How to Respond to an Informal Offer
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An informal job offer might result from a casual conversation, for example, at a business convention. Or, perhaps a personal acquaintance mentioned a position was open and said you could have the job if you like. Whatever the circumstances, it’s vital to recognize that an informal offer is not a guarantee, so if you want the job, you still have to put your best foot forward.
Consider the Offer
If you’re not sure whether you want the job, you’re under no obligation to reply quickly to an informal job offer. But delaying your response risks losing the opportunity, according to the book, “Everything Is Negotiable: Achieving Your True Worth by Successfully Negotiating,” by Robert Uda. First, your contact may forget the offer was made and hire someone else before you can accept. Second, your contact might think your delay means the offer wasn't very interesting to you. That could hurt your chances later. For example, your contact might think you accepted the offer as a last resort and instead opt for a candidate who is eager for the position.
If you’re sure you want the job, respond within the first few days after the offer. You want to appear interested, of course, but you also want to avoid appearing impulsive, as if you haven’t fully thought-out your plan.
If you’re well-acquainted with the person making the offer, call or e-mail and ask to discuss the offer further. Otherwise, contact the person in whatever way seems least intrusive. For example, the contact probably offered you a business card or knows you already have a means of contacting her, so use that method. A short letter, for example, or a brief e-mail, might be most appropriate.
Mention how excited and grateful you are for the opportunity. Chances are this follow-up exchange will also be informal, but present yourself as a capable professional. For example, use every opportunity to discuss your strengths and why you think you’ll be an asset to the organization. Respond to any concerns and note carefully any advice you get about the next steps you should take to secure a formal job offer.
Keep in mind that the person who made the informal offer probably won’t be able to grant you the job immediately. For example, your contact might guarantee off the record that she can help you secure a position, but the organization itself might require you to complete its standard job application process, which could include submitting an application, completing a formal interview, passing a background check and following other organizational protocols. If you don’t meet some vital criteria, you might not get the job despite the informal offer. So, treat the process seriously and don’t count on having any advantage.
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.