It’s Time to Disrupt the Offer Letter

July 28, 2016

It’s Time to Disrupt the Offer Letter

A while ago, I saw this piece about a better offer letter by Henry Ward of eShares. I thought it was a smart solution to something that may not be immediately perceived as being a communication challenge. And while it seems eShares’ impetus was to help candidates better understand equity, I think some of the lessons from it aren’t limited to start-ups. It also reminded me of a project we did for one of our clients where we created a new offer letter to help candidates gain a more comprehensive understanding of their total compensation. In that particular case, we developed an interactive table and chart that allowed candidates to select different health care, education, retirement, and bonus scenarios to understand what they received beyond their base salary.

All of this got me thinking about the candidate experience. While the candidate experience technically begins the moment he or she first interacts with someone or something (e.g., website) related to your organization, they’ve actually started to drink your Kool-Aid by the time you get around to extending a formal offer. And while accepting a new role is exciting, it can also be very nerve-racking. The offer letter is an opportunity to stoke the excitement and perhaps assuage some of the anxiety that is inevitably comes with any big change.

While the offer letter is a required document, it doesn’t have to be boring. It can—and should—be seen as an opportunity to engage your candidate on a personal level and help fan the enthusiasm that comes with formally accepting the new position with your organization. For this reason in particular, you need to think of the offer letter as an opportunity to communicate with potential new employees about more than just their compensation. It’s really an opportunity to continue to advance the relationship between the candidate and the organization.

So if your offer letter is the same one that’s been around since the beginning of time, it’s absolutely time for an upgrade. And what’s great is that the possibilities are endless. It could be as simple as evolving the formal letter to include information about who they will be reporting to and things to consider on their first day of employment, e.g., the office usually runs cold, so dress in layers; the best parking spots are usually gone by 9:30; definitely get the tacos on Taco Tuesday.

Or maybe you want something a bit flashier, like a welcome kit. Included in the kit could be the offer letter, a company lanyard for holding their ID, travel mug and notepad because everyone likes free swag. It could also include a deck of cards with people’s faces and bios so they can begin to understand the different players within the organization.

If you wanted to go digital, you could create a secure interactive portal where your candidate could view their offer letter, adjust different factors to better understand their total compensation, and watch a video welcoming them to company—or maybe even their specific team.

The point is, you have options beyond some text on your letterhead. So stop thinking of the offer letter as a formality and starting thinking about it as a way to engage and delight your future employee and deepen their relationship with the company.

The Authors: 

Jennifer Zanfardino is managing director at Monaco Lange. She helps organizations like BASF, American Express, Mercer, Girl Scouts of the USA, and Circle K build relationships with their internal and external audiences. She regularly speaks and writes about her perspective on the power of internal brands and employee engagement. She can be reached at