What Happened – Did I Get the Job?

WorkCoachCafeThis is THE biggest question after a job interview, particularly when the people in the interview have been so warm and welcoming, describing the job and the people, showing you where you will work, giving you a tour of the premises and the company cafeteria, talking about “when you work here,” and closing with “see you soon!”  

Although those words may have been sincerely meant when spoken, those encouraging words don’t guarantee you a job offer, unfortunately.

When Is It Clear that You Have an Offer for Your New Job?

Until you are holding a piece of paper in your hand with the job offer on it, including the salary and other details like the official start date, you do NOT have a new job.  A verbal offer is excellent, and very promising, but, by itself, it is not a guarantee that you have a new job.  When you have that piece of paper, called a “written offer,” THEN you have a job offer. 

There are exceptions to this rule, and different accepted practices in different states and countries, but –

DO  NOT  QUIT  your existing job based only on a verbal offer!  

You do NOT have a job offer until you have a piece of official letterhead paper (or an email from an official with an email address using the employer’s domain name) with the start date, salary, location, and job title for the new job on it, signed by an executive of the company.

Quitting or moving before you have a written job offer can be a very big and expensive gamble.  For YOU.

How Do Job Offers Work?

Employers usually make a verbal offer before they go to the effort of making a written offer.  Don’t accept that verbal offer immediately.  Think about it, and read Patra Frame’s excellent post “Great! They Want to Hire You, Now What?”  Once the verbal offer is acceptable to you, ask for the offer in writing. 

As the classic old saying goes, a verbal offer “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”  Do your very best to avoid making any plans for that new job until you have received a written offer.

A written offer commits the employer to giving you the job.  If they aren’t willing to put it into writing, they aren’t really sure they’re going to hire you. 

It should be on the employer’s letterhead or, possibly, from an official employer email address (like [HR Director, VP, or hiring manager name] @ [their-domain-name.com].  

Why Is a Written Offer So Important?

Putting the job offer in writing is very useful for both sides.  It documents the arrangement, making a bunch of very important details clear (see below for what is included in a job offer). 

And, things change – people die or leave the company, budgets are cut, locations are closed, etc.  If you have accepted a verbal offer from someone no longer with the employer or in a location that has been closed, the employer may not believe that they really owe you a job, without “something in writing.”

When you accept the written offer, the offer letter is a contract between the employer and the employee/job seeker.  That means both parties agree to the terms and can make plans based on them.  If either party backs out, there is legal liability associated with anything the other party has done to prepare to fulfill the contract. 

What Should Be in a Written Offer?

A written job offer has several elements, and they basically lay out the agreement between you and the employer. A written offer will typically include many of these important pieces of information:

  • Job title
  • Job location
  • Job start date
  • Hours – the total number of hours per week and, often, starting and ending clock times
  • Salary and other compensation
  • Employee benefits
  • Vacation – number of days and when you can start taking them
  • Sick days
  • Probationary period (if any)
  • Time out of the office for business travel expected or required per time period – day, week, quarter, or year
  • Relevant details about the job, like the territory and a company car for a sales job, a new laptop computer for working at home, training, or whatever else is approriate or already negotiated. 
  • Reimbursement of costs associated with moving to a new location, if necessary

Not all of the items in the list above will be included in every job offer, but many of them will – the top 5 would be a minimum.  

Job offers usually have an expiration date, but don’t complain if it doesn’t.

How Do You Accept a Written Job Offer?

Assuming the offer is what you expected and/or negotiated, provide your written acceptance.  Often there is a place on the letter to sign and fax or scan and email back.  If there isn’t, type up your acceptance on your computer, referencing all the details in their letter, print it, sign it and send it back to them.  One page is usually best.

If the offer is not what you expected and/or negotiated, ask for clarification from the person you’ve been working with.  Don’t expect the employer to put one thing in writing but do something different.  What is in writing is their legal commitment to you, and that needs to fit with your understanding. 

If the written offer doesn’t agree with your understanding, there is no need for anger or confrontation.  This may only mean that there are some misunderstandings or miscommunications.  Simply ask for clarification of something you don’t understand or that doesn’t seem to be what you expected based on the discussions.  When the misunderstandings are clarified, it is probably best to get those clarifications and any corrections in writing or in a modification of the offer letter.

“IANAL” – I Am NOT a Lawyer

This is not legal advice.  These are my recommendations for you to avoid costly mistakes made by eager job seekers who make major changes only to have a job “offer” evaporate on them or turn out to be different from the verbal agreement once they are working in the job.  I’ve seen that happen too many times.

Your mileage may vary, of course.  Some organizations operate very informally, but larger organizations will typically use this process.  

More on This Topic:

Great! They Want to Hire You, Now What?

Job Interview Question: When Can You Start?

Help! Two Possibilities But the Wrong One Came First

What Makes a “Good” Job?

My Current Boss Made a Counter-Offer

Winning Negotiation Strategies for Your New Job (Job-Hunt.org)

© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .


  1. Set A Schedule: Although working from home allows flexibility, if a schedule is not set, and kept, you are more apt to get off track. It is easy to start putting a project off to run an errand, or go for a swim, if you do not specify your hours to work. Tell family members you are off limits during this time.

  2. Hi, 3 days ago, I interviewed with a VP of a company I applied for and after the interview, I was extended a verbal offer and that I should wait for a letter. He asked me to double check my email address on my resume and I confirmed. Out of excitment, I forgot to ask how long I should wait or expect any documentation.

    I hope I’m not too paranoid but how long should I wait before I follow up? Today is officially the fourth day. did not receive an email or formal letter yet.

    What would be the timeline to process a letter? The only document the company has is my resume and cover letter with two references.

    Any advice or opinion would greatly be appreciated!

    Thank you in advance.

  3. Hi could I ask for some advice.

    I got a verbal job offer last Monday, followed up with email saying they were looking forward to working with me and can they approach my references, and they will send a letter confirmation of offer upon receiving satisfactory refs. They did not send the ref request until Thursday. It is now Tuesday and I’ve not heard anything. Both my ref’s are busy people so I am not sure if they’ve completed the references yet and don’t know if it is bad to ask them. When should I follow this up with the prospective employer to ask where we are in the process? I am currently in a job so don’t want to formally resign until getting the written offer but they did also ask me do I have an idea of a start date. Not sure how long to wait and how/what is the best way of following this up. Many thanks!

  4. msgooch2005 says:

    I had an excellent interview yesterday. It was only supposed to last one hour it lasted two and a half. This consisted of getting a tour of the campus, and being introduced to other colleagues. She said we would be in touch VERY soon. She also asked when I could start. Should I get excited? This job would mean SO MUCH TO ME.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Sorry. Don’t get excited YET.

      It sounds great, and it could be good news. BUT! The when-can-you-start question is a relatively common question to ask promising (or every) job candidate.

      So, send your thank you note IMMEDIATELY, if you haven’t already done that. If you aren’t sure what to write in the thank you, check out this article — https://www.job-hunt.org/job_interviews/sample-interview-thank-you-email.shtml

      And, keep plugging away at your job search — in case this one doesn’t work out.

      Good luck with your job search!

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