You might be tempted to throw a big, impromptu celebration when you receive a job offer–especially if it comes at the end of a long drought (prolonged unemployment). However, although I am generally an optimist, I caution clients to hold off on the celebration until a few key hurdles have been overcome. It really is better (and safer) to wait until then, because sometimes you hit a stumbling-block in what you thought would be a smooth path.
A phone call telling you that you’re being offered the job you interviewed for is certainly a good first step, but that’s all it is. You need to see the offer in writing–on company letterhead and signed by someone in authority–in order to evaluate what’s being offered and whether, among other things, it’s what you thought you had agreed to. For instance, you might have indicated you would accept a slightly lower salary than you’d really hoped for, with the understanding that you would receive a salary review–not just a performance evaluation–at the six-month mark. However, if that agreement isn’t spelled out in the offer letter, it could be disputed later on. The person who agreed to the arrangement might leave the company in three months, and whoever takes over for that person has no record of such an arrangement and might refuse to honor it.
Having the terms in writing isn’t an ironclad protection, of course. Companies have been known to renege on agreements that were in writing, and unless you’re prepared to pursue the matter legally (which many employees aren’t), you’re out of luck. But if you don’t have it in writing, you have even less of a leg to stand on.
As I’ve said before, you should probably evaluate the terms of the offer letter carefully to decide whether or not you really want to accept the offer. You also should consider whether you want to try to negotiate any of the terms to gain a little more benefit from them. I’m not talking about being greedy or pushing the envelope so hard that the company decides maybe it can’t justify hiring you after all. On the other hand, if you blindly accept a job offer with one or more shortcomings that will cost you down the road, make you sorry you took the job, etc., that price could be higher than you’d want to pay–if you thought about it carefully beforehand.
If you really like the company and the job they’re offering, it’s okay to let the company know that; however, if you have reservations about the terms of the offer, your message of enthusiasm should be tempered with a note or two of caution. For example: “I’m excited about the prospect of taking on this challenge and helping XYZ company’s sales department achieve record-breaking results. However, I’m a little concerned that the compensation arrangement we discussed in my interview appears to have a significant difference with what the offer letter states. Can we discuss how to take care of this satisfactorily, so I can accept the offer?”
Once you’ve worked out any bugs in the job offer, then you can celebrate!