Once an employer decides whether to hire or reject an applicant, it should issue a job offer or rejection letter to that applicant, as applicable. Depending on the company, it might also be a good idea to first verbally inform the applicant of the offer or rejection before sending the letter.
Employers should remember that they can be held contractually liable for anything included in a job offer letter. If employment is to be at-will, the job offer letter should specifically state that, and it should state compensation in terms of a weekly or bi-weekly pay period (annual salary offers may be construed as a promise for at least one year of employment). The offer letter should also notify the employee as to the position, the overview of responsibilities, the expected start date, whether the employee will be classified as exempt or non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and a description of the benefits offered. The offer letter should also note that hiring is contingent upon the new hire completing all required paperwork and satisfactory results of any background checks or drug screening tests. The Texas Workforce Commission recommends that job offer letters be “matter-of-fact and to the point,” and employers should steer clear of any “feel-good” language assuring or implying that the new hire will have continuing employment as long as the employee performs well. The offer letter should ask the applicant to sign and return the letter to the employer acknowledging that the applicant has accepted the job offer.
Rejection letters can be far more painful for employers to write, particularly when they must be sent to a likable, highly-qualified applicant who was simply surpassed by a more qualified applicant. A rejection letter should be personalized (at least with the applicant’s name, if a form letter is used) and should thank the applicant for their interest. Importantly, the rejection letter should the deliver the rejection firmly and clearly. Rejection letters should avoid offering any impression or inference that the door might still be open for the applicant. Do not tell the applicant that their resume is still on file or that they might be considered for the next open position unless that is actually the case.
The letter might also explain the main reason for the rejection, though employers must be very careful with this explanation. To avoid discrimination or disparate impact perceptions or liability, the employer should avoid saying anything about an applicant’s personality, appearance, or characteristics. It should also avoid comparing the applicant to other applicants – for example, it should not include a statement that the employer hired another person who is more qualified, even if the employer perceives this to be true. If the employer finds it difficult to come up with a specific job-related reason for the rejection without going into these forbidden areas, the employer should not give any reason at all in the rejection letter. Instead, it should simply notify the applicant that they have not been selected for the position and wish them success in their job search.
Autum Flores has substantial experience in a variety of complex civil litigation matters with a particular emphasis on labor and employment, commercial litigation, regulatory, antitrust, and securities.