Job offer letters as invitations to employment

As a candidate, receiving an offer letter for a job you want is a terrific feeling.

So is giving offer letters!

For many companies, an offer letter is more of a contract written by lawyers than a letter or invitation. Despite the glad tidings offer letters bring, they often feel prickly, generic, and formal when they could be warm, distinctive, and welcoming.

It’s an opportunity for a company to define their culture and employer identity, similar to the way brides-to-be use their wedding invitations to show the style and personality of their union.

At Datavant, we re-built the offer letter from scratch. We have big ambitions for our company, and that includes the people we hire and the environment we create. We re-imagined our offer letter like an invitation — an invitation to employment.

Our offer letter features the details candidates really care about front and center (like the when, where, why of a party), and goes on to emphasize our values and characteristics that define us. My favorite is #4 about time as an asset. We put the “required by our attorneys” text at the end. It has to be in there, and it matters, but it doesn’t have to sound complicated and it doesn’t have to be first.

A shout-out to LiveRamp, which shares many similar values. We have a shared cultural lineage with LiveRamp through a shared founder and CEO.

Check out and comment on our un-abridged offer letter below. Would you like one?

— — — — —

August xx, 2018

Dear XX,

Congratulations! We believe you have what it takes to be a Datavanter, and we are excited to welcome you on to the team — and to join us on our quest to organize and link the world’s health data.

Offer letters usually describe company policies and rules. Datavant is different.

We are focused on people, not policies — starting with our offer letter. Below you will find the terms of our offer, followed by our vision and values:

Role — xx

Reporting To — xx

Location — San Francisco

Start Date — xx

Salary — xx

Equity Grant — xx

Benefits — You will be eligible to participate in a number of Datavant-sponsored benefits, including unlimited PTO, sick leave, health care, 401k plan, and others

This offer expires xx, 2018 at 5p PT. Let us know if you need more time to consider your decision.

We are all thrilled to have you join the team, and look forward to transforming healthcare and building an incredible business together.

Sincerely,

Travis May

— –

Accepted and Agreed,

Signature: ________________

Date: _________

Datavant: Who We Are

Datavant’s vision is to organize and structure the world’s health data. By eliminating barriers to health data, Datavant will improve the likelihood of success for new drugs and reduce the cost of the drug development process. If we are successful, we will dramatically extend life expectancies and improve health outcomes, and build a $100+ billion business in the process.

Our company is defined by who we hire. We hire for three traits: we want people who are smart, nice, and get things done. We hire only people who score an A+ on all three of these traits. While we are sometimes willing to compromise on many other nice-to-have traits, we won’t compromise on any of these three traits, ever (even as we scale to 10,000 employees). And conversely, we want a company where all people who fit these three traits can be comfortable bringing their best and full selves; diversity and inclusion are critical ingredients to success.

Like hundreds of San Francisco start­ups, Datavant is fast­-paced, engineering-driven, and focused on challenging the status quo. And yes, we play board games, have free food, and go on team hiking trips. But cultures are defined on how they are different, not how they are the same. Below are the key values that make us different:

  1. We believe in more responsibility, and less rules. We have a culture of trust. We believe every Datavanter should have a real project on their first day, and engineers should be able to check code in immediately. If you think you should have authority to do something, you do have it. While rules are needed to prevent catastrophic mistakes (for example, data security processes), we rebel against bureaucracy designed to prevent correctable mistakes. To sustain a culture of trust, self-management is critical: all Datavanters are expected to be ambitious, smart people who can set their own goals, and speak up if they can’t hit a deadline, need more resources, or believe that there’s a higher value project they should focus their time on.
  2. We don’t buy managers, we grow leaders. Whenever possible, we promote from within. Not only will this help us preserve culture as we grow, maintaining this value will provide limitless growth opportunities to new hires and help us attract the best people in the world. This also means that for every hire we make, we should ask “will they scale to 10x the role we’re hiring for.”
  3. We believe that perfect is good, but done is better. We move quickly, and bias to action. As a result, we will frequently fail and make mistakes. This is healthy: we should be wrong more often than we are right, and always push to move quickly to take advantage of opportunities.
  4. We believe that time is our most valuable asset, and should never be wasted. We are respectful of others’ time. We avoid situations where we are a bottleneck: we respond to all emails (internal and external) within 12 hours, even if it’s simply to say “I’ll get back to you by Tuesday.” We protect our own time: we automate repeated tasks and ensure we’re always working on high-leverage projects.
  5. We believe in playing to strengths. As individuals, we should focus on the things that we have the capacity to be best-in-the-world at, and create team structures to allow people to focus on their strengths, versus correcting for weaknesses. As an organization, we should only build products, undertake initiatives, and compete in markets where we decisively can win.
  6. We believe that feedback is a gift. We are all people who seek to improve, and as a result, highly value honest feedback. We proactively provide candid feedback to our peers, our managers, and our teams. And as an organization, we are transparent about both the problems and successes facing the company. We post-mortem all failures as an organization, and push ourselves to become better. We speak up about problems facing the company: in general, bad news should travel faster than good news.
  7. We work hard. Success requires long hours: we believe that success is driven more by perspiration than inspiration. We are willing to put in the effort required to win. We don’t rest on past successes, individually or as a company — and we are hungry to build a legacy at Datavant and change the world.
  8. We should always pass the “mom test.” You should be proud of the work you do with us, and we won’t make decisions that compromise that. Whenever confronted with an ethical decision, you should ask yourself “Would I be proud of explaining my decision to my mom?”

We plan to build an exceptional company that changes the world. Our legacy will be the team we build, the culture we create, and the products we build — and we like to think big.

Now — Here comes all the stuff that our lawyers made us insert into your offer letter. Enjoy!

This offer is contingent upon verification of your references, agreement to our standard employee confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement, presentation of evidence of your authorization to work in the United States, and a satisfactory criminal background investigation compliant with applicable federal, state, and local law.

Your relationship with Datavant is at-will. Either party may terminate the relationship at any time for any reason (or no reason). This offer is not a guarantee of future employment.

Your salary will be payable compliant with our payroll practices.

You will be an employee of Datavant, Inc., which is wholly-owned by Datavant Holdings, Inc. Your equity grant will be an option for shares in Datavant Holdings, Inc., and will be subject to its board’s approval and the terms of its equity incentive plan.

Of course, your employment with Datavant will be subject to your compliance with all Datavant policies and procedures applicable to your position.

You represent that accepting this offer will not cause you to violate any contract or agreement that you have with any current or prior employer, or to violate the confidentiality or trust of any relationship you have or had. If this is not the case, please let us know immediately.

This offer letter reflects the entire understanding and agreement between you and Datavant as to this offer of employment and supersedes all prior discussions, understandings and agreements of any kind between you and Datavant as to the subject matter.

In the event that you don’t begin employment with Datavant for any reason after receiving your sign-on bonus or your employment ends prior to your first anniversary with Datavant, either for cause or voluntarily, you will be required to repay the sign-on bonus within thirty dates of your termination or resignation.


Job offer letters as invitations to employment was originally published in Datavant on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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