What to Do If Your Job Offer is Rescinded, with Octavia Goredema

Listen On:

It happens; you’re thrilled to receive a job offer, and then suddenly, the offer is rescinded with no explanation as to why. Now what? Now is the time to take the lessons from your job search experience and move forward with the same energy you began it, says Find Your Dream Job guest Octavia Goredema. What starts as a moment of distress can become a moment of clarity if you allow it. Go back to the drawing board; know that if you got this job offer, you will get another; use this experience to go after what you want with even more clarity and confidence.

About Our Guest:

Octavia Goredema is the host of the Audible Original series How to Change Careers and the author of Prep, Push, Pivot.

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 429:

What to Do If Your Job Offer is Rescinded, with Octavia Goredema

Airdate: December 13, 2023

Mac Prichard:

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You accept a new job.

But then the employer withdraws the offer.

Octavia Goredema is here to talk about what to do if your job offer is rescinded.

She’s the host of the Audible Original series How to Change Careers and the author of Prep, Push, Pivot.

Octavia joins us from Los Angeles, California.

Well, let’s get going, Octavia. We’re talking about what to do if an employer rescinds a job offer. Why do employers do this? Why do they withdraw job offers?

Octavia Goredema:

You know, rescinding an offer is really a monumental thing for an employer to have to do. So the reasons normally are substantial. It could be that the budget has changed, and they can no longer afford the role. It could be that the company has had to introduce a hiring freeze so the position is no longer needed, and they may be downsizing or actually laying off other employees.

Sometimes, Mac, it might be because there’s been leadership changes that could be something substantial as an acquisition or an internal reorg that has readjusted the parameters for the role that you had been offered.

Sometimes, there might be reasons that are specifically related to your candidacy. It could be that there was something that came up in a reference check or a background check, or it could be that the employer identified some false statements that were either shared during the interview process or on an application. Some employers also require health or drug tests as part of an employment offer. So, there could be a number of reasons at play.

Mac Prichard:

You work with a lot of candidates, Octavia, in your career coaching work. When you think about those two groups of reasons – there might be economic conditions, changes inside the organization – versus questions about a candidate’s background, what do you think the split is there? Is this more likely to happen because of factors a candidate doesn’t control, or do you see it happen more often because of questions about the candidate?

Octavia Goredema:

More often than not, I tend to hear experiences that were outside of a candidate’s control. There’s been so many headlines about companies having to rethink their hiring strategies suddenly and retracting their potential to scale their teams, and that can impact people who had offers that had been made. But there are also occasions where, perhaps, information hasn’t correlated with what was shared during the interview process.

And then, sometimes, Mac, there might have been internal disagreements on the role, and the Hiring Manager might be not just one person, but maybe two people who are making that decision, and they might not have been on the same page about what those requirements might be, too. So there can be so many reasons and I think it’s important if you’re in that situation to respond to what you’re hearing before you determine your next steps.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about that. You’re the candidate. What are the warning signs that an offer might be withdrawn? What should you keep an eye out for, Octavia?

Octavia Goredema:

Well, often, there isn’t any immediate warning sign. I know how it feels when you receive an offer, especially when it’s for a role you’re incredibly excited about, and especially if your job search has been arduous, it feels like, finally, finally, it’s happening. But what you need to do from the outside is, first of all, pay attention to how the offer is extended.

Sometimes, we hear offers verbally, which are then followed up with an offer letter. When you receive the offer letter, read it very, very carefully. More often than not, there will be language within there that explains that the offer is contingent on certain things. And that could be your background check, reference check, and so forth.

So what you want to do is make sure that you review what you receive and make sure that you’re responding to any of the requirements, the next steps, as promptly as possible.

Sometimes, I’ve seen employers express concern if there seems to be a gap between what the candidate is doing in terms of their next steps and what their needs are for closing out the process.

You also have to remember that while the employer has chosen you, there’ll be a number two candidate who’s waiting in the wings. The person that they would offer the role to if you choose not to accept.

So, if there are any next steps that are required, such as providing references, completing background check paperwork, make sure that you respond to those requests in a timely manner and make sure that you’re as professional and communicative as possible throughout that process.

Mac Prichard:

Do you recommend, Octavia, that a candidate always asks for an offer in writing? Some organizations might be more informal and just say, oh, don’t worry about that. It’s a done deal. What’s the best practice here from a candidate’s perspective?

Octavia Goredema:

Yeah, you always want to receive an offer in writing, and it should be a red flag to you as a candidate if you don’t receive details of what was discussed for you to review. More often than not, it’s an employer who is taking the lead in making sure they get that over to you as swiftly as possible, and what you’ll often see is that there might be an expiration date attached to that offer letter where they’re asking you to respond within a certain time frame. If they’re not giving you a time frame in that letter, make sure that you clarify what the time frame is for accepting the offer.

I, personally, Mac, have also been in the situation where I was surprised by a job offer. I thought I was walking into a final interview, and the CEO of the company was waiting with paperwork and a pen in hand. And so, offers can arrive when you’re expecting them and perhaps sometimes when you might not have been expecting them. So make sure that you clarify any questions that you might have as professionally and promptly as possible.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned elements that are typically in an offer letter. Are there common elements you should always see in an offer letter as a candidate from an employer?

Octavia Goredema:

Yes, they should detail really clearly what the next steps are to conclude the process. It will include everything that was perhaps shared with you verbally in terms of compensation, benefits, location for your role, and start date.

But also, it’s important to remember that an offer letter is not an employment contract, and depending on where you reside, that most US jurisdictions are at will. That means that an employer or an employee can terminate an employment relationship for any lawful reason at any time, with or without notice. And this generally applies to job offers.

So, while it’s so exciting to receive an offer, you must also remember there are a number of next steps that need to happen before you get up and running and start that role.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about those next steps. The one that comes to mind, of course, immediately, Octavia, is giving notice to your current employer. When do you recommend doing that?

Octavia Goredema:

So, I recommend you look at what some of the contingent factors are for your job offer. If it requires a background check, for example, make sure that’s completed and understand the time frame for that.

If it requires a reference check, understand the parameters for that; make sure that you have notified the people that you are sighting as references in advance. Give them all the information that they need, in terms of your resume, the job description, any time frames. Make sure they have everything they need to be able to answer questions about not just what you’re doing now and what you do best but also they understand the context in terms of your offer and the timing. And then, remember to follow up with those references as well to check in to see if they’ve been contacted.

If your offer is contingent on you taking a drug test or having any kind of medical examination, make sure you comply with the time frames for those. And then, I think it’s really important to, once you have completed those steps, check in with HR and find out if they have any additional questions or requirements.

Then, you’ll be ready to discuss when you can start your role. At that point, you can then determine how you make your current employer aware of your next steps and the time frame that is needed in order for you to end your employment where you are and start your next position.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s take a break. When we come back, I want to talk about what to do when you’ve accepted that offer, and it’s been withdrawn. So stay with us. When we return, Octavia Goredema will continue to share her advice on what to do if your job offer is rescinded.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Octavia Goredema.

She’s the host of the Audible Original series How to Change Careers and the author of Prep, Push, Pivot.

Octavia joins us from Los Angeles, California.

Now, Octavia, before the break, we were talking about what to do if a job offer is rescinded, and we walked through the first part of the process, which is, okay, you’ve got an offer. Here are the best practices you and the employer should follow in both making and evaluating, and accepting a job offer. Let’s talk about, and let’s go to the dark side, and talk about what to do if an offer is rescinded.

I know this question is in the listener’s minds, and you talked in the first segment about some of the legal questions. But does a job seeker or someone who’s accepted an offer, rather, have any legal rights here? Or any legal options?

Octavia Goredema:

Yeah, it can be really devastating to find yourself in that position. We often think all of the hard work is behind us in terms of navigating the application process, and the interview cycles, and the negotiating terms, and you finally have an offer that you’re really thrilled about, and then it gets pulled away from you.

There can, on occasions, be circumstances where you might want to work with an employment law attorney to evaluate your options if you can prove that you have either suffered losses as a result as an offer being rescinded, for example, if you have given notice at your role, if you incurred moving expenses for relocation. Those are substantial, and you may want to talk to independent counsel about what your options might be there.

Also, as I mentioned before, almost every state here in the United States has At-Will Employment. But roles can only be terminated for lawful reasons. So if you feel there was an unlawful reason, such as discrimination, that might be a factor in your offer being rescinded, again, it’s important to talk to an employment lawyer who can give you very clear and incisive counsel based on your situation about what your options might be.

But more often than not, if a role was withdrawn because of economic changes, because there’s a hiring freeze, because of leadership changes, or because there was something that was discovered in a background check or a reference check, then it might be a difficult situation for you to navigate, but there might not be recourse for you in terms of changing the outcome of that decision.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend someone respond to an employer who’s withdrawn the offer? What should be your message, and how should you communicate with the organization?

Octavia Goredema:

Well, first of all, take time to process the information because it’s likely to be a shock, and it’s also likely to invoke an immediate emotional reaction, and it’s really important to be professional in every interaction you have. So, give yourself time to process those feelings.

I personally, early in my career, I’m now a joint US-UK citizen. But before I became a US citizen, I received a verbal offer from an employer I was really excited to join, and then they turned around a week later and said actually, we’re not going to be able to move forward with this because the Vsa that you would need, we’re just not gonna be able to get. And it was devastating.

You’ve become really excited. You’ve started to envision what that next chapter could look like. I hadn’t resigned from my previous employer. So, I still had that role to go back to.

But you may have already given notice, and so it’s important for you, if you’re not given a reason as to why the offer has been rescinded, take time to process what you’re hearing and then to respond and ask clarifying questions so you can understand the reason why. And don’t burn bridges because if the reason was that they’re having a hiring freeze or they’ve had to delay the decision, it might be there could be opportunities in the future if not with that employer or with that recruiter, that might be advantageous for you. So, it’s important to take a breath before you respond.

Mac Prichard:

What do you do or you recommend, rather, Octavia, if you’ve given notice and an offer is withdrawn? Should you try to get your old job back? Should you keep looking?

Octavia Goredema:

Absolutely, that would be my first piece of advice. Unless there’s some other reason that means that’s not viable for you. It does not hurt to be really transparent with your previous employer. Explain what has happened and ask if there might be an opportunity for you to return.

There may even be an opportunity for you to perhaps do some consulting work with your previous employer or bridge a gap if they have actually extended an offer to someone else and they need support in that in-between time. You have got nothing to lose by going back and making your employer aware of the situation, but if that is not an option, I then encourage you to think about other companies that you had interviewed with. It could be that you withdrew from a process because you had this offer. Go back, tell the hiring managers and recruiters that you’re available again.

I actually was in this situation when I was a hiring manager. I lost a candidate that I really, really wanted to extend an offer to because she accepted a role somewhere else. When I didn’t fill that position, it turned out I was able to hire her. Because even though she’d accepted another role, guess what, that role didn’t work out. She wasn’t happy there, and she left within four weeks. So you never know where that conversation might take you if you make other hiring managers and prospective employers aware that you are back on the market.

Mac Prichard:

If you do go back to the employer where you’ve given notice and the offer’s been withdrawn, what’s the best way to approach them? How do you recommend asking for your old job back?

Octavia Goredema:

Yeah, well, first of all, you want to find out, clarify the reason as to why the offer was rescinded, and then be ready to explain that with transparency and what I mentioned before about don’t burn bridges, that also applies with when you’re resigning from your position. Even if you’re super excited about the new opportunity and you’re ready to move on, always be professional.

Always emphasize what you enjoyed about your previous role. Always maintain relationships. Even when your offer has not been rescinded, you never know when you might need to have that connection. Not just for references but just further on in your career. So many people are interconnected across companies; paths will cross again. And if your path is crossing again, potentially, rather more swiftly than you anticipated, that’s not a bad thing.

Before I became a coach and worked in corporate America, we were really proud of what we called our boomerangs. Those were the people that actually came back to us. We saw it actually as a testament of what a great environment that we had. That people would go, try something else, and then come back. So, whilst you might be feeling like it’s a real setback, your employer might be really excited to welcome you back.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned restarting a job search after an offer has been withdrawn, and perhaps you’ve decided not to return to your old position. Besides reaching out to hiring managers you might have been in touch with before you received an offer, what other tips do you have for someone who’s restarting a job search after an offer’s been withdrawn?

Octavia Goredema:

That you’ve done this before, you can do this again. And there are so much uncertainties that we face as we navigate the workplace. Potential for layoffs, potential for furloughs, changes in leadership.

As a career coach, I’ve supported so many professionals who were so excited to land their offer, and then after they got started, something shifted. The person who hired them is suddenly not there anymore. The project that they were hired to do has changed in scope. The location that they thought they were going to be working in has shifted.

So I think we have to always be prepared for the unexpected. We have to remember that we’re resilient. We have to remember that we have so much to offer. And then reflect on what you have learned from this process. Reflect on not just the reason why your offer was rescinded but what were some of the great things that you identified about what you want to do next.

What do you know that you want to gravitate towards? What do you know is important to you? And harness all of those things to your advantage.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Octavia. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Octavia Goredema:

Oh my goodness, Mac. So, I am an author and a prolific writer, and I really set the intention of writing, writing, writing more. And so, I have a weekly career newsletter that I send out every Sunday. I send it out on Sundays because I know that’s often when people are thinking about what’s looking ahead for them for the week at work. And so, if you’d like to be part of that email community, you can go to my website, octaviagoredema.com, and join there.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. We’ll be sure to include that URL in the website article and the show notes for your episode. And I know you also invite listeners, Octavia, to connect with you on LinkedIn, and when they do reach out to you there, I hope they’ll mention they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.

Now, Octavia, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about what to do if a job offer is rescinded?

Octavia Goredema:

I want you to remember that whatever you’re experiencing now is a moment in time, and it will be a springboard to what you do next. You were able to get this offer, and you will get another, and you will go on to thrive. So, use it as a catalyst to raise the bar even higher and go after what you want relentlessly.

Mac Prichard:

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