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Job Offer Rescinded after Acceptance?

by THEA kelley | May 9, 2024

Can a job offer be rescinded when you’ve already said yes? You bet it can! I have a client whose job offer was rescinded after acceptance, without cause. He had already quit his job; now he’s unemployed due to this employer’s callous decision.

Is that fair? I certainly don’t think so! Is it legal? Yes, as long as the employer did not intentionally deceive.

Fortunately, withdrawal of an offer doesn’t happen often. In this post I’ll explore why job offers are rescinded, how you can (hopefully) avoid getting into this situation, and what you can do if it happens to you.

Why are job offers rescinded?

Some of the most common reasons include:

  • The company goes through restructuring and/or cutbacks at the last minute.
  • Something undesirable turns up in the background check.
  • The employer hiring committee change their mind due to something the candidate said or did.
  • There was a miscommunication, either within the company or with the candidate, and the offer never was truly firm.

How can you avoid having this happen to you?

Research the company before accepting, looking for heavy turnover, especially in leadership positions; troubling financial data in the investor relations section of the company website; news articles that suggest the company is struggling or in turmoil; bad reviews on Glassdoor, and so on.

If you have any worries about what will turn up in a background check, consider hiring a background-checking firm to check you and give you the results. Then take action to resolve any issues. For example, you could make peace with a past colleague who has been talking you down, or have an attorney send a cease-and-desist letter to a former employer. Although there is no law against giving a bad reference, most companies have a policy against it and don’t want to risk being sued.

Negotiating your compensation and other job details isn’t necessarily risky if you do it right, but offers have been rescinded because the candidate negotiated in an unfriendly or unreasonable manner, leading them to feel they had misjudged the candidate. Negotiate right: be collaborative and congenial, take a win-win attitude and demonstrate enthusiasm about the role, the team and the company.

Don’t make irrevocable decisions based on statements that sound like a job offer, but may not be final. For example:

  • “We’d like to bring you on board.”
  • “We want you to start on (date).”
  • “There’s a meeting coming up that we’d like you to attend so you’re ready to get started.”
  • “We’re preparing an offer.”

The first three statements above could express more of a wish than a promise, and even the fourth is not a firm commitment. A full job offer includes not just a start date but full details as to job title, location, salary and benefits.

Don’t rely on an offer until you have it in writing, including all important details. If you have any doubts, simply ask, “Is this a firm offer?”

When you’re ready to accept, do so very clearly, via both phone and email. In the email, confirm all the details, and let them know what date you will give notice at your current job. None of this creates any requirement that the new employer make good on the offer, but it may help to avoid misunderstandings. It may also help you in negotiating compensation if the new job falls through.

What can you do if your job offer is rescinded after you’ve quit your existing job?

While the employer is not legally obligated to make it up to you, they may agree to do so if you ask in the right way. Do not become irate or threaten to sue. Instead, send a polite but firm email stating that you relied upon the offer, left your job (perhaps mentioning your previous salary and a few words about benefits), and are now unemployed. End with an open-ended question such as “How can we make this right?” Many employers, approached in this way, will offer you a severance package to partially offset your losses. If they don’t, consider hiring an attorney to negotiate with them.

As you return to job search and obtain interviews, you will be asked, “Why did you leave your last job?” If the answer is that you left because of an offer that was then withdrawn, say so. Employers know this can happen, and will probably be sympathetic. But don’t let that sympathy tempt you into complaining. Be brief. Then move the conversation into positive territory with a statement like, “Yes, it was a disappointment, but the bright side is that now I’m available for the opportunity we’re talking about today, which is actually more exciting.”

Having a job offer rescinded after acceptance is traumatic. Process your emotions privately with a family member or close friend, but be positive and impeccably professional with everyone else. And remember that when one door is closed, often another will open. You never know–it may all work out for the best.


Young female entrepreneur enjoying business and job success against city and sunset background. Successful businesswoman smiling outdoors

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