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After going through the recruitment process for a company, I received a job offer for a software development position, on a contractor basis. I am interested in working for them but the offer is very vague and I am a bit cautious about putting myself in an uncomfortable situation by signing it.

What I received is a document containing the following:

  • role title
  • salary
  • starting date
  • a date before which I should sign this document to accept the offer

I don't have much experience in job search, but I would expect a full contract at this stage, or at least a more detailed offer, containing working hours, notice period, and so on.

During the interviews, I've discussed these details and I think I have a good idea of what to expect from the position, but this is not written out in the offer.

Is it normal to send a document like this, before drafting an actual contract? And is it normal to mention this few details? If I sign this, what am I actually agreeing to? What if I then receive the contract which for some reason is unacceptable to me?

I think I have two options now:

  1. Sign the offer and wait for the contract, negotiating or rejecting if needed. But does signing the offer in the first place put any obligation on me already?
  2. Ask for more details before I can sign anything.

What would you suggest I do at this point?

PS. I reached out to the external recruiter who recommended me for this job, and they said the company typically sends this kind of letter of intent first, and then after signing they send a draft of the contract. Is this normal practice?

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    I would thank them for their offer and ask them right-away for a fully sketched out contract for you to sign.. – iLuvLogix Mar 8 at 10:07
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    You probably want to include the country tag and industry. Sounds like you got the contract. Signing the offer certainly does place an obligation on you. – Gregory Currie Mar 8 at 10:26
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    What did you expect to find in addition in a contract? What you got seems to cover the most important points for a contract with a contractor. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Mar 8 at 10:51
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    @BrownLung: please add a country tag. Local customs vary wildly here. – Hilmar Mar 8 at 12:43
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    I am so confused. A contractor is looking for PTO? Since when contractors have PTO. To the best of my knowledge, contractors get higher rates, but no PTO, no holidays. Employees do have them. Of course, different locations may be different. Please provide location. You're right, you do need to know the contract duration. – scaaahu Mar 8 at 12:57
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As always you should never sign legally binding documents without understanding it. Later on, you cannot claim that they were "vague" as it is not a valid defense unless they tied you up to a chair and told you that you cannot leave until you sign something.

Best thing to do is pick up the phone and call. Say you were interviewing and wanted the position of X but your offer letter doesn't have that. Ask them that you want a clarification and a new offer letter with that clarification. You say you will sign it then.

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You are also being vague.

uncomfortable situation by signing it.

What exactly are they asking you to sign? If it is simply a letter of intent, as your recruiter mentions it could mean nothing. By signing such, you agree intend to work there provided the other parameters meet you criteria. Which is basically nothing. So sign if you are interested.

Contract software positions are much less formal then full time offers. They rarely have meaningful titles, salaries (typically it is an hourly rate), notification periods or a drop dead date in which you have to sign a formal offer. In my 30+ year career I cannot recall signing a formal offer for a contract position. It is normally just a verbal thing.

This is an impossible to answer question without details of what they want you to sign.

Where are you located?

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Yes, this is normal.

Remember companies are investing in this process as well. Working up an actual full contract can be time-consuming and expensive, and they don't want to go to the trouble if you're just going to say "Oh $x, no, that's not good enough" and bail. So they're looking for assurance stronger than a verbal "sounds ok...".

In the US at least, there is no such thing as forced labor and if you sign something, things that aren't specified in it aren't in force. By signing the offer letter, assuming it doesn't have some clause down at the bottom that says this, you are not legally required to accept the final contract, go to work for them, not quit whenever you want, and so on. It should say "employment is at will" someplace within it as legal code for "none of this is really binding."

There are a bunch of docs on the Web guiding employers on offer letters vs employment contracts and the legal differences between them.

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look, they have only given you the offer letter to you. By, signing on it wouldn't consider as you sign in the contract. you still didn't gone to company to give this offer letter after signing on it?right. When you go to the company for the confirmation and for the other documents they will give your contract or the bond which you will sign before the starting of job at that time you will have planty of time to think whether you should take this job or not. if you really need one job right now and the contract is setting up to your requierments than you should sign that or if you don't like the job you can talk to the manager of the company or the HR of the company, they will understand. They might even change or modify your contract or they will let you leave. they can't force you to sign the contract by signing the offer letter. But the thing is if you leave than you will be enter in their database for not taking job and all the future jobs and roles in that company will be close for you. but if you sign the contract than you can't leave the job unless there is written that you can quit or leave the job after some amount of the period. if you want this job so much and you like the position than you should take it, don't hasitate.

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