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What to expect in a full-time job offer letter

Have you recently received a job offer?  If so, congratulations are in order!  If the employer has only made a verbal offer to you so far, you will obviously express appreciation, but equally as important, you will want to get the specifics in writing in the form of an offer letter.  Having the detailed offer in writing is critical to avoid miscommunication and ensuring that both parties are crystal clear on the terms of the agreement.  If the company balks at your request for a written offer, you are well within your rights to be concerned about how diligent they are about handling employment matters.  Still waiting on offers?  Your time will come soon.  No matter where you are in the process, let’s look at what is typically included in a job offer letter.  Note that the items with an asterisks are optional—and may or may not be included in your offer as they may vary from company to company. 

Standard information

  • Job title
  • Job responsibilities
  • Start date
  • Deadline by when you need to decide

Compensation

  • Rate of pay and basis (salary, hourly, commission, etc.)
  • Exempt or nonexempt status (exempt=not entitled to overtime pay, nonexempt=entitled to overtime)
  • Guaranteed bonuses* (e.g. signing bonus)
  • Discretionary bonuses * (e.g. bonuses that rely on performance by the individual, team, and/or company and are paid at certain times of the year)
  • Relocation assistance*  

Benefits

  • Vacation and sick time
  • Health insurance (medical, dental, vision)
  • Disability insurance (short term, long term)
  • Life insurance
  • 401K plans*
  • Stock options/company profit sharing*

For more details on benefits packages, view our past blogs on the topic here and here

Conditions

  • Maintaining a certain GPA through graduation*
  • Successful completion of a drug test, medical exam, or background check*

Legal agreements

  • Non-disclosure* (employee agrees to keep company’s intellectual property private to maintain the company’s competitive advantage)
  • Non-compete* (prospective employee agrees not to work in a similar profession or industry that their potential employer does business in for a particular amount of time upon leaving that job)
  • Non-solicitation* (employee agrees not to solicit a company’s’ clients or customers for his or her own benefit)

Know that Ohio is an “at will” employer—which essentially means you can leave the company at any time for any reason.  Similarly, employers can terminate you at any time.  That language is typically included in a job offer as well. 

Understand that you are not expected or encouraged to say “yes” right away to a verbal or written offer.  Depending on the circumstances, the offer letter is a jumping off point for negotiations.  Once you have the details of the opportunity, a careful review is in order.  ECS and OSU Legal Services are helpful resources here at Ohio State.  Online you may find sites like Glassdoor or Salary.com useful.  If you would like to try to negotiate aspects of the offer, ECS can assist you with that as well.  

“Every experience in your life is being orchestrated to teach you something you need to know to move forward.” 
-Brian Tracy

About the author

Rachel Kaschner

Rachel Kaschner is the Assistant Director at Engineering Career Services.