Requesting a written offer forces the company to proceed with widely accepted standards for hiring new employees. Even then, just because you get a written job offer doesn't mean you necessarily have a binding contract of employment or that the company can't later rescind the offer.
Ask questions that you want the hiring manager to answer either during this conversation or in the written job offer. Basic questions include, "What does the company's benefit package include, and is there a waiting period for eligibility?" and "Shall we discuss my start date now or wait until all the pre-employment steps are complete?" If the hiring manager or recruiter says that all the pertinent details will be in writing, say you're looking forward to receiving the written offer. Frame your questions from a positive stance to make it clear you intend to accept the offer, if indeed you do.
After the hiring manager or recruiter says that a written job offer's forthcoming, confirm the date you can expect to receive it and how much time you have to respond. Ask about pre-employment steps, which often include a background check and drug screening. Don't pose questions in a way that might alter perceptions about you, such as "You don't do drug testing, do you?" or "Does your background check search for convictions or arrests and convictions?" Simply ask, "Will you send information about the lab where I should report for my drug screening?" and offer to provide additional information for the pre-employment process, such as a list of references.
In some cases, you might have mixed feelings about the company, the job or whether you actually fit in the workplace culture. Although an informal job offer via phone suggests that the company feels good about your suitability, that's just half of the equation. You must believe you're making the right choice too. Before you imply that you're going to accept the offer, press for a written offer, especially if you're not 100-percent confident about this being an actual offer.
End your telephone conversation by saying, "Again, thank you for your confidence in my abilities. I look forward to receiving the written offer, and if I have any questions, I will call you before I send my response to the offer, in writing." If you have specific dates on which to expect the written offer and on which to respond, restate those in your final comments during the call.
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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