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Get The Job Offer In Writing Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit


I finally found a great job and my first day of work is next Monday. It took me many months to get this kind of position, and it also took longer than I'd thought it would to finish our negotiations, with people being away in summer and all. My only worry is that some of the things they agreed to during our negotiations did not show up in the written offer they presented to me, like how they would review my salary after six months, and give me an extra week of vacation beyond two weeks after 12 months if I perform well. I accepted anyway because I'm exhausted from my job search, also they seem like a trustworthy bunch and I'm thrilled with the position itself. Do you think I did the wrong thing?
Giselle F., Richmond, British Columbia
Dear Giselle,

Telling you that you were ''wrong'' here would be, well, just plain wrong. Sure it would have been better to get every single promise in writing that your new employer has made to you. If you had done so, then it would be easier to enforce these promises when the time comes to do so. But I can also see that when you'd reached the negotiating stage for this job, fatigue was setting in and you just wanted to get the process over with.

You could, of course, simply go back to the employer - before your first day of work - and ask them to add the extra items into a revised written offer. This way you would feel more confident about getting what you'd agreed to verbally. Only you should think first if your new employer might get offended by this. What if your request makes them feel that you don't trust them? And how will they react to you coming to them after you've signed the agreement?

Mind you, the downside of leaving things as is could be that, six months from now, the people you negotiated with don't remember what they had promised you orally. Or worse, that the people you dealt with get transferred or downsized from the organization altogether. This would leave you only with your personal declaration that a deal had been struck six months previous outside of your written contract. This happened to me once when the HR Director I'd finalized my negotiations with suffered a nervous breakdown and had to leave the company (I swear it wasn't my fault...or was it?). It was pretty awkward when I went into my boss later that year and asked that he honour the ''unwritten provisions'' that the HR Director and I had agreed to earlier. He just kind of looked at me blankly and said he'd check into it, never did, and I eventually had to accept that I wasn't going to get everything I'd asked for.

In your case, Giselle, you may at some point in your first month or two of working there - after you get established and show that you're doing a good job - send a gentle reminder memo to the people you negotiated with, saying something along the lines of ''Just wanted to confirm the entirety of our employment arrangment, which includes a verbal agreement for a six month review and possible salary increase, as well as an extra week of paid vacation after 12 months beyond the normal two week entitlement.'' Keep it simple and matter of fact. Then at least it's on record, so when that six month point rolls around you have a firmer set of legs to stand on should you need to remind them again about their commitment to you.

In the meantime, best of luck with the start of your new job. Sounds exciting! Next time around though, do your best to get the whole agreement in writing before you sign the offer. That way you reduce potential conflict down the road.

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