how honest are employers about reasons for rescinding a job offer?

A reader writes:

How honest are companies about their reasons for rescinding a job offer? I applied at a large multi-national company, ran through 3 interviews, and ended with the HR recruiter sending me an email that they were waiting on my background check to complete and that she was going to call me the next day with the intent of making an offer.

Here I am thinking I have this in the bag. Next day, no call. So I email, with no response to the email. Crickets. During this time of silence, one of my references lets me know they had called her for a reference check. So I convince myself that they’re just finishing up references before officially making me offer. Of course, I become frantically anxious and I finally break down and leave her a voicemail three business days after the initial email. I get a call back and she tells me she spoke with the hiring manager and that they are restructuring the position, the position duties and they’re not sure if they’re hiring for said position anymore. She tells me I should take the other job (one that I had already turned down!) that I was offered instead of waiting for them to get their ducks in a row. Good luck and that was it. Completely written off. Um, what?

After having a few days to cool down, I guess that’s all good and fine, I understand a tight economy and changing business needs, but I checked online and the job was re-listed! The exact same description of job duties, wording has not been changed. I know I have a clean background, my references were excellent and I definitely hit it off with the hiring manager, so I am a little confused. Was it really a restructuring or did they just have a change of heart? Can you shed some light into the possible reasons for rescinding a job offer?

Okay, first of all, there is no job offer until you have the formal offer in writing. Someone telling you they intend to make you an offer? Not an offer. Someone saying they’re just waiting for a few final pieces and then they’ll put together an offer? Not an offer.  There is no job offer until you have a formal job offer in writing. Never, ever count on it based on someone’s word, and definitely never turn down another job on the promise of another offer forthcoming.

Why? Because things change. Budgets get frozen, last-minute candidates emerge, references can raise concerns (even if you think they won’t), positions get restructured, the person who was supposed to just rubber-stamp the decision gets more involved, minds can change. And lots more that I’m not thinking of here.

As for what happened in your situation, there are a few possibilities:

1. They told you the truth. They’re restructuring the position. It’s not reflected in the job ad, because the changes are less about the job itself and more about who they want to fill it. They’re now looking for someone with more experience in X or more of an orientation toward Y. You’d think this would be reflected in the ad, but it’s not always, particularly if it’s more about soft skills. (See examples 2 and 3 in this post.)

2. They didn’t tell you the truth. They simply changed their mind about you, and it was easier for them to fall back on “restructuring the position” than to tell you that your attitude makes them uneasy, or they saw something about you online that gave them pause, or a reference raised red flags, or a better candidate emerged at the last minute. (At this stage, they should tell you the truth, but the reality is that many employers won’t.)

3. Your references aren’t as good as you think they are. Or they are perfectly good, but just not what this hiring manager was looking for. A good reference-checker isn’t just going through a perfunctory checklist about whether you were punctual and didn’t embezzle; she’s asking probing, thoughtful questions about your strengths, your weaknesses, how you operate, what kind of management you do best with, and so forth. So you could have perfectly lovely references, but their answers just weren’t quite in line with what the employer wants for this job. In other words, when done well, references aren’t just about being “a good worker” or not; they’re much more nuanced than that and are about your fit for this particular job in this particular culture. Even the greatest employee isn’t going to be the right fit everywhere.

4. The reposted ad that you saw was a mistake. Say, for instance, that they have an HR assistant who keeps all job ads fresh until the position has been filled. She’s junior enough that she hasn’t yet heard about the decision to restructure the job, and so she went ahead and reposted the ad when she saw it was about to expire, or when she saw that it had fallen to the bottom of the site’s listings, or whatever. In this scenario, they were 100% truthful with you and you’re reading something in to the reposted ad that’s not correct.

So you’ve got a bunch of possibilities here and no real way to know which one it is. That’s why the biggest message to take away is the one we started with:  Never assume you have a job offer  until you really do.

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. Joey*

    One other possibility is the posted job is actually a position that reports to a different manager or comes out of a different budget. I’d reapply.

  2. Anonymous*

    AAM is right. You don’t have a job offer until one is in front of you on table. And even then, you don’t have a job until pretty much you start working for the paycheck.

    However, that does not excuse the HR person saying she would contact the OP on a specific day with the intent of offer only to come up with some story about restructuring the position. In my opinion, that’s the problem. These people should really think before they open their mouths with some “we’re going to offer you the job” hogwash. Like the OP, it gets their hopes up, they make rash decisions in turning down other offers because this is their dream job, etc. Of course, that’s the OP’s decision to react in that manner, but things might be a bit better in this crazy world if people didn’t say things they could not follow through with – this being one of those examples.

    Just say “We’ll be in touch.” Which can mean yes or no.

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree with you, but I wanted to point out that it’s not always the HR person’s fault. I have been told a few times to tell someone they have the job, and then told to tell them they don’t have it. It’s not up to me. I’m just the one who has to crush their dreams when my bosses change their mind. Is it right? Of course not, but it happens.

  3. Anonymous*

    It never ceases to amaze me how many times I’ve seen you post something along the lines of “there is no job offer until you have a formal job offer in writing”. It’s getting almost as commonplace as the “is this legal?” question.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        Yes. And it is legal to give someone a written offer, with a start date and salary, and then rescind it. Such is life.

        1. Mike C.*

          Uh, that’s not true. An employer doesn’t get to offer someone a job, wait until they’ve quit their current job, rescind the offer and then say, “such is life”.

            1. anon-2*

              What little of the page I could read (it froze up my browser and won’t allow me to page down) — indicates that the person was hired, and after being hired they proposed cutting her pay. Different matter, different details, although related.

              I don’t know labor laws in Texas concerning pay cuts.

              But this is in contrast to making a written offer and then rescinding it before you start work. I know that in some states, you can get into trouble for doing that. I was in a company that did that once, a gentleman had resigned his job as a police officer to take a computer programming trainee job, moved to another state. At 9 am he was told “we have a freeze on, the offer’s withdrawn.”

              At 1 pm, he returned with an attorney.
              At 2 pm, he started work.

              And further legal trouble if you are a competitor of the company that you lured the employee away from, as it could be argued that you extended an employment offer to a critical staff member, not to employ him or her, but to deliberately screw up the competition.

              I’m not an attorney — but there’s another factor in here, the ETHICAL factor.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Donna basically says that unless the offer letter promises anything other than at-will employment, they can change the terms of employment at any time (including deciding not to hire you). The exception is fraud — i.e., they had no intention of ever honoring the agreement — but this is hard to prove.

                Keep in mind that just because your friend’s company caved, that doesn’t mean that would have lost in court. It just means that they didn’t want to go through the hassle of a lawsuit.

              2. An employer*

                If he had tried that with us,

                1pm, he returned with an attorney
                2pm, both parties would be escorted off property by local law enforcement
                3pm, we begin contact through our attorneys
                4pm, possible lawsuit for harassment
                4:30pm, matter settled, he still wasn’t hired and would never be again.

                Go ahead. Try it.

                1. Lawyer*

                  Saw this arrogant remark and it frustrated me so I wanted to reply. If you had does this to an individual that you had made a formal written offer of employment to, they could indeed sue you for damages if they had- broken there housing contract or sold a home, given notice or quit there current job, or made any other significant financial changes. They could even go as far as to sue for emotional duress.

                  Trust me, I’ve done it.

          1. sup*

            Why wouldn’t it be possible?

            Even after a written offer has been made and accepted, and after a contract has been agreed to between both parties, offers are almost always conditional. In the contract, for example, conditions such as having satisfactory references and background checks will be specified. If such conditions aren’t satisfied, it is likely that the offer will be rescinded.

            And it is possible for someone to quit their current job after accepting the offer and before the offer is rescinded.

    1. Anonymous Coward*

      There’s a lot of truth to that statement. I’m currently in the middle of a so-called “transition” from my current position to another inside of my company.

      I don’t have any formal offer letter or other documentation, just an empty promise. I’m actively hitting the streets for a new job and interviewing as much as possible. At a previous company, they had everything lined up in a row – but my current one, mostly because they’re dysfunctional.

  4. Anonymous*

    I don’t agree with your comment about people who do interviewing do not know what they are doing and/or not good at doing it. If any company takes stock in the type of people they will employ, they will hire people who know how to go about getting these people. Most of us that do intereviewing have done our homework especially with this tough job market; we have to be able to weed out the less qualified quickly.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, got it. Anonymous, unfortunately there are tons of interviewers out there who just aren’t good at it. Some are, of course — but many aren’t. This blog is full of examples of them.

  5. Tara*

    I just want to tell the OP if they read this how sorry I am that happend to them. The same thing happend to me this week. I interviewed, the interviewer and I hit it off ( i didn’t apply for the position, they contacted me off my resume) I interviewed with another person, I interviewed a second time with the original, and then I did a DISC profile. Got a generic email from someone completely removed from the process saying the regular spcheal. I screamed, I yelled, I sorta cried…then I sent a very kind email to the original interviewer inquiring if I could have done anything differently and letting him know I wish them luck finding the right candidate. UGH! So OP, it sucks and Im sorry! :)

    1. Original Poster*

      Tara, I’m so sorry! I can totally sympathize with you, the private screaming, yelling, sorta crying bit…I’m really sorry that this happened to you :(

      It’s definitely hard to stay cool when you feel like you’ve been taken for a ride, but I’ve learned that how you handle situations like this is a test within itself. I played the understanding and professionalism card when they called me with the news (mostly because I was absolutely paralyzed with shock), but after the call was different story. That’s when the yelling and crying bit kicked in. And I think it’s valid to feel those kinds of emotions. Sounds like you handled the news with professionalism and grace so I’d say that’s a personal win and a plus.

      There is something out there for you. Same for me. I know it. We just have to keep looking and continue to stay positive :)

      1. Anonymous*

        Tara, I just wanted to say that if all of my applicants were like you I would feel like I was in heaven. You are a class act. That is the best way to handle a rejection in my opinion. :)

  6. Anonymous*

    As a hiring manager, I can attest that the #1 scenario listed above happens for me as the business changes around me. It’s no slam on the wonderful people we spoke to in the first round.

  7. anon-2*

    One more reason — somewhat in line with other postings that have been made by me in the last couple days —

    Sometimes, an internal candidate steps forward and he or she wants the job. If that candidate is told “we’re going in a different direction, outside” — and decides to move on before he/she has to train and indoctrinate the new hire, management might have to change their game plan. I’ve seen that happen as well.

  8. anon-2*

    One more reason — somewhat in line with other postings that have been made by me in the last couple days —

    Sometimes, an internal candidate steps forward and he or she wants the job. If that candidate is told “we’re going in a different direction, outside” — and decides to move on before he/she has to train and indoctrinate the new hire, management might have to change their game plan. I’ve seen that happen as well.

    And another reason – if a company goes into a hiring freeze, they can be forced to fill that position from within.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Well, if there really was a hiring freeze, the job wouldn’t be reposted online.

      Just going by my own experiences, and from what I see here at my poorly run company, I have to say that interviewers (especially hiring managers) don’t have a clue (incompetent at interviewing), and employers lie (afraid to tell anyone the truth).

      1. Long Time Admin*

        I just read OP’s post below about the reposting being a mistake. They should have been more careful, though, and taken it down right away.

  9. Original Poster*

    Wow. Thank you, Alison and everyone. I appreciate your answers.

    I’m the OP of the question and I’ve pretty much learned my lesson about the no offer until you have a written offer as opposed to someone telling you that they’re going to offer you a job. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading in the days since. I’ve never been in this situation, known anyone to be in this situation or I expected this to ever happen, so in that way I guess I was a bit naive about it, hence the above frantic email to you ;). It would have been my first corporate “career track” job after recently getting out of school. Most of my other jobs have been at non-profits where I’ve gone from being an intern to staff, so there hasn’t been that kind of ambiguity in the hiring process.

    Well, I can say I know what to expect next time and not to put my eggs in a basket until everything is solid. And I will consider this bump just another of life’s lessons :). That’s the only thing you can do. And the job I turned down was a first right of refusal. Luckily, I’m on very good terms with the people that work there and they’ll reconsider me again, but I will have to properly interview against others for the job.

    The re-posting of the job was a mistake, it was on a cycle on the job posting site and has since been removed. I do think they were being honest about the restructure, so I can at least feel better about that.

    1. Mike C.*

      If they issue was the background check, make sure you request a copy of the report. It’s your legal right and if there is incorrect information this is really the only way you’re going to find out about it.

      Besides, they make for fun reading.

      1. Original Poster*

        Already ahead of you! I’ve requested it. Everything looks good, it’s complete and the information that needed to be verified says verified. I’m 99.9 percent sure it wasn’t anything to do with the background check.

        And yes, I agree, it was pretty educational finding out what kinds of information they check you out for.

        1. Mike C.*

          When I got mine, I considered photocopying it and giving it to my fiancee’s parents as a gag gift. :D

        2. Sue*

          A woman I worked with was turned down for a job because of a background check, only to find out later it was erroneous information…but by then, the job was gone. She was pretty devastated (it had stated she’d had a felony arrest! The company had the wrong SS#), as she was being laid off at her current place of employment due to cutbacks.

          I want to know why companies are wanting to run credit checks on candidates now for customer service type jobs. If you’ve been out of work 18+ months, most people’s credit scores are going to take some kind of hit. Such as, we lost 80% of our household income but had to fix the hole in the roof that of course showed up…had to tap that HELOC.

  10. Elizabeth*

    What really makes me cringe here is the HR person saying “she was going to call me the next day with the intent of making an offer.” I am in HR and would never allude to making an offer until we’re done with all the steps and I’m 100% sure, even if the hiring manager asked me to do it, because I’ve seen things play out in all the ways AAM mentions. I would still call the person and tell them we are still interested, that they are the top candidate or one of the top candidates, apologize for the wait, etc.

    What AAM says about references is true, but I would add that checking references is not a formality. Sometimes it feels that way, because so often it does not change the decision, but they can actually tell the employer more nuanced things about you, which may sway them. That’s why, in searches for higher level/professional positions, I make sure to present references as part of the decision making process. You could be a great employee, but by talking to references they learn that you do not have the qualities they are seeking for that particular position (or just that someone else has more of them, which is particularly true in this job market). We might encourage you to apply for other jobs at our company, but realize you are not the right person for this job.

    Also, I had the experience once of telling candidates we had interviewed that we were restructuring the position. At the moment that I told them this, this was indeed the truth. Then a couple months later, the higher level manager vetoed that decision and insisted we re-post it again. Maybe the folks we interviewed two months before saw the posting and probably thought I was lying. Nope. Just a case of managers disagreeing and changing minds.

    So try not to take it too personally. Unless stuff like this happens to you repeatedly, it is not you, it’s them.

    1. Susan*

      On the topic of references, AAM and Elizabeth have raised excellent points, making me wonder how good my own references might be. In a way, it’s who can tell the best story and are they interested in telling your story? For instance, HR may have called them at work as they are trying to put out a customer fire – you’re not going to get their full attention or interest. Also what if your best references are becoming dated? Lastly, if I were to be a reference for someone, how could I be a better one?

  11. v*

    this happened to my friend a few months ago. she applied for a job, got an email saying “we would like to offer you the job. it starts on X date”
    she replied, “I accept, but I have a trip planned can the start date be moved to X + one week?”

    she got no response for 3 days despite sending a follow up email and leaving a voicemail. on the 4th day she got a response stating “the date is firm…” she said, “ok, I will start on the original date.”

    they then responded that the offer was rescinded.

    freakin jerks if you ask me.

    1. Angela S.*

      V, I think I can offer this advice to your friend…

      Last month I was interviewed for a job. During the second interview the interviewer asked if I was offered the job, when I could start. I said that I had to give my current employer a 2-week notice; and then I added that I had already committed to a vacation at the end of the February. The interviewer asked for the exact date when I would need to take off and noted the dates in her notes.

      And then a week later, I was offered the job. Before I signed the employment letter I called and spoke to the hiring manger (he interviewed me during the first interview; he was not present during the second interview). I asked if the interviewer had related to him that I would be taking a vacation during the probation period if I accepted the offer. He said, “No problem! Enjoy yourself in the mountains!” (It’s going to be a ski trip.)

      Of course I have accepted the offer. I will start my new job next Monday.

      Advice: I think you just have to be upfront about when you could start working and whether you are going to take off for vacation soon, and you have to be upfront about it before – not after – you get your job offer. If my application got turned down because of my ski trip, I guess I would not want to work for that employer either.

      1. v*

        yes but if that question isnot broached during the interview it would be somewhat presumptive to say “by the way, I have a vacation in 3 weeks”
        it could easily have been resolved if the employer communicated with my friend instead of dodging her calls and emails for a few days. i know she wanted the job more than the trip

      2. Jill*

        I was in my second interview for a job through my MBA program, and as part of the program I was going to be in China for about 3 weeks and I couldn’t be sure that communications would get through the Great Firewall, so I brought it up to her toward the end of the interview and said that I didn’t want to be presumptuous, but I would be in China during these dates, and I wanted her to know that in case anyone was trying to reach me that I may not be able to respond. She appreciated my letting her know, so it may not always be kosher to bring it up, but I think in this case it worked well. Except for the way the offer was handled (different post below).

  12. Coulda been me*

    I just recently went through a hiring process and my new employer did something that I’d never seen before and wondered how common it was. They didn’t begin background and reference checks until AFTER I had received and accepted their offer. It all worked out in the end, but did provide me with a couple of weeks of anxiety and awkwardness while I waited for them to finish. (Not that I expected anything bad, but one never knows for sure what other people are telling them). Is this common? What’s the advantage in proceeding in that order?

      1. Anonymous*

        That doesn’t make sense to me either. We would never do that at my company. I’m glad it worked out for you.

    1. Joey*

      I’ve done that before when someone comes highly recommended to me from a colleague and I’m in a bind.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There must be some degree of risk in your mind though, or you wouldn’t be doing the checks at all, right? So what would happen if you turned up concerns in the checks after they were hired?

        1. anon-2*

          I’ve seen such a thing occur.

          A company will usually defend itself by asking certain questions on the application. For instance =

          “Have you ever been convicted of a felony? You may omit offenses that were adjudicated in a juvenile court, and violations of the Selective Service Act between 1966 and 1973″…

          If the applicant says “NO” … and he/she is later found out to have, as we say, a “rap sheet” — it’s instant termination time. And it’s termination for cause. False statements on the application.

          There are also cases — someone is fired for sexual harrassment, for instance, or in a school environment, is dismissed for inappropriate moral conduct. Employers used to just hush it up. Not today.

          The reasons for termination are spelled out, because if you let, say, a harrasser walk out — and give a strong beaming recommendation to his next employer — or someone employed by you does — YOU’RE ON THE HOOK.

          If a teacher is dismissed for inappropriate conduct with a student, that goes on the record so he or she doesn’t just go to another town in another state and does (whatever) again.

        2. Joey*

          Sure there’s a degree of risk, but i think it’s minimal with a trusted referral. I still do the checks as part of due diligence and consistency. Of course the person knows up front that the job is conditional on the checks just in case. So far I haven’t had any issues.

  13. anon-2*

    NEVER give notice at a current position until you have the letter IN HAND.

    Two experiences I had –

    One, a job I applied for in the mid-1980s. I had three interviews. The position was offered to me verbally, with a salary. I wanted to go there as did the hiring manager. HR dragged their feet on the cover letter… finally I had to go over and pick it up. Only THEN could I give notice to my current employer.

    Two – when I was out of work. I traveled 1400 miles (at my own expense) and managed to get my foot in the door. I had a full day of job interviews. We even agreed on a salary. We shook hands. I thought “HEY that’s it!” and I really wanted to go there. I didn’t hear back, I waited three weeks, I called. “What went wrong?”
    Long story – they hired someone else. Six months later they called ME and said “we made a mistake…” (long story) and offered me the job then, but I was in another situation at that time.

    Never think “I’m in” until that letter is in your hand. I mentioned “internal situation” above because I have seen it happen – an open position is about to be offered to someone externally — a disgruntled, passed-over employee decides to resign over it — and the hiring game then changes completely as management “comes to Jesus” and takes a broader look at what should have been done.

    Often outside offers are pulled before they’re formally made, because internally, the company has determined that they had better stay inside for this one.

    1. UI*

      In our state, if a new job is rescinded, our govt unemployment office will still deny you for unemployment because you QUIT A JOB even though you had a new written offer in hand. Ridiculous.

  14. Anonymous-KP*

    I landed a great job recently at an international firm in San Jose, California. Took about 3 months of interviews and waiting by the phone for that offical offer. I drove 3 hours to the headquarters to pick up the offer in writing. Wasn’t going to chance it by mail. I was told by my new boss that they had another applicant they were going to make an offer just one day before they received my application in the mail. The applicant would have been an excellent choice, but I had more experience in certain regulatory matters that they needed at the time. Timing sometimes is everything.

  15. LK*

    What about if your job offers don’t/won’t include offer letters? Of the two job offers I’ve received, not a single one has included anything in writing, they were both over the phone.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If they’re resistant when you ask for it in writing, then I’d do this: Write up the terms of the offer that you’re accepting — all of it: title, salary, benefits, etc. — and send it over an email, saying something like, “I want to reiterate my understanding of the offer.” The idea is that you want something in writing so that later on there’s no question about what was agreed to.

  16. Anonymous*


    I have a similar situation, however mine is unfortunately worse.

    I was offered a full time, salary job with the company. Fiscal year end is September and I was hired at the end of October. After working here 2.5 months, I was told that they have received their new budgets, and they are restructuring so that my position will be taken over by someone else who will be doing two jobs at once. I have now been laid off. This position didn’t even EXIST before hiring me so I find it hard to believe that they did not already plan for it to be taken over by someone at our sister office.

    What are the legalities here? Since I am within 3 months probation, I assume there is nothing I can do? I quit another job for this position :(

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon. It’s legal unless there’s evidence that they made you a fraudulent offer — i.e., convincing you to leave another job knowing that this one would be eliminated in a few months. But short of actual evidence of that, it’s probably just really crappy timing. However, you can certainly try to negotiate for more severance by pointing out that you left a good job for this one.

  17. Debra Jsy*

    This is what exactly I am going tru… thanks for the article, at least now.. I am not so hopeful about it. I’m back to my reality… thanks

  18. Bewildered*

    I had signed offer..start date etc. the rescinded the offer because “something on my background”. I got a copy of the background report from their hired third party. I have a criminal complaint (false) that happened a month ago. I am having it dismissed next month. Also. Barging this individual for making false claims. I have never been convicted of a crime, all references, drug screen, everything else checks out perfectly. Yet, they still say they cannot tell me specifically why the offer was rescinded. Is this even legal ???

  19. Anonymous*

    I recently had a job interview for a Training Manager position. The job title was changed and some of the tasks I thought would be part of the job wouldn’t be. The interview with the Dept. Manager was rushed. When I met with the HR I told her about the confusion with the job title. She was taken aback as well. However, our time also ran out and I was told they wanted me to come back to finish meeting with her as well as to meet the Division Manager. After waiting 3 days, I received a call from the recruiter saying they are not moving forward. No explanation. I just don’t understand what happened.

  20. Paula*

    I applied for a position and during the interview the hiring manager asked me if I would consider taking a PRN position as a way for us to get to know each other. I agreed because this happens in healthcare expecially with respiratory therapists. He told me the recruiter would be in touch. The following week I receive a call from the recruiter but for an entirely different job and we of course talk – she tells me she will get back with me. Two days go by and she does call me back with the same info, she had forgotten we had already talked. Three weeks go by and no word, I am leaving messages and no call back. I finally hear back almost 2 months later, and they tell me there had been system problems. Long story short, I go to work and find out the manager never intended on hiring me and was so confuse thought I was hired for night shift and he had filled the position that I applied for. I confront him and he lets it slip that the position had since been filled and I could get shifts at a hospital almost 40 miles away. I resigned the next day, I was so mad that he didn’t have the guts to talk with me and the entire department knew but me. I felt like an idiot.

  21. Jill*

    I had 3 interview with a company over the course of 4 weeks. A couple of weeks later I called the recruiter to see if there was an update and he said yes, they wanted to make me a verbal offer, and they were working on the paperwork and I would hear back from them soon, but he wasn’t sure when because of the holidays (this was right before Thanksgiving). I was in China for school, and when I got home in mid-December, there wasn’t anything waiting for me. One of my classmates had also interviewed with them and had a verbal offer, and he’d called and they had said it was really slow getting paperwork through with the holidays. In early December I called the recruiter and asked for an update, and he gave me a verbal salary and a start date (and he didn’t want to push the start date back a week when I thought they couldn’t get the background check done in time). I asked him to send me the ffer in writing, but he wouldn’t. I sent him an email with my understanding of the offer and asking for some blanks to be filled in, and no response. I called him the day before my “start date” because nothing was resolved or in writing, and he said they were still working on the paperwork and he didn’t know when anything would be ready. 3 months passed, and I called to see if there was anything new. He finally confessed that the CFO had never approved the creation of the job, so it was just in permanent limbo. My classmate, who did ultimately start 2 weeks after I was supposed to, was able to confirm this, and got the VP of HR to admit that they “didn’t do right by” me.

    The company is an absolute mess (as evidenced by their handling of my “offer”), and I’m pretty glad that I didn’t end up there.

  22. An employer*

    From possible reason # 2…

    “… your attitude makes them uneasy, or they saw something about you online that gave them pause (…) or a reference raised red flags…”


    As an employer, I cannot tell you how often candidates think they’ve got the job and then let their freak flags fly, and do or say something terrifying that points to years of future personnel problems. It’s akin to people who hide their true selves until their wedding day, then start picking their toenails with their teeth or suddenly revealing other hideous behaviors. For candidates to pretend they are never like this is disingenuous.

    Something you did or said raised a red flag, and this time it didn’t fastball right past the employer.

    You became scary, plain and simple. It’d be good for your future employment prospects to introspect, be honest with yourself about what it is, and change it, so employers feel safe working with you from now on. In today’s hyper-stressed work climate, not all candidates are safe, and as managers, we have to protect our other employees, our property, our reputations and ourselves.

    Somehow, somewhere, at a specific moment, you did or said something that brought that hiring process to a fault. Stop making this all about them and not you, and correct the problem.

    1. Gar*

      Uhm…that’s the issue.
      You don’t know. If employers can rescind an offer for any and all reasons, but don’t say why (or say why but obfuscate), how are you supposed to correct it? And it may be very well be for a characteristic or personal quality that would be a bonus for a different hiring manager.
      It’s easy enough for you to say “something you did raised a red flag.” I’d like to challenge you to actually name a few examples where you were making a hiring decision and actually gave the candidate feedback about what that “red flag” actually was. It’s easy for you to give any or no reason or lie about it, because you don’t have to worry about the repercussion of a rejection like the candidate does.

  23. Jeff*

    What happens when a Director likes you and his other staff also like you, including two managers, and they are looking forward to working with you.

    The manager tells you that “You’re hired.”

    You hear nothing back for two weeks, and you call HR. HR tells you that they never got your paperwork back from the Department where you were interviewed, and HR went and offered the position to a candidate that had been a finalist but was much less qualified.

    But then HR tells you that they, HR, are the ones who make the hiring decision and job offer, and that the Director was wrong to offer you the job. You also learn that HR also wanted to hire you, but without your paperwork, they had nothing to review.

    One of the department managers then contacts you and tells you that they decided to pick the other candidate – which you know is just a way to cover up their mistake of not submitting your paperwork – since HR did have the other candidate’s information on which to make an offer to that person.

    But, that offer is not a written one either, but it looks like the candidate accepted the verbal offer.

    I know that a verbal offer is not an offer.

    What I’d like to know is, “Will anything be done to correct these mistakes? Since the other candidate is not officially hired, nor am I, who should get the job? To whom will HR give a written offer? Would they give me the written offer and tell the other candidate that an offer was made to me before him and explain what happened? Or, will they give it to the other candidate and go along with the false excuse for why my paperwork was not submitted?

  24. elrica*

    it does not look like my “she” manage rfeels sorry for not offering me the job, all telltale signs are there. I was appointed in a new dept and implemented systems, build up frm scratch as a contract worker. the post has been offered to an internal candidate instead of me.

  25. Diana*

    Okay – I was interviewed on a Friday. By Sunday evening I received a call from the hiring manager saying, “I have an offer for you. Please call tomorrow.” This was not a call for a second interview, or to let me know I was being considered. This was an OFFER.

    I called the next day. He was in meetings all day. I called again. Left tmy number both times. Then I called the next day. He was not expected in that day. Left name and number again. Next day, called twice. He was in an interview and would call me in an hour. Never called. I do not plan to make any more calls to this individual.

    I got the names of the ladies I spoke with and the times and dates of my calls.

    It seems I have no recourse since my calls were not returned. Clearly, I no longer have the offer.

    Can someone enlighten me on what might have happened, or is it just the atrocious etiquette and shitty behavior that everyone seems to exhibit these days? I have been unemployed for a very long time and sure didn’t need this dangled in front of me.

    I am hurt and furious at the same time. Thanks for any advice.

  26. Annoyed*

    I applied for a new position with the company which I am currently working for. The new position would have been a promotion in a different city. I interviewed, and was given a verbal offer. I countered on the money, and was given a written offer, which I accepted in writing. I told co-workers and friends about this new positon I was excited about getting. Three days later, I got a call from the recruitor and an email saying that the area manager decided not to fund the position and the offer was being rescinded. I feel betrayed, and psychologically harmed.
    Do I have any recourse?

  27. Trees*

    Similar situation…I was offered the job sent through background drug testing and was told I was everything cleared. Dm called me ask me to come in for orientation on Friday and called back to say I could start for job abandonment. I recently worked for the company for ten years and was reapplying for the job. Human resource cleared me but the old dm that I worked for only a week said I abandoned my job after it was coded FAMILY obligation which made me rehirable

  28. Mary*

    I was hired by a company, signed the offer letter, trained for two days and then by end of the day I was told I am being let go. I provided all that they need, SS, DL, W9. How is this fair when I have bills to pay? Such a terrible management!

  29. claire*

    i was offered a job with a large company working abroad in catering, contracts were sent through with a confirmed salary and an estimate start date at end of November and everything was sorted.

    Then they rang a few weeks ago asking me to go out early to set up resort.I jumped at the opportunity and the next day rang back to confirm, couldnt reach the woman who had originally called but i left a message and my preferred departure airports as requested. 4/5 days later I havent heard anything so i ring back, still cant contact the original woman who rang me, but i spoke to someone I knew was very high up in recruitment who assured me that I was going early. A few days later I get an email saying theyve changed my offer of empolyment to an earlier start date- could I log on and accept. I check the revised contract with given start date as ‘on or around the 9th November’ and accept online.

    When I realize I leave in two weeks and I havent got my flights, I call the office to check before handing in my notice to my current job. The person in the office has no idea about people going early and the woman I originally spoke to is away until Monday so I have to wait to speak to her.

    I hand in my notice at work and I am getting ready to leave. On Monday I get hold of the original woman and ask about flight details. She tells me that going early was done on first come, first served and that I’m no longer needed. I tell her of how many times Ive tried to contact her, and that Ive now been sent a revised contract. As she’d been away she said she’d check and phone back.
    She calls me back and can only say sorry im not needed, there was a mix up.

    I’ve now told all my friends and family AND job that im leaving on the 9th. SURELY she cant do this as i had signed a contract???? Do i have a case?

  30. kbailey*

    So I have a question, I got hired on with a company they conducted our background and drug test and when all that came back they emailed us our onboarding packet with our I9 forms and direct deposit to be filled out. I started training and have been in training for 2 weeks and they say something came up on your background so your going to have to stop training for now and we will be sending you a packet to fill out and send back within 10 days then we will let you know on a case by case review if we can continue with your position. First of all when I had the phone interview I put on the application my charge and the man asked me about it and I told him he proceeded to email me a drug test and required a background check. A day or so after I started training someone from hr emailed me and asked me to fill out some questions about my charge, I did and that was it until 2 weeks later after training after downloading many things to my computer for the job since it was a work at home job they contact me and tell me I need to log off my phone and they will still pay me while im gone but they need me to fill the paperwork out that they are mailing me within 10 days to consider on case by case if I can continue. Is this legal?

  31. Anonymous*

    Very good lesson learned in this blog! And yes you should never assume until you get a “solid” job offer, such as a letter, or when you start training, etc. “Word of mouth” that they want to hire you is not always enough, especially when they say that they want to hire you and they are supposed to call you on a certain day, and you hear nothing back. Then you try to get in contact with them but they never return your phone calls or answer your messages. I think it is a “low blow” however when they do such a thing, they keep silent and don’t even at least tell you they have decided to not move forward with your application. If they don’t return your calls or messages at all then that is a sign that it is not going to happen and you should just move on.

  32. Jason*

    This is really just a small insight into the behavior of common workplace politics and most likely, most definitely really, it tells you in no certain terms that this is not a place where you want to hang your hat. The current atmosphere that we live in ,as to respect for co -workers or potential job seekers leaves a lot to be desired for many years now. It is common place to lead someone on to the idea of employment or job advancement, etc. For the groups own sick entertainment. This office blood sport is real and very disturbing ,most likely calling you a <tool, or some other derog name. Often this sort of behavior is designed to see just how far or long they can get you to continue in your search for nothing. You have to understand that the very people who by virtue of their ego personality trait, or disorder actually, were placed in these positions for these reasons. The world is run by psychopaths and the sooner you figure that out the safer ,your self worth will be . Often times the person may just feel threatened by you certainly if you have a real head on shoulders and seem like a good hardworking person. That is not what they are looking for, they would like to find someone like their self only dumber. So take it easy on yourself and keep trying ,and generally you will know when the log that passes you by in the river is actually a turd.

  33. mary*

    I was interviewed the woman that did the interview said she would call me later to let me know when to come in the next day and get things ready for me to start the fallowing week and that she looked forward to working with me. she did not call me back until 9:30 pm that evening to tell me that she was sorry the position had been filled earlier that day and she hoped i had good luck finding another position. I simply replied thank you very much goodbye. I don’t understand what happened but im very upset at the woman that had me convinced i had the job only to call me at the time i go to sleep and say that i didn’t get it.

  34. Katie*

    My heart feels for anyone having to experience a rescind offer or we’re told to hired followed by complete silence. Speaking from a recent experience and without work at the moment. I choose to leave my most recent job, in good term with employer, to try to pursue something on track with my field and as the contract was waning down to a halt I found it extremely difficult to kept hanging onto a stagnant job without any hope that things can turn around for the positive. After my team lead and most qualify team members have quit due to notification that the company have lost the re-compete of the contract to another prime. Because I have a wonderful boss who is a sub to the prime who have lost the contract, I tried hanging on to most non-exist position for longer than I should have and have always been honest with him about needing to work on something productive and challenging and chance to continue grow in my field. His company is very small and does not have anything else, I was convinced to stick around (offered me more money, I was already being paid a good salary etc…) although there was literally nothing to work, contract ending approach, and the few team members left on the project were skipping work no show and doing a lot of unethical things. I found myself dripping into feeling hopeless for my career because it was clearly a dead end job. Having been there too long without anything productive to work on nor lives systems to utilize my technical skills, I found myself losing my technical abilities rapidly and have no way of keeping it cutting edge any longer. Taking time out for training or attending interviews was difficult and I didn’t want to do that in the expense of my boss’s company. At the end, i made the decision to resign and said farewell to my boss. It was the toughest decision but one I must take in order to find something more suitable and in line with my skills and experiences and a chance to grow. I resigned without a job and am confidence that I can find new opportunity and having the time to prepare for it.
    So here I am, a few months later, got myself two contingent written offer letters – signed, and all required forms submitted, I am still waiting and waiting without a start date and without any further direction as to when. My background is without flaws. I am a very responsible and a perfectionist with high expectations in myself as well as people i work with. The contingent is also on whether they will get the contract, although I was told the company is confident that it will be. Still I have not hear anything back for weeks now. Low and behold, my old boss contacted me asked if I’d consider working for him again because he has a potential new contract needing someone with my technical specialty and would like to submit me for the work. I was so happy and let him know I would be interested (if in deed it’s real work and not just have me sit around to be billable). He said ok. Been almost two months now, haven’t heard a beep back.
    I continued to feel Underwhelmed by how unprofessional some folks in this industry have become, regardless of their role. It is sad really to see so much inconsideration, disrespect, unethical, and plan old unprofessionalism. They may find themselves being treated thaw same someday. For the rest of the good people on the receiving end, please don’t wasted time and energy hating, or vengeance with law suit or anything down that track. Just say thank you and MOVE ON to another. Keep looking and keep that door of opportunity open and carry that positive energy with out. Something WILL work out at the end. It always will. Life happen and dissappointment happens BUT don’t let those experiences turn you into a negative or resentful individual. Cheer!! ;^)

    1. Austin*

      You’ve essentially stated pretty much what’s going on in my life right now with some minor differences. It makes me feel hopeless that there are any good honest employers anymore to be going through this. I hope everything is working out for you ok, you’re so optimistic despite the hand you’ve been dealt. I’m greatly inspired by your comment here! Thank you!

  35. Sarah*

    I’ve passed long interviews and got offer letter (very detailed) and starting date 1.11. It was in October and in meantime I needed to prepare all documents (attesting degree, police clearance, etc) coz I’m living on the other continent.. So preparation included also traveling to home country (airplane tickets, bus tickets, hotels, etc) .. HR said that all expenses will be reimbursed upon presentation of receipts.. That’s sounds ok to me.. I’ve done the same w previous employer.. After 2.5 months of waiting (they keep on sending me every single week emails with thanks for waiting and telling me they will have updates following week), finally they wish me luck and said they are unable to proceed with recruitment. After unpleasant surprise I sent them nice email, but at the end I asked for refund for all expenses.. They didn’t re for a week now. Any advice? Do I have any legal rights in this case?

  36. Denise*

    Over the years in my job search 5 different times I was offered wonderful positions, and then the next day or so, they changed their minds.
    This happened again just this week. I try to be a good sport but it really hurts.

    I am now looking but after going through all that crap I’ve learned!

    1. Go on as many interviews as time and gas permits. Get your resume out there!!

    2. Be honest in the meeting and on any assessments. You want to be the right fit for them and vice versa.

    3. When verbally offered the job, tell them you are interviewing for other places as well. Be specific with dates and times. That will make you more interesting…. its human nature.

    4. Don’t do like I did, telling everyone all excitedly, only to feel humiliated after they rescinded.

    5. You have the job the day you start and not before.

  37. Caroline*

    Similar thing happened to me and it was awful.

    I was referred by a former employer for a manager position at a lab where she once worked. Have a great phone interview and then schedule an in-person interview and a tour of the lab. They had talked to all my references before I came in and said they were all great. “We have to interview one more person since it’s company policy, but don’t accept any other offers, you can read between the lines here”. That was an exact quote. I’m thinking, great! I knew I would be an excellent fit and that I was incredibly qualified. They said they would get back to me in two weeks.

    Two weeks go by, nothing.

    I email them a few days later (when still no response has come) asking for updates and saying I’m still very interested. I get a response early the next morning saying they ‘just’ made a decision and are going with someone else. The person they picked had more “community outreach experience”, something that never came up in the interview and was mentioned nowhere in the job description. I do have that sort of experience too (it’s mentioned on my resume!).

    I understand that companies want to have all their options and everything, but why would you say something like ‘read between the lines when I say don’t accept any other offers’ if you weren’t going through with it! I would have appreciated some communication, too, if they were really interested in the community outreach aspect.

    Bah, lesson learned I guess. Never going to be that naive again.

  38. KT*

    Well I actually did have a job offer in paper on the table in front me. I signed the contract and everything. Then that fothermucker changed his mind. He was so unproffesional about it too. After signing the papers, he told me ge would call me for training. I didn’t hear from him for 3 weeks. I tried numerous times to get in touch with. He completely avoided me. Then I finnally caught him face to face. He told me that he hired someone else that had more, “training”. Bitch please. It would have been nice for him told have told me that 3 weeks ago.

  39. Austin*

    I certainly know the feeling, a while back I had an interview with a prospective new employer, first by phone, the GM set up a formal interview and the interview went well, they asked me back for a second interview at which point they formally offered me the job, we discussed wages and benefits and I was given a new employee packet, which I filled out and returned promptly. After I accepted the position we both agreed to a start date in two weeks in order to work out a two week notice with my current employer. The two weeks went by painfully slow, I was excited to take on my new job. Finally I worked my last day at my soon to be former employer which I had been with for many years, completed my day and exit interview and so on it all went well. About 20 minutes after leaving my now former employer my new employer calls me telling me there is going to be a hold up in when I can start because business is slow, maybe a few weeks at most. It’s been 3 weeks now going on 4, I’ve attempted multiple times in person and by phone to get a firm start date (in writing). In person they tell me to “call tomorrow, he’s in a meeting” and when I call I get a run around, bounced from person to person speaking to almost everyone that works there EXCEPT the hiring manager (who is the GM) that formally agreed to hire me. After being bounced around several times I’m asked to leave a message which I have both voicemail and messages with the receptionist in regard to who I am, why I’m calling and asking for a return phone call…I’ve even written a letter thanking them for the offer and sharing my excitement to join their organization. At this point I’m fairly certain they have no intent to hire me, but are too afraid they’ll loose my business if they tell me the truth (which they wouldn’t if they would just be honest and most certainly will if this keeps up) I’d just appreciate a phone call, 5 minutes or less just to discuss it, so I’ll know for sure and why. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions with all this and maybe they are just busy, but if they’re so busy they can’t take phone calls wouldn’t you think they’d want to hire me? All the while the position I left was filled prior to my departure, I’ve asked my former employer and they cannot take me back at this time because they’ve simply got nothing open. I’ve been hitting the pavement daily to look for work and had several interviews. If anyone has any advice I’d greatly appreciate it, as this had put a huge financial and mental strain on me.

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