Conditional contracts: What you need to know

Conditional offers

It can be complex enough finding a candidate with not only the right skills and experience to meet the demands of particular role, but also the personality and ambition to match the company and drive it forward, while also satisfying their personal career goals. Yet in many cases, solving this demanding puzzle is not enough.

There can often be additional conditions and key criteria laid down by an employer that need to be met before a candidate is accepted and given a formal contract.

What are the conditions?

The most common condition is presenting the necessary employer references. But there can also be many others, such as:

  • Getting security clearance
  • Satisfying medical criteria
  • Passing a drugs test
  • Successfully completing exams
  • Carrying out a relevant case study
  • Attending a certain course
  • Obtaining a driving licence
  • Relocating closer to an employer

Or even a combination of the above, and each within a given time frame.


Informing the candidate

As far as Lisa Haynes, manager at Morgan McKinley Public Practice Team, is concerned, conditional offers have become common practice, so recruiters need to understand them.

“A job cannot be fully offered to the successful applicant unless they have met the conditions of the role,” Haynes is keen to stress. “It’s vital for the recruiter to make sure a candidate is aware of these conditions before accepting the job and resigning from their current role.”

All parties should be aware from the start that a conditional offer could be made at the end of the recruitment process. This way no one feels disappointed if a conditional offer is made and all parties are aware of the timescales and the consequences of the condition not being met.

“Where possible, ensure all parties know which factors are important and relevant to an offer being made,” says Haynes. “For instance, if it’s dependent on obtaining a qualification, ensure the candidate knows the date of the exam and is booked in to take it. If the jobseeker feels it’s too high risk, then it’s best not to sign any contracts or negotiate a re-sit clause.”

RecruiterHub Training’s Judith Armatage, who was formerly director of professional development at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, recommends that employers lay down very clear rules about who can make a formal job offer as even verbal offers can be legally binding. And in the case of health checks, Armatage says employers must be very careful not to breach the Equality Act.

“Problems over conditional offers usually only arise when all parties have not been made fully aware of the situation from the outset,” says Lisa Holmes, IT recruitment director at Assured Recruitment Solutions. “Preparation is the key, it’s the consultant’s responsibility to make sure that the candidate meets the employer’s conditions as far as possible before they are put forward for a role. So if any issues do arise, they can be dealt with early.

“For example, I’ve had a situation where an employer stipulated a clean credit record for a specific role. The candidate’s spouse had a bad credit score, which affected his credit rating, but because I was aware of this, I was able to discuss it with the candidate at an early stage, so they had time to sort it, and also spoke to the employer to allow time to smooth over the issue without it being a deal breaker.”


What if the candidate challenges the offer?

No matter how hard you work to ensure any conditions are laid down clearly in advance by an employer, a conditional offer may still be challenged by a candidate. So what happens then?

“If a recruitment consultant finds their candidate challenges a conditional offer they should endeavour to find out more and then advise the candidate and employer accordingly, it’s up to the recruitment consultant to liaise between the two parties and smooth the waters,” answers Armatage.

“For instance, if a candidate fails to meet the condition of achieving a professional examination in the stated time, the employer should look at the reasons for this and if necessary make an allowance, rather than automatically ruling out employment, each case needs to be taken on its own merit.”

If a candidate genuinely doesn’t meet the requirements of a conditional offer then the decision should be communicated both verbally and followed up in writing. If a recruitment consultant is involved, they need to debrief the candidate and liaise closely with the employer.

“As in any other rejection from a job opportunity, tact and sensitivity should be used and as much information as to the reasons for the rejection should be given,” says Haynes. “If the recruitment consultant has managed the process properly and the expectations of the jobseeker, it should not be a complete shock to the candidate if they have not met the conditions of the offer.”


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