Every company makes hiring decisions differently. Some will encourage shoot-from-the-hip managers to make job offers on the spot. Other companies will limit the decision maker’s ability to act quickly and unilaterally, and require a drawn-out series of staff meetings, subsequent interviews, corporate signatures, and so on.
These days, it’s not uncommon for the hiring cycle to last weeks or even months, regardless of how “critical” the position might be. The best approach is to maintain contact with the company, allowing for the fact that there’ll probably be some delay. Presumably, you asked what the hiring procedure was when you first interviewed. Their answer should give you some indication as to when a decision will be made.
Offers can be extended by either a letter, or verbally from a hiring manager. They can also be made through a third party, such as a recruiter. In either case, be careful. An offer needs to include these three components before it can be considered official:
Before you resign from your present job, make sure you nail down each of these components from a company official, either verbally or in writing (in the form of an offer letter). Even if the offer comes through a recruiter, you should always contact the employer directly, and if possible, get a letter of offer or acceptance to verify the deal (although a verbal offer and acceptance will act as a legal contract).
Not long ago, I was working with a candidate who interviewed for a position with one of my client companies. The interview went extremely well; so well that the VP of the company called the candidate at his home that evening to discuss the offer.
“Well, Paul, we really like you,” the employer told the candidate. “The job is yours if you want it.”
“I want it,” said Paul. “When do I start?”
“Well, I’ll call Bill tomorrow and work out the details,” replied the employer.
Understandably, Paul got excited. Filled with pride, he drove his ailing grandmother by the new company the next day, so he could show off his new place of work.
But guess what? The employer never called me, and never called Paul, either. For some reason he changed his mind, and didn’t have the decency to let anyone know.
The reason I tell this story is to warn you that even when the cat seems to be in the bag, it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings. An offer has to include a position title, a starting salary, and a date of start to be official; just telling you the job is yours isn’t enough.
Here’s another word of caution: Offers sometimes have strings, or contingencies attached. Don’t be surprised if the fine print requires you to:
Very often, these contingencies must be satisfied before you can to report to work or receive a paycheck.