So you have cleared all the rounds of Interview and finally landed a job. Congratulations! You must be happy to get the new business appointment letter. It may also be your first experience in full-employment. If a company has agreed upon a salary you negotiated for, should you just quickly read the other details of the appointment letter and simply sign? No, it’s always advised to read and understand what you are signing.
A business appointment letter is an official document provided by the HR Manager to a candidate for joining the employment. It is a confirmation that an individual has been hired for the position in the company, and the employer has accepted his/her remuneration and other benefits. It also contains all the fundamental terms and conditions of employment. The contract can be considered as void or valid depending upon whether the terms & conditions are clearly stated or not. If the letter fails to mention the conditions to an employee clearly, it may create some dispute in the future between the employer and employee. But this doesn’t mean every single detail should be specified in the contract. This will make it too lengthy and unclear.
Since an appointment letter is a legal document, it is difficult to make changes once it’s signed. So before signing it, there are a few things you need to check if it covers the entire thing clearly and there is no vague.
1) Job description and role: The first and foremost thing is to check the official title. Does it contain the same title and description that were briefed during the interview? It should have detailed information about your position, responsibilities you have to undertake, and employment details (part-time or full-time). Having a clear understanding will also help you in knowing the expectations of the company. Also, for instance, if somebody tries to impose more responsibilities in the future, you can show them what you are supposed to do.
2) Working hours: Your business appointment letter should mention how many hours you are supposed to work, break time, and the number of days you are expected to work. In some companies, employees pack up and left the office exact at five in the evening, while there are workplaces that keep looking at your sideways if you leave your desktop before seven in the evening. Make sure you know the expectations of your boss regarding your availability in evenings and on weekends. You surely don’t want to know the fact that you may have to be on call 24/7 after signing the contract.
3) Salary and other Benefits: This is an interesting part! Before signing the letter, make sure it reflects the same amount you agreed upon during the interview. It should include aggregate breakdown (transportation, medical, housing, etc.). If the HR has not stated these details, don’t hesitate to ask them. Also, check if bonuses are optional or guaranteed. If it is performance-based, what are the set targets and who will decide whether objectives for a particular month have been achieved or not?
4) Travelling Requirement: Some jobs require 100% travelling, some do not, and there are others that fall in between these two. So if you think that your job may require travelling, read the travelling clause very carefully. It should mention clearly how often you have to travel and what all expenses the company will reimburse. Some companies boost up for international or domestic trips, while others do not even provide enough amount to eat one extra slice of pizza. So clarify your travelling expenses well before you accept the offer.
5) Notice Period: If an employee wants to leave a company, they need to serve an official notice to the company. And if the company terminates the employee, then they will be informed officially by the HR or the department head. So it can be from both the employer and employee side. Before signing the business appointment letter, you should check if the notice period is short or long. For most employees, the notice period is usually for a month or three months. Long notice period may make it difficult for you to take a new opportunity and too short period may not give you enough stability.
6) Cause of Termination: As mentioned above, the company can terminate an employee. In the case, your appointment letter should mention the reason of termination on the part of an employer. If an employer has evidence or documents, then an employee can be terminated immediately. For example, threatened violence, stealing the company’s property, failing alcohol or drug test, conviction of some crime, etc. Also, check if a company will pay severance amount or not.
7) Non-compete clause: This clause is generally to restrict the employee from using his specialization to some other similar profession or trade. Some companies add this clause in the appointment letter to prohibit an employee from working with any competitor for a certain period. Well, in that case, if you want to switch to some other company, you have to wait for some time. An incident happened in Minnesota, a northwest state of the United States, where an employer sued an ex-employee for not serving the notice period working with competitor soon after resigning.
8) Non-disclosure Agreement: It is an agreement between the parties to make them feel comfortable on revealing confidential information. The nature of the clause is such that it should be included in the agreement. No company wants to reveal their trade secrets to competitors. While this is a reasonable expectation, it doesn’t mean you pay less attention to it. Read the clause carefully as the clause may prevent you to discuss salary structures.
9) Publishing/ Patent conflicting research: There may come a situation when whatever research or inventions you have made in your backyard will officially become to the current company. Yes, this might annoy you, but that’s how things are. You may get credit, but that will become confidential material of the company. So again read the agreement carefully to make sure if you need to inform the company about your work-in-progress. That way you can claim what is yours when you will decide to leave the company.
10) Authenticity: Last but not least, before signing the letter; don’t forget to check the authenticity of the letter such as a company logo, stamp, signatures of the company and departmental heads.
Reading an appointment letter thoroughly may be the last thing that comes to your mind after long-awaited opportunity. But sadly, you need to stop your winning dance and maintain a calm and controlled attitude because you are only one step away to seal the deal.
Campbell Joef is a graphic designer and blogger associated with Designhill.com (http://www.designhill.com/) , a custom designs marketplace, I generally write on topics concerning design, start-ups, business card design and its importance, e-commerce, small business.