Getting a job offer is an exhilarating feeling, especially if it comes after a lengthy job search, which is why it’s such a punch to the gut whenever a job offer is rescinded.
Just ask Sean Davis, who proactively lined up a front-end developer job eight months before graduating from Texas A&M University. With just a month before graduation and his start date, the company rescinded his job offer due to a downturn in business.
Once confident and secure in his post-graduation plans, Davis found himself scrambling at the 11th hour to line up a job with just one month’s notice. He reached out to other companies he had previously talked to and posted on social media that he was looking for new opportunities. Eventually, one of Davis’ connections referred him to a company that offered him a job. But not before he endured a few unexpected weeks in a pressure cooker.
What to do if a job offer is rescinded
- Asky why it was rescinded
- Ask about other opportunities
- Reach out to your network
- Move forward with a positive attitude
“It was frustrating and stressful to lose the job offer like that,” Davis said. “But I had a ton of support from the community around me and the connections that I had made.”
It may sound too shocking to be true, but rescinded job offers have become a sad reality for some job seekers in recent years. From high-profile tech companies to small startups, organizations have blindsided professionals who may have turned down other offers, gave their employers their two-week notice or moved halfway across the country for the opportunity.
We asked experts to share the reasons why a job offer may be rescinded, what legal action (if any) can be taken and how to navigate the situation with grace and resiliency.
Reasons a Job Offer Would Be Rescinded
Job offers can be withdrawn for many reasons, but they mostly boil down to the four below.
1. Disqualifying Information Comes to Light
Job offers are most commonly rescinded when a company discovers new information about a candidate after extending an offer, said Lauren Winans, founder of HR consulting firm Next Level Benefits. This could come in the form of an inappropriate social media post, less-than-flattering references or finding out that the candidate was dishonest about their qualifications. It could also mean they failed a background check, drug test or skills assessment.
2. The Company’s Circumstances Change Suddenly
A company’s reason for withdrawing a job offer may have nothing to do with the candidate at all, but rather, because it suddenly found itself in a difficult business situation and needed to make swift decisions. The tech industry, for example, has seen several instances of rescinded job offers that came alongside layoffs and other budget-driven actions. That may happen if a company just lost a major client or failed to raise venture capital, limiting the funds or workload demands to justify additional employees.
3. The Candidate Negotiates Aggressively or in Bad Faith
A job may also be rescinded if a candidate is rude while negotiating their salary or benefits. Companies might also withdraw an offer if the candidate is negotiating in bad faith by countering with an exorbitantly high dollar amount or asking for more money or benefits after an initial counteroffer has been accepted. Winans said companies might also withdraw a job offer if a candidate is entertaining a counteroffer from another employer.
4. A Different Candidate Wins Them Over
It’s also possible that a company will rescind a job offer if another candidate emerges late in the hiring process. This is not a common practice, and it’s the least ethical reason on this list. Companies may not give a reason for rescinding an offer, and they are even less likely to admit to this scenario because it’s indicative of a flaw in their own hiring process.
What to Do if a Job Offer Is Rescinded
It’s reasonable to be upset if a company walks back its offer, but it’s important to try to remain professional during your interactions with the company. Here are a few things you can do to gain more information and possibly improve your job prospects in the future.
1. Ask Why the Offer Was Rescinded
The first thing you should do after learning about the rescinded job offer is to contact the hiring manager, thank them for their time and ask them why they decided to revoke the offer. This information may alert you to any issues that may be impeding your job search, Winans said. If the hiring manager said you had a negative social media presence, for example, you can either take actions to address your web presence or address it directly in future interviews.
2. Ask About Other Opportunities
If the company liked you as a candidate but had issues with your specific role or department, you may want to ask if the company is hiring for any other positions that may be a good fit with your skill set. Travis Lindemoen, the founder of tech recruiting firm nexus IT group and the founder of job-matching platform Enjoy Mondays, told Built In that candidates should keep the company updated on their job search over time so they are top of mind when an opening becomes available.
3. Reach Out to Your Network
Sharing career milestones is an important part of maintaining your professional network, especially with former coworkers and mentors who might feel invested in your career journey. In this case, a quick social media post or an email to your closest colleagues might garner some sympathy, suggestions or job leads. Sean Davis, the software engineer who had his first post-college job offer rescinded, said he was able to find a new job by reaching out to his professors, colleagues and companies he met at career fairs.
4. Move Forward With a Positive Attitude
A long job search can feel demoralizing, and a rescinded job offer likely only adds to that. Take some time to process what happened. Instead of feeling down or taking it personally, Lindemoen suggests applicants view this moment as a learning opportunity.
“At times like these, being positive is key,” he said. “Take actionable steps towards improving your skill set and networking capabilities before applying again somewhere else.”
What Not to Do if a Job Offer Is Rescinded
Equally important — if not more important — are the things you should not do in the case of a rescinded job offer. An emotional action could have negative consequences on your future job search.
1. Don’t Immediately Take to Social Media
People in this situation typically feel betrayed and angry about a rescinded job offer, so they are often tempted to shame the company on social media and warn other job seekers not to waste their time with a company that doesn’t stand behind its commitments.
HR representatives and recruiters generally advise against this path. Your post may get shared and generate sympathy, but it might also show other companies that you are comfortable airing dirty laundry in public. You don’t want future employers to see a negative side of you when they are vetting your social media accounts.
2. Don’t Burn Bridges
You might be tempted to let off some steam and tell the employer what you really think of them, but this approach can only hurt you. You don’t want to burn a bridge with a recruiter or a company because it could affect your reputation within your industry. Also, it’s best to keep that relationship healthy in case they are hiring for other positions in the future.
“Feeling disappointed or frustrated is normal, but maintaining professionalism and leaving the door open for future opportunities will be a more productive use of your energy,” Winans said.
3. Don’t Give Up the Job Search
Having a job offer withdrawn can be discouraging, but don’t let this temporary setback get the best of you. Take some time to refine your resume, reconsider your job search strategy and then reenter the job market with your fresh approach. If you’re having trouble getting back into the game, you may want to speak to a career coach or a therapist to rediscover the spark that drives your professional aspirations.
Can You Take Legal Action if a Job Offer Is Rescinded?
Having a job offer withdrawn may feel unfair, but that doesn’t make it illegal.
Even so, people who have their job offers rescinded may want to contact a lawyer, according to Tamsin Kaplan, an employment attorney at Davis Malm. The lawyer will look at the job offer and determine whether the company breached a contract or discriminated against a candidate.
If a company rescinds a job offer, you should ask for a reason, even though you probably won’t get one.
“They don't have any obligation to tell you,” Kaplan said. “But it might be a way to get some information or maybe to confirm a suspicion that you have.”
Breach of Contract
Most job offers have conditions in place that meet the needs of the employer. The offer might be conditional upon the candidate for passing a drug test, background check or reference check, for example.
There are instances, though, when an offer might include a binding promise from the company. If, for example, there is language stating the offer remains good until a certain date, then the employer could be breaching the contract by revoking the offer before that date, Kaplan said.
Companies might also be liable if they discriminated against a candidate based on a protected characteristic, such as age, race, gender identity or sexual orientation. If a candidate loses a job offer after revealing they are pregnant, thus requiring parental leave, the company could be held liable. The same would be true if a company revoked an offer after learning that a candidate is disabled and requires special accommodations.
If a company rescinds a job offer after checking your references, you may want to consider what your past employer may have said to your new, prospective employer. If you signed a severance agreement with a non-disparagement provision, your former boss may be violating that agreement by speaking negatively about you. It’s also possible that your former employer defamed you by saying something knowingly false, although Kaplan said defamation cases are difficult to prove.
Deciding to Sue
To file a discrimination lawsuit, you need to prove that the company is liable, and there have to be damages, such as the cost of emotional distress or not being able to get another job. Kaplan said job applicants rarely file a lawsuit in the case of a rescinded job offer because it is difficult to prove and, for most people, simply not worth the effort involved.
Even when companies are not legally liable, they sometimes offer to make up for any inconvenience the candidate endured as a result of the changed circumstances (like providing relocation reimbursement, for example).
After all, most companies are concerned about their reputation and their ability to recruit and retain talent, so they generally try to avoid negative testimonials on LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other websites.