Most employers don’t need another unemployment report to tell them that the well of available candidates in Hawaii is dry. It’s so dry in fact that when a good candidate does walk through the doors, many companies pull out the red carpet and velvet ropes just to get the individual to come on board.
Sometimes this results in an overly enthusiastic job offer letter which, if not carefully drafted, could put even the most cautious employers at risk.
“Managers are eager to get a job offer letter in front of a candidate because they don’t want to lose them to another company,” says Michele Kauinui, Director of HR at simplicityHR by ALTRES.
“This is not, however, the place to cut corners. A poorly worded offer letter can create costly errors and liabilities if the employment relationship ever sours.”
Here are some of the most common mistakes employers make when writing job offer letters.
Not starting with a verbal offer
When it comes to locking in great candidates, timing is everything. If you know you’re ready to move forward with a candidate, make a verbal offer first. Then, follow up with a written job offer letter. This provides the individual with immediate assurance of your commitment and minimizes any chances they’ll accept another position in the meantime. Plus, it’s more personal to deliver the good news in person.
Failing to specify an at-will employment relationship
Hawaii is an at-will state. Generally speaking, this means that an employer or employee can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason (provided that the reason is not illegal) or for no reason at all.
“Employers should state that employment is at-will as early as in the job offer letter, and then again in the company’s employee handbook,” says Kauinui. Doing so helps remove any contractual implications that an employer could be held to in a court of law.
Not including conditions of employment
A lot of times, job offers are contingent upon a candidate successfully passing pre-employment checks, like a background check or drug screen. If that’s the case, those conditions should be included in the job offer letter and clearly explained.
Forgetting to get a signature from the candidate
Without a signature, the candidate could claim that they never got the job offer letter and/or that the terms of their employment were unclear. As long as you’ve specified in the job offer letter that the document is not a binding contract (i.e included an at-will employment statement), it’s a good idea to get the candidate’s signature for acknowledgment purposes.
Not putting an expiration date on the letter
Asking for a decision “as soon as possible” or “at your earliest convenience” could force a candidate to hem and haw longer than you’d like. By failing to include an expiration date, you also run the risk of the candidate using your offer to leverage a position at another company. A good rule of thumb is to ask for a response within a week after the initial offer.
Not running the letter by an HR representative
For busy office managers and business owners, running a single job offer letter by an HR professional might not seem worth the time or effort. But with hefty fines for wage and hour violations, it’s especially important to have job offer letters reviewed by someone who is familiar with state and federal employment laws. Even if you’re a seasoned HR professional, it never hurts to get a second pair of eyes to review the language and terms in the job offer letter.
Writing a job offer letter seems straightforward. But a small misstep in the offer stage can cause costly consequences for a company.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.