Responding appropriately to a withdrawn job offer gives you control of your present and future career options.
Getting a job offer is one of those exciting life moments — until it isn't. While rare, there are times when a job offer will be withdrawn, often without warning and sometimes without explanation.
Knowing how to respond to a rescinded job offer involves understanding why it happened, learning what is and isn't in your control, and how to react in a professional manner.
Understanding why offers are rescinded
Because of the cost in wasted time and resources, companies don't benefit from rescinding a job offer and won't do it unless they believe it's the only option.
When an offer is taken back, it's usually due to one of these two circumstances:
The role is no longer open or has been put on an indefinite hold due to an unforeseen change within the company. This can be anything from financial difficulty, to a mandated headcount reduction within a specific department, or the person in the job deciding not to leave.
A candidate does something post-offer that has the company thinking twice about bringing that person on board. Examples include:
The person continually puts off signing the official offer letter and isn't in contact with the hiring manager. This implies that the candidate is not organized, has poor communication skills, or isn't enthusiastic about the job.
After the initial offer, the candidate tries to negotiate a higher starting salary based on an offer from another company.
Unprofessional actions or attitudes towards the company after receiving an offer, including the two examples above or negative comments on social media sites.
During a background and/or reference check, they discover that the candidate was not truthful about their skills, experience, or education.
According to hiring managers and Human Resources professionals, it's more often candidate actions and not company factors that lead to an offer being withdrawn, although in reality a job offer can be rescinded for just about any reason that isn't considered discriminatory.
Reducing the chances of offer withdrawal
Along with avoiding the above post-offer mistakes, candidates can also decrease the chance of offer withdrawal through how they act during the interview process. These are the aspects that are absolutely within your control:
Be honest when answering interview questions; don't stretch the truth to make yourself seem more qualified than you are.
Is there something in your background — bad credit, social media posts — that might end in a rescinded offer once the company discovers it? Be prepared to address this during the interview. It's better for a hiring manager to hear about it from you with an explanation than to stumble on it later in a background or reference check.
Always be professional in what you say and how you act.
Along with these tips, be proactive and talk to your point person about what would happen if by some chance the offer was revoked. How soon would you know? Ask if your offer letter can reflect all the details, as well as whether or not you can keep any signing bonus or advance.
Responding to a revoked offer
If the offer is rescinded despite all your best efforts, there are some specific actions you can take to learn why and to possibly keep the door open if it was solely a company issue:
Get an explanation: Stay calm, let the organization know that you're disappointed in losing this opportunity, and request a detailed explanation of their decision. The information may prevent you from repeating mistakes you made or confirm that it was an unforeseen corporate problem.
Check on a potential reopening time frame: If it's a corporate issue, ask if there's any possibility the job will become open again and when that might be. Let your contact know that as of that moment you still would like to be considered for the job when it's available.
Follow up: Follow up with the company by email near the end of any waiting period. From there, you'll have to decide whether to continue checking back or just move on.
Negotiate other options: If you have the flexibility and really love the company, see if you can work part-time or work in a different department to show them what you can do. It never hurts to ask.
Don't stop your job search: There is no guarantee that this job will be available again or that you will still be considered the most qualified candidate. Keep all of your options open and continue to interview for other roles until you've signed a written offer for this or any other job.
Know your legal rights
While an employer can rescind a job offer at will, it can't do so for reasons related to race, age, gender, religion, or national origin. If you feel your offer was withdrawn based on these discriminatory factors, you may want to seek legal help.
Don't jump the gun
Finally, don't resign from your current position until you have signed a formal job offer document and know that you've met all of the company's hiring requirements. In addition, have a detailed backup plan if the worst should happen and the offer is taken back after you've quit your current job.
Planning ahead on how to respond to a withdrawn job offer keeps you in control — until you ultimately walk through the door on that first day of your new job.
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