A job offer?

My friend got himself into trouble recently when he was recruiting a new person to his team.

To be honest, though, it wasn’t really his fault and I was wondering how many of us have made the same mistake… I know I have and I still have to zip my mouth shut sometimes.

Here’s the scenario:

My friend’s recruitment process includes a tour of the office. It goes something like this:

“…And this is Ben. He’s been with us for almost a year. This is Sally, the backbone of the office, what she doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing. The loos are over there and this is where you make yourself a cup of coffee. We’re pretty informal; as you can see we’re all dressed casually, but I’m glad you wore a suit today!” Ha ha ha!

The interview ended and the next candidate arrived.

Anyone spot the job offer in there?


Neither did my mate, which was why he was surprised when this particular candidate raised a tribunal against him when he wasn’t selected for the job!

The essence of the complaint was this… when my friend said “this is where you make yourself a cup of coffee” the candidate assumed he’d been successful and he’d got the job.


In the eyes of a tribunal there is no indication in that sentence that the final decision is still to be made. And, because the candidate went back to his job and handed in his notice as a result of that innocuous sentence, my mate lost the case. Remember, in employment law, the burden of proof has shifted substantially to the employer and tribunals will, in most cases, presume guilt unless innocence can be proved.

Which still seems very unfair to me.

In technical terms this is known as a verbal offer and in the current employment climate it can be as binding as a formal letter of offer.

So what can you do about it?

The simple answer is: be very, very careful about what you say.

What my mate should have said is something like: “This is where the successful candidate can make a cup of coffee…” or “This is where you make yourself a cup of coffee, if you are successful”.

Those four words could have saved a friend something like eight grand… they could save you the same!

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