Signing a new hire is one of most important moments in the life of your startup. It should be a moment of sheer joy on both sides. It’s also a key company communication, with consequences that could be business-critical – and in this competitive market for talent, you have to get it right.
But offering someone a job in writing doesn’t always come across that way. Regulatory and compliance burdens, as well as time pressure, mean that offer letters often look more like an ass-covering exercise where the employer just wants to fulfil some legal obligations, cram the envelope with stuff, stick it in the post and forget it ever happened. Overloading people with information, while skimping on personal warmth, sets a bad tone for your new relationship. Here are our top tips for writing the perfect offer letter.
1. Use readable, friendly language …
Legalese and impenetrable jargon don’t reflect your company culture – so don’t start your employee/employer relationship by using them. You only get one chance to make a first impression in writing so keep it accessible, clear, concise, to the point, and above all, friendly. You’re asking this person to be in a long-term relationship with you, after all.
2. …but nail the key details
That said, you must convey all the crucial information they need to make a decision. Keep this front and centre, so there’s no ambiguity. Cover practical details like start dates, what to expect on arrival, who to report to on day one, the name of their line manager, when their first payday will be, the length of any probation period, and so on.
Let them get excited about the role by giving them a sneak peek into what onboarding will look like, with some details about their first week. Think hard about the acceptance date – make sure you give them enough time to properly consider the offer, whilst also establishing a timeframe that lets your business move forward.
3. The personal touch
Every candidate is different. The one you chose obviously had something none of the others did – otherwise you wouldn’t be offering them the role. So make your offer to them personal too. If you had them present a strategy in the final round interview, and their creativity blew you away, then refer to it.
If the interview panelists had specific positive feedback, share it. If you want them to accept the offer then make sure you let them know that they aren’t just one more headcount receiving a mass-produced template. With the exception of the odd hypergrowth company hiring fifty people at a time, there’s really no reason to make your letters 100% standardised. Make it personal.
4. Information design is your friend
An employment offer letter is just the tip of an iceberg of information that candidates need to make an informed choice about the role, and to know what to expect if they accept. But cramming in detailed information about (for example) options schemes, pension schemes, data security policies, and so on, is only going to lead to information overload and a slower decision-making process.
Use layering or linking to external documents to give them access to the information they need, without compromising the readability and accessibility of the offer you’re making to them. Check out Monzo’s terms and conditions for an example of how this might look.
5. Brand it
Any other key company document, like a sales brochure, a fundraising deck or a customer email, would be branded consistently. This should be no different – make sure your marketing and design colleagues have signed off on the visual direction, and that your offer letters reflect the most up-to-date public identity of your company. At Juro, our contract management business involves helping companies send out beautiful documents, so it’s the only choice for our offer letters – plus we can show off our mobile-responsive e-signing to new joiners 😎
6. Delight them
The incorporation of delight factors is a hallmark of so many recent successful businesses – companies like Slack, Monzo and Stripe know when to incorporate emojis, illustrations, playful language and personalisation better than anyone. Adding little touches – like having the CEO hand-sign it – to make an offer letter a great experience could raise your candidate’s experience by a few percent and make an attractive offer ultimately irresistible. Startups face a tough time competing for talent – one little touch could be the difference between landing a great hire and missing out.
7. Brevity – always
The tightrope you need to walk is incorporating all these elements, without compromising one of the most fundamental must-haves: brevity. There’s no doubt that a shorter document increases the likelihood of securing a signature. Improving your time-to-hire metric by optimising for length could be the edge your company needs in a competitive hiring market.
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The perfect offer letter
These are our top tips for writing the perfect offer letter, and we receive consistent feedback that it’s an outstanding part of our onboarding process.