Congratulations—you did it! You applied for your dream job, made it through several rounds of interviews, and left everyone thoroughly impressed by your extensive experience and your engaging conversational skills. Now, you’re relieved to hear the hiring manager share how much she looks forward to working with you and what a great addition you’ll be to the team.
However, you’re not quite “hired” yet. More than likely, there are a few more steps left before you can officially begin your employment. You’ll wait to receive an offer letter with a salary and benefits package, the terms of your work, and any requirements you’ll need to meet before you’re officially an employee.
This is a contingent job offer, meaning your job offer is conditional upon whether or not you complete a few more steps in the hiring process
This is a contingent job offer, meaning your job offer is conditional upon whether or not you complete a few more steps in the hiring process, including common factors such as a background check, a reference check, and negotiation regarding or accepting your compensation package. This stage could even include a drug screening, physical exam, or agreement to relocate for a job.
This period between a contingent offer and official employment can typically take anywhere from two business days to weeks, depending on how many steps are involved in your contingent offer or if you feel it is best to negotiate.
Standard components to a contingent offer
Employers commonly perform reference checks to verify your employment history and that you’re qualified to fill a position. Beyond verifying employment, prospective employers may ask questions about your performance, what skills you used as an employee, and maybe even what your final salary might have been—if it is legal to do so in your city or state.
It is good to have a list of references that you’ve already contacted to agree to speak to prospective employers on your behalf and verify all of their contact info. Beyond ensuring that they are willing and prepared to serve as a reference, this will also ensure that they can be reached, and this portion of the process doesn’t hold up your final employment.
Background checks and pre-employment screenings
A background check is a common step in the pre-hiring process to verify that you are who you say you are, that you won’t be a liability to your new company, and that you meet legal requirements for your job. You can usually count on this step. According to research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), over 90% of employers perform background checks on new employees. For example, some states or jurisdictions have specific requirements for holding certain positions where you’ll be with children to ensure that those children are safe.
Some positions also require a credit check, drug tests, or other screenings, especially if your role requires you to be responsible for financial assets or operate machinery. However, some states have specific regulations for if and how employers can perform credit or criminal background checks. You’ll always have to permit employers to perform checks into either your criminal history, credit, or other aspects of your background, such as your academic record. It is always a good idea to run a self-check to ensure that there is not anything you haven't addressed that shows up on your record.
Your salary and benefits package
Typically, your job offer letter will include a proposed starting title, salary, the potential for additional compensation like bonuses, and other benefits included in your terms of employment, like 401k contributions, equity or stock options, paid leave, and healthcare coverage options. You should always take time to understand the value of every piece of your benefits package and what every term is really offering. (Use our handy compensation terms glossary here.)
Before you accept an offer, it is essential to research and determine your salary value in the market, given factors like your credentials, skills, and experience. If you believe you should receive more, it is definitely worth asking an employer if they are open to negotiating salary or other benefits—just be ready to substantiate your counteroffer.
Though it can be intimidating to negotiate your salary or other terms of your employment, it is often a regular part of the employment process.
If you’re trying to decide between multiple offers, make sure to confirm when the offer expires.
From “offered” to “hired.”
Though it can be nerve-racking to go through final pre-employment steps before official employment, they allow both you and the employer to make sure you’re on the same page. As you navigate the employment process, it can be helpful to work with a recruiter, not only to find the best role for you but to help you navigate all the steps from “searching,” to “offered,” to “hired.”