How to Respond to an Offer of Employment

Congratulations on receiving a job offer. Here’s how to handle your offer acceptance or decline it professionally.

You got the offer letter.  Now what?  You’ve spent the past three and a half months interviewing and your efforts have paid off.  One of your top employers has made a verbal job offer to you and has promised to send you an official offer letter.  Here’s what you can expect to see, and a few ideas on what actions to take.  These ideas apply to new employment as well as accepting a promotion with your existing employer.

You’ll want to review the written offer and verify that all the details match what was discussed when the verbal offer was made.  Typically job offer letters include:

a. Position title, supervisor and location where you will work.

b. Position compensation (which should explain the base compensation; applicable variable compensation or performance bonuses and how they are earned; and when compensation is paid).

c. A statement about applicable benefits and when they may take effect (more detail will likely be provided once you accept the position, either prior to your start date or early in your employment).

d. An expected reporting date and location for your first day.

e. A brief outline of policies to which you will need to agree as a condition of employment (typically detailed in the employer’s Employee Handbook and include policies such as expense reimbursement, workplace attire, and code of conduct).

f. A time period within which you’ll need to accept the job offer (usually by signing and returning the offer letter).

g. A statement about employment terms, such as an introductory (or training period), at-will or contract employment, or employment-related agreements (such as a non-compete or confidentiality agreement).

h. A statement about the job offer being contingent upon your successful completion of a background investigation, drug tests, receipt of educational credentials, and similar vetting.

Accepting Employment.  Offer letters usually include a place for you to accept the terms and conditions of employment by signing and returning a copy of the offer letter to the employer.  In most states, signing an offer letter constitutes a legal agreement between you and the employer, so make sure you are comfortable with accepting the terms as stated.  If there is still a question about the terms, now is the time to get it clarified, before you sign and return the offer. Make a copy of the offer letter for you files if one has not been provided.

When accepting an offer of employment, a best practice is to send both the hiring manager and HR representative a personalized thank you card in addition to returning the offer letter.   

Declining Employment.  In the event you choose to decline the offer of employment, a best practice is to send a polite and professional letter to the employer that contains the following paragraphs:

a. Thank them for their interest in you and express your appreciation for the time they spent with you during the evaluation process.

b. The difficulty you had in making the decision not to join them.

c. A brief reason for your decision (such as took another position or relocating to a different area).

d. Avoid drawing attention to negatives you might have felt about the job or offer, even though they may have been a large factor in your decision.

It is imperative that you do not burn any bridges!  Declines, if handled respectfully and professionally, may allow you to remain a candidate for future openings with this employer.  While such a rejection can be handled via email, it is more professional and positive to send a well-written letter on the same stationary as was used for your résumé and cover letter. 

Bottom line: Even though you’ve received an offer letter, handling your response poorly could result in your offer being withdrawn.  Continue to be professional in your handling of the offer letter and you lay a solid foundation for starting your new job on the right foot.

This article is taken from my new book, Get a Better Job Faster™, now available on in two editions, one for college students and recent grads, and one for experienced professionals and skilled workers.  Each all-new edition explains more than 3,000 job search and career launch best practices.

About Me: I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job searchI also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us, or call us at 215-942-0982.  


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