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Verbal Offer

You’ve found a great candidate, and your team has decided to make him or her an offer. You want to do so in a way that has the best chance of gaining an enthusiastic “Yes!” Should you use a verbal job offer? Here, we look at the advantages to doing so and the steps to doing it right.

What Is a Verbal Offer?

In most instances, the verbal job offer is just what it says it is: verbally extending an offer of employment to a job applicant.

Seems simple enough, right?

Wrong.

Well, not wrong; but there is more nuance to it. Let’s look at how to extend verbal offers that will encourage candidates to accept the formal written job offers, stay legally compliant, and reduce churn.

Verbal Job Offer vs. Written Job Offer

Verbal job offers are usually more informal and not legally binding (we will cover instances where the verbal job offer may be legally binding later), whereas written job offers are usually the more formal and binding form of offering a job.

Take a moment to note that a verbal job offer does not replace a written job offer, a verbal job offer is a precursor to the written offer. The verbal job offer will help you hire individuals into your organization that have a clearer understanding of what will be expected of them.

Advantages of Giving a Verbal Offer Before a Written One

Extending a verbal job offer before sending a written job offer has several distinct advantages:

  • Uncover and overcome any reservations the candidate may have.
  •  Providing the opportunity for the hiring manager and the candidate to have an informal rapport-building conversation.
  • Allowing the candidate the opportunity to express what is important to them and to feel empowered to negotiate for the best possible job offer, both for the role you are offering them as well as across similar offers they may have received from other organizations. This will also help the candidate feel satisfied with the terms being offered and comfortable accepting the job offer.
  • Giving both parties the chance to ask questions of each other.

How to Extend a Verbal Job Offer

When extending a verbal job offer, accomplished hiring managers and talent acquisition professionals follow a structured and strategic process. You’ll see that these professionals use this opportunity for more than crossing T’s and dotting I’s; they use this as an opportunity to build buy-in from the candidate and ensure that their candidate will accept the offer and start with the organization.

Step 1: Prepare

Preparing for every single verbal offer you deliver will help you make sure you are setting clear expectations, building buy-in, and selling your candidate on the role you are offering them.

Other things to consider in your preparation:

Understand if the verbal offer is conditional or unconditional. Many companies extend conditional job offers that require the candidate to complete some type of pre-employment screening before moving forward with the offer, i.e. drug screening, reference checks, or criminal background checks. If your offer is conditional, be clear about what the conditions are.

Determine who will extend the job offer. Most authorities strongly encourage the hiring manager to be the person who issues the verbal job offer. The hiring manager will be the more permanent connection within the organization and usually the person that this new hire will report to. However, you’ll find that often HR or the recruiting team issues the verbal job offer because they have more experience in having offer conversations that yield positive outcomes.

Who extends the verbal job offer is not as important as following a consistent process. If your organization wants hiring managers to extend the job offer, make sure that the hiring manager has time to speak with the recruiter so they can be debriefed on what is important to the candidate, what selling points to cover, whether it is conditional or unconditional, and other details.

Here are the common steps to extending a verbal job offer.

Step 2: Keep it conversational

The verbal job offer is the less formal part of the offer process, so let the conversation feel genuine and casual. Get the candidate to speak candidly about why they want this opportunity, what their salary expectations are, what kind of benefits they are looking for, what they understand the job responsibilities to be, how they view the role, etc.

Step 3: Close

At this point in the process, you and the leadership team have already decided that you want to hire this candidate, but the candidate may still be on the fence, may still be interviewing elsewhere, and may have other offers on the table. Have an open, transparent, and honest conversation about where the candidate is in their job search and how they are feeling about your company/position.

There is a sales element to closing a candidate. When extending a verbal job offer, you will review the basics of the job, like pay, start date and schedule, but you can also use this as a time to further solidify the candidate’s commitment to this role.

Step 4: Get an Enthusiastic Yes

One of the major benefits of issuing a verbal job offer and having an offer conversation is the chance to really pick the mind of the job candidate. If they say yes but it doesn’t sound enthusiastic, bring that up. Use this as a time to overcome concerns, answer questions, and move past hurdles. The verbal job offer should end in a candidate enthusiastically responding that they accept.

This step goes further than closing the candidate. Closing the candidate is important, but sometimes candidates will accept a verbal job offer because they don’t feel comfortable saying no. This step will help you differentiate the committed candidate from the candidate who says yes but still fully plans on continuing to interview with other companies.

If you do not get an enthusiastic acceptance from the candidate, you are not obligated to move forward. One of the simplest ways to handle this situation is to skip right to Step 5 and give them a call to action. It is ok to put the ball in their court, allow them time to think, and set a time to check back in with them.

Step 5: Negotiate

To get a candidate to the point of a verbal offer, you or your hiring team has decided that this candidate is the best fit for the role, and often they will be top talent. Don’t be surprised or put off when they try to negotiate; instead, think of it as validation that you correctly identified a top-performing and ambitious candidate.

Top-performing and ambitious candidates will likely ask for more money, increased benefits, title changes, or certain perks. Be prepared with what you can negotiate and what you can’t. Be transparent about what you can’t offer, and then explore with them how this opportunity may still be the right move even without being able to negotiate on that item.

We live in a time when candidates have almost unlimited amounts of information at their fingertips, so be prepared for them to come to the table with facts and statistics that back up their requests, and be prepared to respond.

Step 6: Call to Action

As a hiring manager or HR professional, you understand that in a fast-moving labor market, no matter how transparent of a conversation you have, good talent will have other job offers coming along. You want to move the candidate forward to help them start feeling committed and connected. This step is important in reducing the chance that a candidate will accept a verbal offer and then back out later.

What the specific call to action is will not be as important as using this step to implement something that gets the candidate moving forward and “feeling” like they are fully committed.

Here are a few examples of simple and effective calls to action:

  1. Have the candidate email you pertinent offer information, such as full name and mailing address.
  2. If your team has a “next steps” email template, have them log in to their email and confirm that they received that email.
  3. Ask them if they are ready to cancel any pending interviews they may still have on their calendar with other organizations.
  4. Send some type of questionnaire or a get-to-know-you type document that the candidate can fill out.
  5. Give the candidate a timeline of next steps and have them take notes on what those next steps will be.
  6. Give them a timeframe for signing the verbal offer and confirm they can commit to that timeframe.

Step 7: Celebrate

This is a huge life-changing event for the candidate. Treat it as such. Congratulate them on their accomplishment and express your excitement for them to join the team. Your team is looking for top talent; make sure the candidate knows how awesome they are to have made it this far. Again, use this as a chance to make them feel connected to your organization and excited to come to work for you.

Now, celebrate yourself for finding and hiring a great candidate!

Step 8: Follow-up

Often in the world of recruiting, it is common for a hiring manager, HR professional, or talent acquisition professional to view the offer as the finish line. Remember, once a candidate has accepted an offer, that is only the beginning of the new-hire journey.

You will want to follow up with every job candidate that you extend a verbal offer to.

Sometimes, you will need to follow up with a candidate who has not yet accepted the offer to gauge where they are in their decision-making process and see if they are going to accept.

Other times, candidates will gladly accept the verbal offer during that conversation and immediately sign the written offer. Do not make the mistake of thinking you are done. If this truly is the top talent you were looking for, other companies will be actively working to bring this candidate to their organization.

When you follow up with a candidate who has accepted an offer, you will be able to answer additional questions, reassure them that they have made a smart choice, and start building a working relationship with them.

Following up will help ensure that you will not only extend great verbal job offers, but have those verbal offers convert to new hires.

Sample Verbal Offer Script

Here is a (very) generic sample verbal offer script.

Hiring Manager: “Hello, _______, how are you?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “I wanted to follow up on the interview you had with  [insert specific interviewer or interviewers]. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “Before I go over the feedback I received, I wanted to get an idea of what your impression was. How did the interview go?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “Do you think [interviewer or interiewers] is(are) someone you can see yourself working with?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “Do you feel like all of your questions were answered?”

(Candidate Response)

“Hiring Manager: “Do you have any lingering questions that I can help answer?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “Based on that interview and the interviews you have had up to this point, do you feel like you have received a clear understanding of what this role would be, and if so, how would you put that in your own words?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “Is that a role you would still be interested in?”

(Candidate Response)

Hiring Manager- “What would you rate your interest level in this role, and specifically working with this team?”

Hiring Manager: “We got terrific feedback from [specific interviewer or interviewers]. I’m excited to say that they recommended that I extend a verbal offer for our [specific role], and I wanted to see if that is something you were interested in moving forward with.

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “Is this position something that you are prepared to accept today?”

(Candidate response)

Hiring Manager: “From here, what I would like to do is go through some of the specific details about the job, and get you moving forward with your next steps.

Let’s make sure everything matches with what we have discussed and what you are expecting. We are offering a starting salary of ___. I will include a detailed breakdown of our benefits in your offer letter, but  here are some of the highlights: _____. Your schedule will be ____. Does all that match with what you were expecting?

From here there are a few next steps that I will need you to take. Please sign and return the written offer that I will send you today within three business days.

All of our offers are contingent on the candidate passing a preliminary drug test and background check, so I need you to fill out the background consent form within 24 hours of signing your written offer. We will send instructions on how to complete the drug test, and that will need to be completed within two business days.”

Can a Verbal Job Offer Be Rescinded?

At some point, you are going to have to cut ties with someone you have initially offered a job to. Verbal job offers can be rescinded. In most cases, rescinding a job offer is not illegal, but understand that rescinding a job offer can open potential legal consequences.

To lessen this risk, be sure to follow federal and state laws for equal employment opportunity. Make sure that your process does not  discriminate based on protected classes. In at-will employment, make sure your verbal offer is not framed like a contract.

Just as the offer process started with a verbal offer, rescinding a job offer should also begin with a verbal conversation.

It is a best practice when rescinding a job offer to be brief, direct, and to the point. There is no need to apologize. Express the information with empathy and end the conversation.

Here are a few examples of situations where you may have to rescind a job offer:

  1. The candidate has something come up (unexpected life event) and is no longer able to move forward.
  2. The candidate does not pass a preliminary drug or background screen.
  3. The candidate does not pass an industry-specific requirement, i.e., role-specific licensing.
  4. The candidate is not able to provide required I-9 documentation.
  5. Something changes that makes the candidate no longer eligible for your role, such as moves, schedule availability changes, time off needed that does not fit with what the role can accommodate, and more.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Verbal Offers

Who should extend the verbal offer?
Most sources agree that the hiring manager should extend the verbal job offer though many have experienced that in real world situations it is Recruiting or HR that extends the verbal job offer. Regardless of who is actually extending the verbal offer it is important to understand that this is a team effort. The Hiring Manager will need to gain critical insights about the candidate from the Recruiter and the Recruiter will need to gain key information about the position, qualifications, and culture from the Hiring Manager. In order for any job offer to happen successfully Recruiting, HR, and the Hiring Manager all have to be involved.
Are verbal job offers legally binding?
Unless you are offering an employment contract the simple answer is that the job offer is exactly what it says it is: an offer. If the offer is conditional, that is even more clear. In most cases, the way to approach a verbal offer and the way that it should be interpreted is as a meeting of the minds instead of a contract negotiation.
Can a verbal offer be negotiated?
Absolutely… and it probably will be.
Should a written job offer still be sent if the verbal offer is not accepted?
Some argue that it is a waste of time to send a written job offer to someone who is not committed. If this is the case, you will want to make sure that your verbal offers allow for some type of follow up for those candidates that want some time to think before accepting. Others think that sending a written offer can help a candidate who is on the fence make a decision to accept. If this is the approach your organization wants to take, then make sure that your written offer has the information that the candidate is looking for in their decision-making process. During the verbal offer, ask what information they need to see in order to make a decision.
Tyler Fisher

Tyler Fisher

Empowering Recruiters, HR business leaders, and key stake holders to develop and execute talent acquisition strategies. Igniting the talent acquisition process through: developing an engaging employer brand, driving creative talent sourcing, and fine-tuning recruiting team effectiveness.

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