You finally get the call you’ve been waiting for! The hiring manager you just interviewed with last week, at that GREAT company you would absolutely love to work for, calls and offers you the position you competed for. The salary, starting date and all the other pertinent details the hiring manager discusses with you over the phone are generally acceptable to you, so you tell him you are pleased to accept the offer. He says, “Great! You should get the written offer in the mail in a couple of days.”

Yes! Now you can finally go in and resign from your current, dreadful job, right? Well, not exactly. As baseball legend Yogi Berra is so often quoted as saying, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and believe me, at this point, it certainly isn’t “over”!

While your candidacy could never have gone forward unless and until the hiring manager actually offered you the position, a verbal offer by the hiring manager really is not worth the paper it’s (not) written on! Until you actually receive the written offer, usually from the hiring company’s Human Resources Department, you do NOT yet have a bona fide new job offer. But wait, there is even more!

The written offer itself does not necessarily guarantee you that you have the job, either. Why? Because almost always there are “contingencies” included in the written offer, and until ALL of these contingencies are met, i.e., cleared, you have no valid job offer.

Almost every written job offer I’ve ever seen indicates somewhere in the copy that “this offer is contingent upon. . . .” The most common types of contingencies are the following:

  • Drug screen – Virtually every company today requires you to pass a drug screen, regardless of the job level.
  • Background check – This is another requirement that has essentially become institutionalized in recent years. During this check the company will be verifying your education, employment history, and many companies will also include a criminal background check.
  • Motor vehicle check – If you are going to be assigned a company car, or even if you are to have periodic access to one, you can be guaranteed the company will conduct this check. Obviously, companies are also interested in learning if you have recently had a DUI or other serious infraction.
  • Credit check – If the position you’re being offered involves handling money, controlling a budget, authorizing vendor payments, etc., it is extremely likely that the company will conduct a credit check on you.
  • Professional licensing/designations – If you have indicated that you hold a professional license, such as “Professional Engineer” (PE), or if you have stated that you are a Ph.D., or hold a professional designation, such as “Chartered Life Underwriter” (CLU), the company is going to verify this information.

(Good news for job seekers who may have had their credit rating negatively affected though no fault of their own during the Great Recession: According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, there has been somewhat of a decrease in the number of companies routinely conducting credit checks—and criminal background checks—on potential new hires. Forty-seven percent of employers surveyed said they continue to use credit checks when hiring, compared to 60 percent who used them in 2010. Plus, even in those companies that continue to conduct credit checks, the major emphasis is usually on recent credit history.)

Once ALL ‘Contingencies’ are Cleared

OK, then. After all the various “checks” you’re deemed “cleared,” i.e., no problems popped up during the various third-party contacts, or at least none that would keep you from being employed by the company. What now? Do you now have a bona fide job offer? Can you now go in and resign from your current employer? Well, provided you and the hiring company successfully negotiated any lingering “sticking points,” e. g., salary, benefits, start date, etc., and you have the final, complete written offer in hand, the answer is “yes”!

Call me a paranoid cynic, but until you actually walk through the front door of your new company to begin your new job, I strongly advise that you do not summarily cancel any pending, ongoing job search activities. Don’t initiate any new job search activities, just don’t cancel any existing activities. Why? Because, until you do actually begin your new job, virtually anything could happen to change the whole scenario.

Although (thankfully!) it is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence, during the Great Recession, when the economy was really “tanking,” I had candidates who were actually offered positions, accepted them, went in and resigned from their current jobs, only to have the hiring companies either cancel hiring plans or put them “on hold.” You guessed it . . . the candidates were left “hanging”!

Obviously, you would want to avoid this happening to you, if at all possible. At some point, of course, you are going to have to trust that the new job offer is made in earnest. Just make sure that the hiring company (and the hiring manager) are worthy of such trust—before you go in to resign from your current job.

The point is, you can fully expect virtually any hiring company today, particularly the larger ones, to “dot all the i’s” and “cross all the t’s” before extending a bona fide job offer to you. The hiring manager’s initial offer is an important factor in the equation, but it is not the most important part, as I’ve shown you in this blog. Never has the saying, “get it in writing” been more applicable or more important that when it comes to accepting a new job offer.

I am going to assume that, during your search activities with the hiring company, you clearly and unmistakably branded yourself as being among the best candidates available for the position or you wouldn’t have been offered the position in the first place. Make sure that your professional brand also reflects that you are also a savvy professional, one who also “dots all the i’s” and “crosses all the t’s” before resigning from your current position and accepting a new one.


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, Career Stalled? Publication is scheduled for late fall.