My Word Isn’t Good Enough? Verbal Job Offers…

I was chatting with a recruiter friend the other day about job offers. It’s probably one of my favorite parts of my job. But we’ve started noticing a somewhat disturbing trend…

Let me set the stage. My pal picks up the phone to make an offer to a candidate. They talk through theBaldwin details, the candidate was excited as can be so they talked about a possible start date… and then she says she’d give her notice after she received the offer in writing. My recruiter pal says sure, and that she’d send her an email outlining what they had discussed and once they had a start date finalized, she’d put the offer letter together and have the powers that be sign the official letter.

The candidate said great, but she wanted to know when she would receive a signed offer letter. It seemed she wasn’t willing to give her notice until she had something in her hands with an actual signature. She wanted real ink.

Am I the only one who thinks this is sad? She was given the offer verbally, she received a follow up via email outlining the terms discussed… but that wasn’t enough. And mind you, this was a corporate recruiter extending the offer directly. There was no middle man there.

I’ve seen this a handful of times, too. And I’m not sure I “get it” completely. To check my gut, I sent a tweet out about it and the responses floored me – both via tweet and separately by email. Recruiters and HR pros saying they understood candidates responding in this way… it seemed there were a handful of folks who have had to rescind offers in the past, or that once offers had been made, they have had positions fall through, budgets disappear, or the requirements of a position changed… and job seekers who came back also saying they felt the same way about needing something in writing, with an actual signature, because they didn’t trust verbal offers, probably were the recipients of offers made by the very same recruiters who responded to me… sigh.

Is anyone else confused by this?

First, I understand that given the state of the economy and the uncertainty all around us, sure. It isn’t unreasonable for a candidate to want an offer in writing. Leaving a job for another job… it could be understandably a little risky. But I struggle because I just don’t understand why the relationships that I’ve built with candidates, my word, and a confirmation via email isn’t enough? Isn’t that a lot to give? I mean, come on! When you put all three together, why would you ever think that I’d go back on my word?

But, maybe, more importantly… why have so many job seekers been jerked around when it comes to employment offers that they have to be so overly cautious? I mean for those of you making offers out there, what the heck are you guys doing?

If you’re a recruiter, sure, make the excuse that something happened behind the scenes that you weren’t aware of and surfaced at the last moment, after you made the offer to a candidate. Maybe it was a budget issue, a contract issue, an issue with your hiring manager. Make all the excuses you’d like. For me? The reality is simply that you weren’t communicating enough, weren’t in touch enough with the business, or your internal communication or approval channels suck. You should never make an offer that you can’t keep and that you don’t think will be accepted. Be in touch with the business. Do your homework. Make sure everyone is fully aware, in the know, in the loop, and ready for the offer to be accepted… otherwise?

You’re doin’ it wrong. And you’re embarrassing me because candidates now have doubt about my word and whether I’ll come through… and that just ain’t right.

FOT Background Check

Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don't be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she's still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life... she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat. Talk to Jessica via EmailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook... See Jessica's riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here...


  1. I’d never resign my job without having an offer in writing either, and I’d never ask a candidate to. I think it’s really reasonable to want to protect yourself. The fact is, no matter how much trust you think should exist, these are professional relationships and business deals should be put in writing. If the offer is so secure, what’s the objection to putting it in writing?
    Yes, some companies drag their feet on getting written offers together. (These companies are silly to do that, but that’s another topic.) That’s their prerogative, but I’d never ask a candidate to give her up job until she’s holding that offer letter.

  2. Puf says:

    Friggin’ A+ awesome post! I love the picture, Mitch and Murray know a thing or two about closing!
    I’ve noticed that over the past several years, many recruiters have come into the business and not been properly trainind in pre-closing. I and my team always get acceptance on the verbal, because we invest in pre-closing during the process (Baldwin talks about “Always Be Closing” and I preach “Always Be Pre-closing). This effort results in us building a very trusting relationship with our candidates, and ensures we don’t get turndowns.
    Recruiters this isn’t hard, it isn’t rocket science, but do it right please!

  3. Shawn says:

    I think the necessity surrounding a written offer letter stems from the inaccurate perceptions the general public has regarding an offer of employment. Most friends/family I’ve talked to seem to think a written offer of employment contractually obligates an employer to give you that job. People are stunned when I tell them the written job offer, realistically, isn’t worth more than the paper it’s printed on. If the general public understood that a written job offer just clarifies the terms of employment I think there would be less emphasis placed on them (and your email would be good enough).

  4. Wally Greene says:

    Sounds like this person was burnt before or the skeptic in me says she may take the offer to her management to leverage some “stay on board” compensation. We need to understand that as recruiters we don’t always have control over the human condition. Candidates can get quirky close to decision time, and in this market a signed offer prior to a resignation would build great comfort.
    However, despite the personality surprises, I agree with the earlier post suggesting we shouldn’t stop building trust with our candidates. After all, we hope they will someday be our clients!

  5. perrik says:

    The corporate recruiter works for the company, and acts in the best interest of the company by seeking candidates who would benefit the company. The external recruiter works for himself or his firm, and acts in his own best interest by matching quality candidates to quality clients, thus pocketing the commission. (I now work for an external recruiter, BTW, although not in a direct recruiting role)
    It doesn’t matter how much trust I’ve built up with the recruiter. I am the candidate, and am the ONLY one who is truly and completely operating in my own best interest. Call me cautious, call me cynical, or call me paranoid – I want that job offer in writing complete with statement of title, salary, start date, and benefits eligibility. No matter how lousy my current job is, I’m not going to give up my paycheck and benefits just on the word of someone who isn’t obligated to pay my rent.
    Yes, I know a company can rescind a job offer even after tendering a formal offer letter if the letter is worded correctly. In that situation, the formal offer letter might be the only proof I’d have of eligibility for unemployment benefits. Without it, I’d be hosed because I would have voluntarily resigned from the previous job based on the receipt of an offer.

  6. I don’t understand why it would be unreasonable for a candidate who is going to resign his position in a company to ask for a formal written offer. Of course, even a written offer could be rescinded or contractually obligate the candidate or company, but a written offer tells the candidate the company is serious and putting the pen to the paper makes the entire experience real for both sides. Getting an offer out in writing doesn’t take that much extra time. Why wouldn’t a company want to give the candidate some reassurance by spending an extra 10 minutes sending a formal offer? I think formal offers also reduce the risk of an employed candidate taking a counter offer. It’s a psychological thing. More often than not, the candidates who take counter offers are the ones who hesitate on signing the papers.

  7. jessica lee says:

    @shawn – excellent point.
    @wally greene @puf – this is about relationships, isn’t it? i feel ya, completely.
    @lindsay – formal offer letters… you’re right, it takes ten minutes to write but you need to then mail it and then wait for the candidate to receive it and frankly, i don’t have time for that! a formal offer letter means nothing as it’s not an employment contract… like @shawn says above!
    @ask a manager, @perrik – i’m kinda with @puf on this one… it’s about relationships and i would be leery of going to work for an organization where i couldn’t even trust the recruiter, HR person or potential manager’s word. it’s a horrible way to start off a relationship, don’t you think, if you can’t trust them? of course i still do offer letters, i get them out the door… but you’ve gotta trust me and the organization, i think.
    thanks for swinging by, all, and sharing your thoughts!

  8. TO says:

    Jessica, I wish more HR recruiters were like you! I can only say that my own experience has taught me to watch out.
    – I’ve been treated as an object. No regard for who I am as a person. Name the salary, that’s it.
    – When I’ve approached negotiations with a win/win attitude, I’ve been met by the HR person with a company WIN ALL attitude. The intention? That the company get me, the candidate, as cheaply as possible, with the worst possible terms.
    I was shocked, because it was so different from how my own employer operated.
    – Over the years, I’ve seen HR people be so “symptom” oriented that they haven’t even realized there could be a solution. A person seems a little sad lately? Get ’em out. Don’t bother to find out if they have the tools or info needed to do their jobs. Don’t find out whether their workload has gradually doubled and no one’s paid attention. Nope, just replace.
    I find it sad, and again, wish there were more people like you out there!

  9. “Trust in God and tie up your camels.” If I were a candidate, the is no way I’d resign on the basis of a verbal offer. Anyone who does this is naive.

  10. Pete Radloff says:

    I think if you look at it from the candidates perspective, this is a treacherous time to be in the market, and with companies changing hiring policies, benefits and budgets on a seemingly daily, or almost hourly basis, the skepticism seems reasonable to me.
    I would never resign from a job without a signed offer in hand, just as I wouldn’t buy a car or a house without the offers in writing. That said, you know you are being candid with the candidate and have spent time building rapport with them, so that the close could be easy. But it just remains that the candidates want to do as much CYA as possible.
    In the end, looking at it objectively, its a classic case of an old Costanza-ism: “its not you, its me” , from the candidates viewpoint. 🙂

  11. Scott_Market says:

    As someone who was offered a new position as Purchaser with my current employer verbally, I can COMPLETELY understand why you’d want it in writing. I learned after six months on the job that EVERY SINGLE piece of the offer was in fact, a lie, or if not a lie, was very deceitful.
    I negotiated a $10,000 raise after six months of employment as long as I met the company standards during my review, as well as a review every six months thereafter. Upon my initial review, I scored the highest level possible, yet, was only give a $6,000 raise. A year and a half later, I haven’t been given any more reviews or any additional income. However, I have been given more responsibility as I’ve been promoted to Purchasing Manager (again, with zero pay increase).
    I was also offered daily lunches, health insurance, profit sharing, 401K, and 2 weeks vacation to start. The lunchess lasted 4 weeks. I wasn’t given the option of joining the health insurance plan, the 401K plan, or using my vacation for over a year. 2 weeks vacation turned into 1 week, and after now two years, I haven’t been given any profit sharing and they refuse to discuss it.
    I will never again accept a job offer without it being in writing. When you’ve never worked with the person you’re negotiating with, one’s word is as good as hot air. As soon as I’m through with my MBA in finance in November, I’m gone.

  12. KD says:

    JLee –
    Love ya, but I wouldn’t move with the BACKGROUND CHECK back and clear as well as the offer in writing. Here’s why – while I trust the JLees of the world, there’s a lot of soft managers and HR pros in the world. All it takes is a the old phrase “hiring freeze” for a lot of the weak folks to pull the carpet from you and try and retract a verbal offer after you’ve given notice.
    It’s not show friends, it’s show business.
    BTW – I’ve never allowed a verbal to be pulled back in those circumstances – but I know it happens, and in the circumstances where there’s NO HR pro involved, it could happen a bunch more.
    Show me the money. In writing. Then clear me on background before I give notice – PS, I’m squeaky clean as well…

  13. Mike Katz says:

    Hi Jesssica – great post.
    From a third party recruiter’s perspective, there may be another reason a candidate insists on getting the offer in writing. They have no intention of accepting the job, they just need proof of another job offer to leverage more money out of their current employer. 🙁

  14. Pariah2001 says:

    I found an article I think every human resources person should read:

  15. Todd Rogers says:

    The pilot of the plane yells back to the first time sky-diver, “Just go ahead and jump. One of our guys will meet you on the way down with a parachute…trust me!”

  16. Cindy Kraft says:

    Back in the “olden” days, all contracts and deals were verbal. A handshake was akin to signing on the dotted line.
    Today, I would never coach my client to resign from his current position unless and until he had a written offer. It has nothing to do with your word being good enough, Jessica, and everything to do with the fact that stuff happens. And I would hate to see a candidate being left holding the bag because of some surprise no one anticipated.
    And you’ve heard the cliche about how many people a person tells about a bad experience they had? Just imagine the damage that could be done to your reputation IF stuff happened and the deal didn’t work out … even through no fault of your own. I would think that a written offer affords recruiters, as well as the candidate, a great deal of protection.
    Cindy Kraft
    the CFO-Coach

  17. Amybeth Hale says:

    Very thought provoking Jessica. I am going to echo the sentiment of many people here by saying I would never resign a position without a written offer letter, no matter how much I liked the people I had been developing relationships with along the way. Regardless of its actual worth, it’s like a blankie or a binky to a job seeker – it simply offers warm/fuzzy mental comfort.
    Unfortunately we’ve all been jaded by verbal promises that have turned out to be untrue across the entire scope of our lives (“Sure, we’ll get ice cream after we leave the grocery store”, “Of course Santa Claus is real”, “If you do this, I’ll give you a shiny quarter”, and unfortunately for some, “For better or for worse” ends up being “until I get bored or find someone better”)
    Having people we trust make promises to us that they end up not keeping is hard enough. What makes anyone think that the promise of someone you’ve simply been interviewing with carries any more clout?
    It’s sad that we feel we have to safeguard ourselves so much from each other because I think ultimately people have good hearts – with a few exceptions – but past experiences, even from seemingly unrelated situations, do tend to mold our actions.
    In a perfect world, a verbal agreement between two people would be enough. Unfortunately, we are certainly not living in a perfect world any more.
    Thank you for making me think about this! BTW – is that picture from Boiler Room? Wow….

  18. jessica lee says:

    dudes… me again. thanks for keeping the conversation going. from a job seeker’s perspective… this is all fine and dandy folks, what you’re saying. i get it. this isn’t really about verbal job offers at the end of the day. really. because i get what y’all are saying. the bigger question still for me is… as recruiters or hiring managers, why are you making job offers that aren’t going to come through? why have so many candidates had bad experiences with you? 😉
    noodle on it, please.

  19. KD says:

    JLee –
    I’m going to answer your question which I think is a good one.
    Offers get made that might evaporate because:
    -A company makes a turn like a hiring freeze or an executive simply taking the position off the table from an expense standpoint, after which time people start scrambling to pull back the conversations.
    -If a hiring manager is making the verbal offer, they feel like they have some latitude to pull it. HR may or may not be involved.
    -If it’s a weak HR person, they may act like the hiring manager above because they won’t advocate for the candidate.
    The result? Verbal offer gets pulled, candidate has already given notice and is holding big bag of dog doo… Much less likely to happen in the scenario above with signed offer letter.
    It’s not show friends, it’s show business.

  20. I agree with all of KD’s points. In my last 11 years as a third party recruiter, I’ve seen all of those happen, especially the last minute hiring freeze and the hiring manager who does what he or she wants to only get shut down after giving a verbal offer or magically an internal candidate pops up.
    I do PR recruiting, so many of my clients are agencies like yours. Agency job offers don’t come through after a verbal when the agency loses a client and can’t justify the hire anymore or the position is contingent on winning a new piece of business and fails. What is a priority one day, often isn’t the next depending on client needs.
    That’s not to say that either party can’t get out of a written or a verbal offer. That’s just what I see when I’ve had clients pull an offer.

  21. Tim Ruef says:

    Counseling a candidate to resign without a signed offer letter from a new employer is unprofessional at best and irresponsible at worst. In these turbulent times of mergers, and cutbacks it is very unusual for HR Professionals on the ground to be aware of C Suite Decisions affecting their candidates.

  22. A lot of great points, but are we making it too hard?
    1) pre-quality
    2) verbal offer/acceptance
    3) written confirmation of offer/acceptance
    An offer in writing isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. I’ve had one instance in my career where a position was eliminated between offer and start date, but the person had resigned from her previous job. We found a place for her.
    I stopped mailing offer letters years ago. I now do email exclusively. What difference does the format make?

  23. Sorry – I meant “pre-qualify” (as in they’ve already agreed to terms of trial offer) in 1)

  24. theconfused says:

    Is there any situation where a company can flat out refuse to give a written offer letter? I ask because I have been offered a job that starts next week. I am also moving into an apartment that needs to verify income, I do not currently have a job. I called to ask for a letter to be faxed to the rental agency and they said “oh we don’t do that until after you’re employed!” What? In this case the letter is worth much more than the paper it is on. It is worth a place to call home.

  25. Edmond says:

    A written job offer outlines, typically, the salary, position and the location of employment – though in right-to-work states the offer can be terminated at any time without reason. However, changing the title or salary after the fact, could be considered constructive discharge. A reasonable way to be clear on the verbal agreement is to get a follow-up in writing before doing something as significant as giving notice at a current job.
    Also, what if terms of the employment changed between the verbal and the written to the point where it is unacceptable for the candidate? Though it seems unthinkable, it can happen. I’ve had the location changed on me by 60 miles after I have relocated and found a home. Typically, these are “honest” mistakes, but they can be very costly for job seekers. I find this posting one-sided. I get that there is a lack of trust and it is disappointing, but expecting job seekers to extend trust in a time 9+% unemployment is unrealistic.

  26. Mickey says:

    I just ran across this post while researching what I should do when a recruiter insists that I accept a verbal offer before given a written one. As a professional, I think there are things expected from a prospective employee- even an internal one, on the part of the recruiter. Likewise, there are common sense expectations from the prospective employer. Personally, I feel it is unprofessional to extend a verbal job offer, and not put it in writing with a signature.
    “I just don’t understand why the relationships that I’ve built with candidates, my word, and a confirmation via email isn’t enough? Isn’t that a lot to give?”
    No. If you feel your word is your bond, and your relationships with the candidates are strong, there is absolutely no reason under the sun to not put the offer in writing. PERIOD. Refusal to do so, or even hesitance can be perceived as dishonesty. It also makes it difficult for a candidate to give an official response, say, if they disagree with the terms (like rate of pay).

  27. Laura says:

    Employees have every right to be skeptical! After interviewing with multiple companies I recieved three offers in one week.
    On Tuesday Company A extended a verbal offer. On Wednesday CompaniesB and C both extended verbal offers, and I called Company A to let them know they were my first choice, and would anything be preventing us from working together at this point?
    They said everything was good, reviewed salary information over the phone and sent me a written offer on Thursday. After no response to my reply of acceptance along with a couple short questions, the following Wednesday (five days before my start date) I was informed by e-mail the job was cancelled after reviewing their fiscal plan. At this point Company A knew I had rejected my other offers and quit my part time job. In my opinion it is an unethical practice to offer a position that was not first financially evaluated, though I am still waiting on them to return my phone call or email to have a candid conversation regarding the situation. They told me they’d call in a few months in the email.
    Now what? It’s not their problem, it’s mine – companies don’t exist to help people! Back to interviewing…

  28. Tim Sackett says:

    JLee –
    I think many HR Pros working a very large companies and that have been around for a while, might have some examples where your impression of them not being connected to the business is just wrong. I feel like as an HR Pro, I’m totally connected to what’s going in the business, and I can think of a couple of times when offeres were out, accepted, and in the end we had to back off, because of issues that cropped up very quickly.
    My bigger issue is the need for a signed offer letter. In end it’s not a contract anyway, so what is the difference between my word and a signed piece of paper? Hell, I’ll put the offer on the blimp – it still doesn’t give you a gurantee. You can do great research, feel completely comfortable, start day 1 and something happens within the business that makes you no longer needed- that’s reality, that’s life.
    I don’t think it’s about trust, as much as we live in a very different, faster changing world than our parents lived in – so people are grasping for some sort of security – for some that comes in the shape of a signed offer letter.

  29. R. J. Morris says:

    Great topic that obviously sparked some thought.
    As an HR person, as Jessica says, be connected to the business and you should not be surprised by hiring freezes. I know it happens occasionally, and that is unfortunate, but some of the comments here make it seem like a daily occurrence. That’s sad for good HR people trying to build credibility with the candidate population.
    One other point: The written offer can serve as the final marketing piece of the closing process. A professionally presented written offer, laid out on company letterhead and signed by an executive or the HR person responsible for hiring, combined with welcoming materials and second copies of benefits materials, shows the candidate (and husband, wife, mom, dad, etc) that the company is closing the candidacy phase and committing to the person. For people who like the tangible, it’s a powerful touch point in the closing process.

  30. It is sad and luckily it has never happened to me personally. But… I know someone who experienced this recently – he was extended a verbal offer from someone he trusted and he waited and waited and called and called for the letter and finally – nearly a year later it came. In this situation it was a good thing he waited until he got the letter before he resigned.

  31. Todd Rogers says:

    If your verbal offer is as reliable you (apparently) believe it to be, then there is nothing preventing you from putting it in writing…unless there’s something -somewhere – beyond a simple time constraint – that is standing in the way. How about this: print offer, get offer signed by authorized signer, scan offer in to PDF, email PDF attachment to candidate, FEDEX signed offer, call candidate, discuss resignation and agree to resignation date, schedule and conduct new-hire orientation with employee on start-date. Write next FOT editorial. Case closed.

  32. John Hollon says:

    This is one of those sign-of-the-times stories that you will probably see more and more of as the job market sputters along.
    People everywhere are hanging on for dear life, with people staying in jobs they hate despite pay cuts, furloughs, layoffs of their friends and co-workers, and a push top get more out of thoser who are left.
    People who have jobs keep getting told over and over again how “lucky” they are to be employed, so people are hunkered down just trying to get through until things improve.
    In this kind of environment, is it any surprise that someone you offer a job too might be extra, hyper-careful to make sure they have something nailed down in writing (and preferably, signed in blood) before they commit? Before they give up the crummy job they currently have that pays the bills and helps them to just get by?
    My word has always been my bond, and I would never, ever pull back and offer made in good faith. Unfortunately, it’s not always my call. Even the most trustworthy recruiter or hiring manager sometimes has things done above and beyond them that they can’t control — including making them pull back job offers that aren’t offically signed and sealed.
    I hate that this is the way things are, but that’s what happens when the workforce at-large gets battered the way ours has over the last few years.
    There is little loyalty and trust anymore. Corporate America has made sure that’s how workers feel. I leave it to you to decide if that is good or bad.

  33. Senitra says:

    I do think a candidate should have a written job offer before they resign from their current position. It’s not about trust, it’s about covering yourself. Remember those debit/credit card commercials where famous people were going in stores and using their cards. The person behind the counter would be so excited and talking to them but in the end, the employee would still ask to see a picture ID. I think it’s a good idea to always cover yourself.

  34. P Blais says:

    Back in 1989, my husband got a verbal job offer to work for an environmental consulting firm. We delighted and immediately began making arrangements to move to the new city, finding a house, etc. Something made me suggest to my husband that he get written confirmation of the offer. The HR guy said “sure, no problem. You will get that in a week.” We waited. Called again and was told, “Sorry, you’ll get it in the next week.” Nothing. After a while, the HR guy came clean and said, they “lost the contract and can’t hire.” That taught us a valuable lesson. Years later when I was given a verbal offer to start a job with a law firm in a city 500 miles away, I asked for written confirmation –and the small firm said they would get it to me, but I would have to get it from the Managing Attorney. Instead of a letter, I got a call and was told they “would like to pay me less than what was originally offered.” Needless to say, I found another firm with better ethics. (The other flakey firm fell apart about a year later). I think it is entirely reasonable to ask for a written offer, particularly if you are selling your home, uprooting your family and moving to a new city. Do you think a company would do business on a verbal agreement? Hardly. We’d all like to trust; however employment agreements, (offers), are like any other business contract–they should be written. To question this practice seems naive. How long have you been working Jessica?

  35. i love this post for the commentary it generates.
    @p blais – to answer your question, about ten years.
    to everyone else…
    here’s the thing. an offer letter isn’t a contract. it doesn’t guarantee anything. and my point is not that we shouldn’t provide them – i do, always and in a pretty timely fashion. the point here though is that a recruiter and company shouldn’t make offers unless they know they have a gig to offer, and a recruiter should have a relationship with a candidate that is strong enough that their word is good enough.
    more than anything, this is a call to action to recruiters and companies to stop doing such shady stuff, you know?

  36. LenA says:

    After 30 years of Medical Sales and Sales management, I have never heard or experienced what I just went through. After 2 phone interviews and 3 in-person interviews (2 at home office), I was assured by the director of sales when I left at the final interview that I was the one they wanted on their team. We discussed salary, start date, 60 day business plan, insurance and expenses. I was told I would get a verbal offer in 3 days, they will check references and I should have the written offer in my hand in 1 week. They offered the job to someone else. I never recieved the verbal offer and they never checked my references. What gives? Until the employment contract ink is dry, it’s not reality. All the recruiter could do is apologize.

  37. Your implication is correct: having a signed offer in hand is still no guarantee of a job, but it does provide an extra measure of false security…
    I know of several situations where the promise of a job was made, the candidate resigned his/her current employ, and showed up for a job that no longer existed due to merger, cutback, management changes, or outright going out of business.
    I don’t think it is so much that people don’t trust the recruiters as it is that companies have pretty much destroyed trust and loyalty in the name of making good business decisions. And sometimes companies are not straightforward with their own employees and management, such as in 2008 when Skybus was in the middle of opening a new hub in Greensboro, NC and suddenly ceased all operations, or in the Ciba-Novartis merger where Ciba employees learned of the merger from customers who read it in the Wall Street Journal.
    Having a signed letter of employment is a way of proving that the company is serious about the job –or in worst case that the recruiters were at least equally duped along with the rest of the company employees.

  38. I have really happy to see your information which creates the ordinals of the awareness regarding verbal offers during joining of the professional job.Yes,its true in many companies across the globe, the verbal offers are there which are non written and creates a huge securities issue regarding concerned job.The companies policies contain many rules and regulations as probation is offered for that reason.Joining and offer letters are keys of the securities given to the candidates for secured job.

  39. Aaron Ziff says:

    Great post, and- as a former recruiter- I can sympathize with you over the lack of trust. That having been said, early in my career, I was extended a job offer that was rescinded the day I was supposed to sign the paperwork (shortly after I had already turned in my resignation). This was a harsh lesson to learn and it took me 3.5 months to find a position after that.
    I think the key factor is the depth of the relationship. A verbal offer is much more meaningful (and perceived to be reliable) when you’ve known the candidate personally. I caution friends and colleagues to be safe and smart about how to manage their own careers. It is not prudent to place trust with a person or process you don’t know well.
    The very best recruiters build long-term relationships and communicate regularly with their prime “targets”, for this very reason. I’ve long bemoaned the dearth of competent recruiters in the corporate world, and this is merely one manifestation.
    Best wishes,
    Aaron Ziff

  40. Alma says:

    I really appreciate you article and wish more recruiters were like you but alas, this has happened to me as well. My story runs this way….I was contracting in this company for about a week (it was only a 6 month assignment), then the first week of my contract assignment I get a call from a recruiter which I had interviewed with that he wanted to make the verbal offer for a full time position. I gladly and excitedly accepted it. Then he asked me if I could start the following week (not the week he had originally specified). I told him I would need to check in with my manager at the firm which I was contracting with. So when I told my manager, they told me they wouldn’t need me anymore since they needed to train someone else. I was happy nonetheless because I had a full time better paying offer now. I even go the job offer letter via email and got the new hire paperwork from the recruiter. So what happens, not even 3 hours later???? He calls to tell me there’s been a “new development” and that unfortunately the offer hasn’t been officially approved by a “higher up”. So I am strung along for about a month now. They keep telling me that it’s still not approved and that “yes they still want me” but that they can’t really do anything as the decision still lies with corporate. So now I am basically out of a job, but thank God was able to get back on unemployment due to the nature of my case. It’s really sad but true that we just can’t trust anything that is not in writing any more….in my case though, I have a letter in the email, so i am wondering if I have any options legally?

  41. William John says:

    I’m in a similar position. I was made a job offer over the telephone and gladly accepted. I asked when he expected the starting date to be, and he said it would take about a month to draw up the paperwork, and so I should be expecting to start in about a month. Of course, I emailed to say thank you for the opportunity, and received an email back confirming all the details. I sent a further email asking if further details as to the specific start date was, and I was sent an email with a definitive start date. As that date approached, I called up the employer to touch base and ask where I would meet him on Monday, and was told I couldn’t start until I had received the offer letter in the mail. Then I was asked for a summary of what I earn now so that an offer can be made, which I sent. So it has now been a fortnight since then, and I have received no further contact.

    Each day the mailman goes by is madness, and tomorrow I’m going to call their HR department to find out if there really is an offer.

    And since I was given a start date, I believed — CRAZILY! — that that was the date I would be starting. So both of my jobs were given away to other people and of course I can’t get them back. So this job offer has ended up costing several thousands of dollars already and I’m starting to wish I never got that phone call at all.

    • William John says:

      Further to my last post, the HR department didn’t know anything about it. Meanwhile, I have no job and my life has been thrown into turmoil.

      I can see how smart that person is that wanted signatures on papers before they changed their life.

      • jessica lee says:

        Hi William – I’m so sorry to read about this situation. Thanks for sharing your story though. Was this a 3rd party recruiter you were working with? It seems crazy to me that an offer could be made and the HR department would not know about it. That smells really fishy.

        I would be willing to bet that in these really unfortunately situations, there probably were red flags during the interview process that may have signaled that something wasn’t right. If a company has a recruiter who operates in this way, there have to be other things going wrong during the interview process as well. It’s a shame that this continues to happen and recruiters like this exist…

        I wish you the best in this situation and hope it sorts itself out… I’m so sorry that you’ve had this experience.


  42. Randy says:

    I actually just accepted a verbal job offer (at a Marriott Hotel) and based on that resigned my current position. I am terribly excited to begin, but the transition has proved extremely stressful solely due to the lack of security in between resigning the first job, and starting the new one. Next time, I will require something in writing just to ease my anxiety…

  43. Full disclosure says:

    I think it’s fair to send a quick, “Welcome to ABC Company! You will be starting on Jan 1 201N as a Specialist Professional at a salary of $2500 paid twice a month. We will see you on Monday at 555 Main St at 9am. Congratulations!” The person who applied for your job sent at least a short cover letter introducing themselves. Why not send a quick welcome, with very concise info about the job? For the job hunter, it’s almost like a sentimental thing. (Finally, I’ve got a job!) It’s not hard to send just the basics. Also, sometimes the written offer is needed for other purposes, such as when a person is seeking a new home or apt. It’s useful to show the realtor that they are employable and responsible, and will be financially secure in the future, for instance.
    (Full Disclosure: I recently accepted a job offer that was only confirmed verbally. I’d already left my previous job – which I would not recommend – so I wasn’t quitting another job for a verbal job offer only.)

  44. Andrea says:

    I think it is completely okay for someone to want a formal letter stating that they will have a job. I think the real issue is not wanting to send a letter. doesn’t this give you a chance to take the offer back? Not only does sending a letter give your future employee a sense of security, but it also shows that you care about them and that you are excited to have them.

  45. Really? says:

    Get a grip! This isn’t personal. It’s business, period!

  46. Zach says:

    See the issue is that statemet .”why wouldn’t someone trust my word” and that is because everyone in the world cannot be trusted. Unless you know people really really well. Blin trust os the reason that scams exist, that allow the seemingly trustable Bernie Madoffs of the world to prolifrate.If you knew these candidates for years and years and did weekly Sunday dinners that’s one thing. But I’m guessing you don’t for at least most. Personally I respect the individual who takes themselves seriously enough to mitigate risk. Because if you are asking someone to risk how they feed your families you should in no way take any any any offense to them crossing their t and dotting their I. Aren’t these the type of people any company would want anyhow?

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  48. S says:

    Unfortunately I have changed my thoughts on this subject recently. I was given a verbal offer after the first interview. I came in for a second to meet some of the department. After that I didn’t hear from them for a week- even though a written offer was to be delivered on the 2nd day. Finally after a week and a half I receive a call saying they brought someone else in on the day they were to send me an offer and decided to hire them. They then provided another verbal offer on a much lower payscale that I was clearly overqualified for. This was a very reputable company as well! Needless to say a verbal offer is no longer acceptable in my book and I treat it like positive feedback.

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    I unfortunately made one of the most stupidest moves in my life back in March.

    I was working for a company for 9 years before I was told I was going to be laid off at the end of January. Luckily, before I was laid off, I was approached by a manager in the industry who heard about my situation and offered me a position that paid fairly well, and I would start the day after I was laid off.

    I worked for my new employer and at the end of February was approached by a friend who recently started his own business and wanted me to start working for him at the beginning of March for a much higher-paying position. I told him I would accept the offer but felt weird about giving notice to my current employer after just starting there, and I wasn’t giving a two-week notice. He told me he understood my situation and reassured me that my position at his location was “air-tight”, so I felt reassured and gave my notice. My employer was understanding but told me that they didn’t need a two-week notice from me and ended my employment that day 2/26).

    My friend told me he would send me an offer letter via email that weekend, but as the weekend came and went I didn’t hear anything. He then texted me and told me he was having trouble viewing the offer letter on his computer so he would send it to me the following Monday. Monday, March 3rd arrives and he told me that there were unexpected issues that came up that prevented me from starting that week, but he told me that he was working on the issues (budgetary) and he would have something worked out soon. I explained that I was flexible because I had some savings stored up that I could live off of, but to please keep me posted.

    As the days progressed his communication with me became nearly non-existent. I had to drive up to his center to see him just to get him to talk to me, and when he saw me the first few times he was nice and made more promises about my alleged start date. More time passes and I explained to him that if I can’t start by March 18th I would need to take out an advance on my “first paycheck” to hold me over until I started working for him. He said, “No problem” and he would call me in a few days once erything had been sorted out. More time passes and he stops communicating with me. I texted him and told him that I would be out of time and money on March 31st. He said that they were having issues printing paycheck but either way on March 31st I would either have a hand-written check or a printed check in my hands.

    On March 31st I drove up to see him to find out what was going on because he told me he’d call me that morning and never did, so I was really starting to freak out. When I drove up to see him he refused to see me and told me he wasn’t going to give me an advance because he had to clear it through his investors first, and then had his HR Generalist call me because he didn’t want to deal with me. She asked me what my side of the story was and I explained everything to her. She stated that there must of been a misunderstanding because what my friend was telling her and what I said he told e were two very different things (he was telling her from the start that my position was unavailable “indefinitely”). Needless to say I was devastated because I put all of my trust in my friend. Things ended badly between us and I’ve been desperately searching for a new job e er since.

    I filed for unemployment but I’m scared to death that I won’t meet the “Good Cause” rule for obtaining benefits. The only thing I have in writing are some back and forth texts from him stating that he couldn’t bring me on just yet (I even sent him a text thanking him for giving e a position with his company at the end of February when I put my notice in with my employer)…because things ended badly between us and I’m dealing with a liar I can’t get anything in writing to prove that there was an offer given verbally.

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    Even if I as a job seeker trust *you* and *your* word, you are not the only person involved, other bosses have to sign off, HR has to do their thing, and so on.

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  105. Liz says:

    I request the offer in writing for good reason. At my very first job, I was offered one salary and then when I started they were paying me hundreds of dollars less my first few paychecks. Since, I had the offer in writing, I took it to HR and was given the salary that I was initially offered. I would not have accepted the position if they were going to pay me less than what I had accepted. So, yes, even if they can rescind the offer, I want it in writing because nothing means anything in this world unless it is in writing.

  106. kooritsuki says:

    I stumbled across this old post and wanted to make a comment. It’s weird that you think your word is “good enough” just because you built that relationship and trust. If you think about it, who loses if the whole thing falls through? The candidate. What can you do for the candidate if the offer really does fall through? Will you be the one to go to his/her current employer and say, “sorry, can you take him/her back?” Will you be the one that’s excluded in projects because the current employer knows he/she is looking for a new job? Will you be the one to pay him/her if they have to experience down time between jobs because the offer fell through? Unfortunately, it’s a no to all of the above questions.

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  111. gerard norton says:

    just yesterday a full 5 years after this article Jessica I interviewed for a job was told at interview to give notice that day.Excited I did as instructed and also text the new employer as requested to confirm notice was given to present employer, I received text reply “Brilliant”.Today there is no new job and I have 9 days left in my present employment, so no Jessica your word is NOT enough.

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    You know so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a new spin on a topic that has been written about
    for years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

  119. Araceli says:

    nice game

  120. Antonio says:

    I believe you are WRONG in this article. You got it all wrong. The reason candidates ask for an actual autographed offer letter, ifs not because they don’t believe in your word. But to be honest YOU as a recruiter have no say in the company´s budget. The job might get cancelled and what good was YOUR word if you cannot uphold the job offer. This is not about YOUR word, that is selfish. This is about a company actually making a valid job offer that you can uphold in court. These days you have to be mindful of what you sing and what you say on email. I really wish you keep you job and not find yourself on the other side of the table. But Sh**t happens and WHEN you do find yourself on the other side of the table and a job offer doesn’t work because of budget, even if they gave you a verbal. You will come back to this article and apologize to all the job seekers. Thank you.

  121. Lyubov Rossow says:

    Thanks for posting this, unfortunately my husband is currently experiencing this first hand. He was offered a job and given the start date via the phone and was told he would be receiving an offer letter in the mail. It has been 4 business days and still no material offer letter. He is now concerned his 2 week notice is shrinking and still no offer letter, he is left feeling uneasy about the professionalism of this new job offer and whether job still exists.

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  124. SEO says:

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