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I received a verbal job offer and accepted it approximately 3 weeks ago. At that time HR stated the written contract with terms of employment and salary would arrive within the next week. I sent a follow up email a few days ago expressing my continued interest in the position and a request for a possible date/timeline to expect the written offer. I have gotten no response from the company. The phone interviews, video interview, questionaire, and inperson interview timeline lasted almost 3 months. Along the way the company never met a time deadline as when I should expect a response or notification if I had made it to the next round. They were always off from 1-2 weeks due to delays. The job is supposed to start in January of 2018. It is a good company with a great reputation and reviews on Glassdoor, however, it's not very good with responding to communications or sticking to timelines. I'm pretty sure I have the job but the lack of response is worrisome.

My university placement office recommended that graduates continue interviewing as nothing is final until a written offer comes through. I had started the interview process with two other companies before the offer came from the first place. One of the companies has been very precise about sticking to predicted timelines and follow up after each step of the process. I have another phone interview with them this Friday and if that goes well then an in person interview would follow next week.

If the written offer for company 1 comes before a possible job offer from one of the other companies I plan to accept it. I am wondering if an offer comes from one of the other companies before I get a written offer from the first company what is the protocol for breaking the verbal agreement? Can/should I do this? Is there anything that legally binds me to the verbal agreement?

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    Possible duplicate of How to renege implicit verbal acceptance of a job offer – Dukeling Oct 26 '17 at 6:26
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    a verbal offer is worth the paper it is written on – Richard U Oct 26 '17 at 11:15
  • I followed up by email because in the past when I called about something the HR person did not return my call. I thought email would be better because I'd have something to show/prove that I had made contact. In the course of the interview they told me what the beginning training salary would be. It stays at that for the first 3 months and then has the potential to increase. I have a rough idea of the benefits due to the company website but am unsure of what percentage I'd have to pay for insurance or the premiums. – W.P. Oct 27 '17 at 1:55
  • Well, most jobs are "at will" meaning they can fire you, or you can leave at anytime, thus, even if you accept a written offer, there is nothing stopping you from leaving and going elsewhere. I've heard job professionals say this is "not nice," but perfectly doable. You should not hesitate to do whatever is in your best interests, just like how they won't hesitate to fire and replace you if it means making their pockets even fatter. – Daniel Grover Oct 31 '17 at 16:14
  • Always do written communication with organizations or persons. verbal communication only works when you know other person very well. Don't wait for their response. Move on and plan other interviews /meetings. make your own decision about joining any organization instead waiting for their offer. Before getting in touch get all the information about organizations and their communication channels. – Sundas Nov 1 '17 at 9:25
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+200

Verba volant, scripta manent

(spoken words fly away, written words remain)

Your university placement office is right to advise you to not stop until you have a written offer, and honestly I would consider it a red flag if a company is not sticking to their own commitment.

If you get another offer while still waiting for them to act, it is certainly not wrong to accept it. Or look at it from the other side: would they wait for you to decide while they have found another good candidate?

What you can do to be more swift is, upon receiving another offer, contact the other company once more and kindly remind them that "After the successful interviewing process I am still waiting for your written offer. If you fail to provide such offer before [set deadline] I may not be able to stick to our verbal agreement".

You would end then with two options:

  1. they make an offer: lucky you, you can chose between two offers!
  2. they make no offer: you have another offer anyway.
  • Thanks for your advice. I'd been wondering about what to say. – W.P. Oct 27 '17 at 1:56
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    I don't think you need to imply that you are breaking anything (not be able to stick to our verbal agreement). I would simply say "I have not as yet received a formal offer and have alternative offers with deadlines". – Martin York Oct 27 '17 at 7:31
  • @LokiAstari, that's correct too. – L.Dutch Oct 27 '17 at 7:43
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No protocol necessary. They didn't make you an offer.

A verbal offer is neither legally binding, nor is it a legitimate offer.

For one thing, the verbal offer you received is probably missing many of the terms that a normal employment offer and a normal employment contract would contain. And you can't very well agree to an offer you do not know the details of.

What if tomorrow, you receive the paperwork, but it says that you'll have to work night shift and work from their new office in Shangai. Did that original verbal offer originally discuss your shift time or location? Probably not, but if it did, could you actually prove that's not what was originally discussed and originally agreed to? I doubt it. Furthermore, could you even prove that the employee who made you the verbal offer had the full authority to hire you (without needing anyone else's approval)? I doubt that too.

In the future, never simply accept a verbal offer. Just say that you will accept their offer pending review of their written offer and employment contract. And if the employment contract comes with a clause that says that you accept everything that is written in the employee manual, ask to see a copy of that employee manual before signing.

And if they pressure you to sign the contract anyway without having you seen the employee manual, just cross out the clause regarding the employee manual, write down that you haven't seen the employee manual, put your initials and a date next to what you wrote down instead, make some copies for yourself, and return the signed contract along with a cover letter stating that you altered the contract before signing it since you still haven't been given the employee handbook to review and that you'd like them to initial your change before they sign their side of the contract, and return it to you.

And if they start saying things like "What? Don't you trust us? You can trust us." You should just reply "No, I trust you. But if you ever get laid off, or if you find a better job elsewhere, or if the company gets sold, I may not be able to trust your replacement to honor our original agreement."

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Oct 28 '17 at 13:02
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You have to realize that the described behavior of company 1 is probably only characteristic to this one HR-Person. And once you´d started there you won´t have to deal with that one very much. (Could also be delayed by management - which would be a warning sign. Maybe you can get some clues about that?)

So you should really weigh these two opportunities against each other, considering all factors, not just the hiring process.

In an optimal scenario you have a time frame where you have both written offers on the table so you know all the details. You can try to facilitate this a little bit by pushing or delaying the two companies.

For example if you receive the offer from C2 you ask for a day to think over it. Then you call C1 and tell them that you really need their offer, because you have to decide now if to reject other offers ( and tell of course you prefer them but also need the security of a written offer ...)

You can only legally agree to an offer once you know all the details, which is why it is done in writing - until then nothing is set!

What you don´t know is, where the work will make you more satisfied - IMHO the most important factor. You have to take an educated guess, depending on your gut feeling, field of work, maybe some of the reviews you mentioned. So if you have a clear winner there, try to get their offer and as soon as you have it and are satisfied, decline the other company.

Remember, you represent the value in this "transaction" - and while there are certainly other candidates, once you receive a binding offer, you know you are their best option.

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    "You have to realize that the described behavior of company 1 is probably only characteristic to this one HR-Person." It's unlikely that a single person would be holding it up. It's probably an issue with the whole bureaucracy. – Acccumulation Nov 3 '17 at 18:24
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They may offer you whatever they want, but without a written and signed contract they are in no way obliged to fulfill their offer.

The same applies to you, until you sign a contract you can still decline gracefully without any legal consequences.

Anyways, for next time try not to "accept" at first glance a verbal offer, so you spare yourself from having to decline politely (some recruiters may be disappointed to see that change of heart, just as you would if they did the same to you with a verbal offer).

If you really like their offer ask them to formalize it in a written one.

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    Actually, verbal offers are legally binding - just harder to enforce. – Denis de Bernardy Oct 26 '17 at 11:36
  • I differ with your opinion. Otherwise every small promise one made would be legally bounding. In a non work analogy, means that you were legally bounded to all your past girlfriends/boyfriends that you verbally agreed to be with. – DarkCygnus Oct 26 '17 at 13:24
  • @DenisdeBernardy if it were a verbal contract that would be different. Seems you may have an interesting opinion about this, so consider leaving an answer so we can all benefit from it :) – DarkCygnus Oct 26 '17 at 13:31
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    Delete the opening sentence to avoid the controversy about legal interpretations. Whether it is legally binding and what that means is probably more fit for law.stackexchange.com. For the purpose of this answer the rest of the answer is clear enough. – Brandin Oct 26 '17 at 13:52
  • @DarkCygnus Verbal contracts are just as binding as written ones. Proving they exist might be harder. But a promise is different from a contract. There are five parts required for a legal contract. 1) Offer 2) Acceptance 3) Consideration 4) Intention to be legally bound 5) Form (Though this is English law though American law is originally based on English law it may have changed). You probably did not get consideration from your girlfriend :-) But verbal contracts are worth the paper they are written on but some businesses depend on them. – Martin York Oct 27 '17 at 7:40
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I'm of the opinion that you don't have an offer until you have an offer letter with a start date. If there is no signed offer letter with a start date, all you have is speculation. In fact, you don't even really have the job until you show up on your start date, sit at your desk, and fill out the HR forms.

I would think of it this way: you and HR agreed that $XK salary would work for both of you. That's it - it WOULD work. But it's not a signed agreement, and they're not finalizing the agreement because . . who knows? Maybe the HR person won the lottery a minute after your conversation, and now the hiring manager has completely forgotten about filling that role because of the many number of things that can happen in the business world that have nothing to do with you.

I think your university is right to tell you to keep looking, and you should put this company out of your mind for now. If you get a written offer with a start date from another company, all you have to do is reach out and say that you are withdrawing your application because another offer came through. It may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

As a side note, I think waiting three weeks to send a written offer is absolutely unacceptable. I've never had to wait longer than 24 hours for a written offer to come through after verbal acceptance.

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