Recruiters and hiring managers love to complain about the dull cover letters they receive from job candidates. But be honest: do you employ the same level of charm, empathy, and enthusiasm to the offer letters you send?
Do you treat offer letters as branding documents or contracts? As an important gesture or a mere formality?
Offer letters are the most underrated of all company communications—not just within recruitment processes, but overall.
They don’t have to be. Think about it: an offer letter is the professional equivalent of a marriage proposal. It signifies a desire to begin a relationship that will hopefully benefit both parties and last a lifetime.
And while getting to the offer stage means that the other party is likely to say yes, nothing is guaranteed.
Why, then, do companies treat offer letters as an afterthought? Why are they willing to invest in copywriters and augmented writing software to craft the perfect job description, but allow hiring managers or HR personnel to use boilerplate offer letters that are dull and uninspiring?
Why companies underestimate offer letters
Two possible reasons:
- They are company-focused. They are so acutely aware of the company’s needs and so concerned with meeting legal requirements that they lose sight of what the offer letter is about and who it is for. As civil engineering recruiter Juli Smith once summed it up, “they’re more geared toward covering the company’s rear end than actually making an exciting, enticing, and attractive offer.”
- They think a “yes” is a given. They don’t realize that, at the offer stage, they are still at risk of losing the candidate to a competitor. They don’t consider the possibility that the candidate might have received other offers and is trying to decide which one to accept. Confident that they’ve made the hire, they make the same mistake people make in interpersonal relationships: they take the other person for granted.
Writing an outstanding offer letter
You can do like most recruiters and continue sending boring offer letters…or you could send offer letters that delight candidates and make them feel like they could become a part of something extraordinary. Here’s how to make offer letters special, and some things to be aware of when creating one.
Your cover letter could be one-of-a-kind
The best types of offer letters are so branded that other companies would have a hard time replicating them—see Spotify’s offer letter in the form of a playlist.
That said, here are some things all great offer letters have in common:
- They ditch the corporate jargon.
- They express excitement.
- They cast a vision.
- They place the candidate within that vision.
- They make the candidate feel wanted.
There’s stuff you might need to include
While it’s possible to get creative with your offer letter, there’s some information you might have to cover—even if it’s in a separate, attached doc. Depending on the type of company you work for and the kind of job you’re offering, you may be legally required to include:
- The position being offered
- The employment start date (and whether the job is limited in duration)
- The end date (if there is one)
- Th status of the position (full-time, temporary, part-time etc.)
- The pay rate (hourly, monthly, or annual)
- Additional compensation components (bonuses, commission, short-term and long-term investments, grants, loans, etc.)
- The benefits (medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401K, time off, vacations, sick and holiday time)
Note: If no benefits are provided, that should be stated.
- The condition of employment (signing of an NDA agreement, providing evidence of eligibility etc.)
- The “conditional to meeting requirements” (background check, drug test etc.)
Ask Human Resources or Legal to read over your offer letter to make sure it complies with the requirements in your city, state, and country.
There’s stuff you might need to leave out
- A request for the candidate to sign and return. According to her, this “can create an offer-acceptance situation, turning the offer letter into an enforceable contract.”
- Implied length of employment. For example, if you’re hiring someone at $25/hour, don’t write that the pay is $50,000 annually, as that implies that the term of employment is at least a year.
- Promises or guarantees of benefits or bonuses that are discretionary or subject to change. Later, the candidate could say that they accepted your offer based on those specific benefits.
Offer letters can be powerful
Extraordinary offer letters that align with your employer branding strategy can turn candidates on the fence into an absolute yeses.
Best of all, sending great offer letters doesn’t have to take up too much time. With TextExpander, you can create one amazing and memorable letter, then personalize it with just a few keystrokes. (Find out more in How to Personalize Your Snippets with Fill-ins).
What are you doing differently to entice candidates to say “yes” to your offer?