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Tips for Making an Job Offer

By Joel Handelsman | June 29, 2012

You've finally found one or more applicants whose abilities match the requirements of the job and whose references check out. All of the candidates seem like people you could work comfortably with, and they have all expressed an interest in taking the job.

The next step is to bring the new employee on board. This will involve making an offer, and, perhaps, doing a little negotiating. Don't be surprised or offended if your offer is met with a counter-offer. In today's job market, people increasingly want to bargain in an effort to ensure that they are fairly compensated.

No matter what the form of the job offer is, the principle is the same. Don't make promises, or statements that can be construed as promises, that you can't or don't intend to keep. Those statements can sometimes lead to litigation if you later decide to terminate the employee.

When a job offer is extended, it should include the following information about the job: the position offered; location; salary and benefits; starting date; any papers or information that should be brought on the first day of work; and a date by which the applicant must respond to your job offer, so you can move on to the next candidate if your first choice doesn't accept.

If you offer an applicant a job, and it turns out that this person wants the job but also wants more money than you're offering, you've got some hard decisions to make. The first thing to do when this situation arises is find out exactly how far apart you are.

If the candidate's request is simply out of the question, but you want to try to hire this person anyway, make a counter-offer. There may be some ways to entice the candidate to work for you without paying the big bucks. If not, explain that you have to keep to your budget and call the next prospect on your list.

If you decide an applicant is worth more, consider the following:

  • Offer additional benefits in lieu of extra pay. Additional vacation time may be an attractive alternative. Depending on what you offer, benefits may cost you less than a higher pay rate.
  • Consider keeping the wages you offered the same, but reducing the number of hours to be worked.
  • Offer to give the candidate the extra money in increments, subject to performance appraisal.
  • Agree to pay more, but add additional responsibilities to the job that may allow you to cut costs from somewhere else.
  • Offer the candidate stock options in your company instead. (Obviously, this option is only available to corporations and there is an administrative burden in offering stock options.)
  • Offer the candidate a commission, a gainsharing incentive, or a bonus in lieu of extra pay. If the candidate accepts, he or she will be even more motivated to do a good job.

But be careful when extending these offers. Federal nondiscrimination rules may prevent you from offering one employee more benefits than you offer to other employees in similar jobs.

In virtually every case, we strongly suggest that you do not enter into a written employment contract with an employee, unless there is a valid and compelling reason to do so. Employment contracts can interfere with the rights you have as an employer under the employment-at-will laws of most states. These laws permit you to terminate an employee, with or without cause, when you decide it's the right thing to do. They also permit employees to quit at any time.

To avoid accidentally creating an employment contract, make the offer as narrowly and as carefully as possible. Any statement that alludes to job security can be interpreted by a court as a promise of job security, which might make it extremely difficult for you to fire an employee if you need to.

For example, the statements that "you will have a long, rewarding, and satisfying career ahead of you" and "we will pay one-half your moving expenses now and the balance after one year" were statements construed as meaning that the employment relationship was intended to last at least one year.

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