Job Offer Letters: What to Include and Exclude

  • June 20, 2023

pexels-shvets-production-7194742By Allen Smith, J.D. | June 2, 2023

When writing job offer letters, HR must walk the tightrope between welcoming candidates enthusiastically and scaring them off. Here’s an overview of what to include in and exclude from the letters.

Key Elements

Phyllis Hartman, SHRM-SCP, president of PGHR Consulting in Pittsburgh, said key elements of a job offer letter include:

  • A welcoming opening statement, such as, “We are pleased to offer you the position of [job title].”
  • Start date.
  • Reporting location.
  • Location of position or where to report on the first day. Or, if the employee is remote, the time, date and means of the start-up meeting and orientation.
  • Exempt or nonexempt status and mention of at-will status, if applicable, with a statement that this letter is not a contract of employment.
  • Pay amount. Only include information about bonus, commissions and stock options if they are guaranteed or a significant part of the compensation.
  • Benefits information in brief, and provide an attachment that outlines the benefits.
  • Reference to an attached job description.
  • Any contingencies like passing a background check or drug screen as well as eligibility to work in the U.S. Describe the I-9 process.
  • A sign-off indicating acceptance of the offer with a deadline for return.
  • A closing statement welcoming the new employee, acknowledging their value to the organization, and providing information on who to contact with questions and how to reach them.

If an employer starts with a warm welcome, then tells candidates why it is about to share some specifics—for example, “we know surprises are not always good, and we want to ensure you are fully informed before you decide to join us”—that may increase the odds the individual will read the entire letter, said Christine Walters, SHRM-SCP, an attorney and HR consultant with FiveL in Westminster, Md.

There is a downside to including too much information, she cautioned—a new hire may say it was unrealistic to think anyone would read such a lengthy offer letter.

“Accuracy is critical,” Hartman said. Beyond the fact that job offer letters are legal documents, incorrect information decreases trust and “paints a bad picture of the organization,” she said.

Joyce Chastain, SHRM-SCP, an employment law compliance consultant with The Krizner Group in Tallahassee, Fla., emphasized that the letter should specify the initial salary and note any special considerations or exceptions, such as the granting of additional paid time off or a previously planned unpaid absence.

Explain what at-will employment means, as many workers don’t understand that terminology, Chastain said. Except in Montana, which doesn’t have at-will employment, include a statement such as, “Employment with our organization is at will. That means that both the employer and the employee have the right to terminate the employment at any time and for any reason.”


What to Leave Out

Don’t include language that implies permanent employment such as “job security” or “stable work environment,” Chastain cautioned. She also recommended avoiding such phrases as “we hope you will be a long-standing member of our family.”

Walters has occasionally seen employers list all the reasons someone can be fired, besides at will. “Leave that to your employee handbook,” she said.

She has read some offer letters that are worded like an employment contract, even when no contract was intended. Remember the candidate is still assessing the company, Walters said.

The job description can be included as an attachment to the offer letter—just don’t put it as part of the letter, said Amy Casciotti, vice president of human resources for TechSmith Corp. in East Lansing, Mich.

“Stay away from putting company policies and requirements into the job offer that are not needed and will be covered in your handbook,” Casciotti said. “One that comes to mind is the company might have a requirement that an employee must be in their role for a year before they are eligible for another internal position.”

Avoid any long-winded noncompete or nonsolicitation provisions in the offer letter, especially unreasonable ones, said Damiya Park, an attorney with Baker McKenzie in Chicago. “Include these types of provisions, or confidentiality, intellectual assignment or even arbitration provisions in a separate agreement, and make it a condition of the offer that the separate agreement is executed prior to the start date,” she said.

Also avoid any promises of future compensation increases, such as a raise of 20 percent in six months, unless that is what the company is truly offering, Park said.



The letter is a memorialization of the job offer; Chastain summarized. The offer “should contain sufficient facts for the potential employee to make an informed decision about the offer while also including language to protect the employer from confusion or allegations of promises made at the time of the offer,” she said.

Remember that you are delivering good news, Walters emphasized. “Of all the candidates, this is the one person you have selected. Foster that excitement,” she said. “Keep it positive. Keep it as succinct as you can, balanced with ensuring the person is fully informed of any conditions that come with working for your company.”

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