how to get your job offer yanked at the last minute

I hear from a lot of people who are worried that if they try to negotiate the salary for their new job offer, the employer will pull the offer altogether. This is pretty rare (not unheard of, but extremely rare).

However, there are things that you can do during the offer stage that will cause the offer to disappear:

1. Not responding to the offer right away. If an employer leaves you a message saying that they’d like to make you an offer and you take days to get back to them, you may lose the offer entirely. Not responding to this type of message signals a lack of interest or lack of responsiveness, both of which are bad things. You don’t need to call back and accept the on the spot, but you do need to call back and say something. People are usually excited to get job offers (even if they ultimately don’t accept them), and it’s not typically a call they avoid returning.

2. Asking for too much time to think over the offer. It’s reasonable to ask for a few days to consider an offer, and sometimes you can get a week or too. But usually, if you ask for too much time, you risk sounding like you’re saying, “I’m not that excited about this job but I may settle for it, depending on what else is offered to me.” That drains away the excitement that the hiring manager had and makes the employer question your enthusiasm.

3. Refusing to answer until you’ve heard from other employers. If you ask for more time to think over an offer, explain that it’s because you want to make absolutely sure it’s the right choice for you, your finances, your family, and so forth. Don’t say that it’s because you’re waiting for other offers, because – as in #2 above – you’ll signal that this job is something you’d only settle for if you have to.

4. Making over-the-top salary demands. Negotiating over salary is a normal part of the hiring process, but if you ask for a salary far out of the realm of normal for this work, you’ll look out-of-touch and entitled. Before salary negotiations start, make sure that you’ve researched how much this type of work pays — in this sector, at this size employer, and in this geographic area.

5. Springing a significant demand at the last-minute. If you wait until you get the offer to mention that you plan to telecommute from the other side of the country – even though it’s been clear from the beginning where the position is based – most employers are going to be annoyed that you didn’t raise this earlier. If you have significant requirements like telecommuting or working a half-time schedule, make sure to mention them earlier in the process so that you don’t appear to be pulling a bait-and-switch.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. anon-2*

    I read it, and yes, you provide a great insight as far as “what not to do”..

    There is one thing about salary expectations. In many positions, and many job descriptions, there’s a wide industry-wide band for compensation.

    Sometimes, a place pays at the bottom of the scale — others pay at the top. An applicant’s request might seem over the top to a hiring manager. While it might be “over the top” in that manager’s little silo, it could be very reasonable, or even modest by industry standards. And if it isn’t reasonable, that might be the amount it would take to extract the candidate from his/her current situation.

    I’ve also had “surprises” sprung on me as an applicant; one was traveling to an interview, only to learn that the headhunter who sent me there lied not only to me about the salary range — but also lied to the employer about what I’d be willing to work for; and we all know about the foolish practice of low-balling and how it generally fails at worst, or generally leads to a confrontation down the road, in maintaining a long working relationship.

  2. Lauren*

    This happens at my company all the time. If the company is only offering 35 k to a new grad, that new grad must decide if the company is worth paying dues for a year. If a new grad tries to negotiate, my boss rescinds the offer and tells them that they know nothing and bring nothing to our company. I am sure this is diff for execs, but a new grad should use companies that wont budge on low salaries as a stepping stone only. NEVER stay past a year if you are a new grad that gets low-balled. You will not advance at all at a company that knows they can buy you cheap, but after a year you can boost your salary to a reasonable wage at a competitor and you should use them as much as they are trying to use you. Learn everything, every program, make a point during that year to build up your resume with skills that will land your next job.

      1. Lauren*

        Massachusetts non-compete. Remember me? Also, found out a competitor’s director applied for my job 4 years ago (support role at 35k – i did get 48k tho cause I was still way cheaper than others). That kid makes 3x what I do now with the same years of exp, but I am told “that I am still learning, but have a great career ahead of me”.

        1. anon-2*

          I don’t know our state’s laws on non-competes, but I do know that here in Massachusetts the courts have been striking them down , and have even declared them illegal in some industries.

          I was in that situation a long time ago, and I had to move on. I had contact with someone at that company again. I told them, “I was expecting that the company would show me around three-thousand reasons not to leave”, but then also added “twenty years later, I can open my books and show you more than a million reasons justifying why I left”….

          I gave a reasonable shot to negotiating, it didn’t work, I took action and moved on.

        2. anon-2*

          One more thing, Lauren — do not take my word on non-competes here in Mass. as legal advice — check with an attorney to find out if your non-comp is enforceable.

          Some might be.

          1. Lauren*

            I did, I was told they are enforceable in mass and that to be safe, I should get out of the industry altogether. Mine is so vague though, and gives a 1 year time limit for only 2 parts but in the 3rd part basically says i cant work in any role that is related to online marketing in the US with no time limit attached. After a year, mass courts would deem that last portion to be unreasonable and since these things are enforced based on what it reasonable I have a shot then. I trying to leave and be forgotten for a year and the other company offered to wait for me.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m not a lawyer or in Massachusetts, but that sounds so ridiculously broad that most courts would find it unenforceable. If you didn’t show it to a lawyer who specializes in this type of thing, please do!

              1. anon-2*

                Qualify that, AAM — ask a lawyer who is NOT in the company you’re working with. “Lifetime contracts” are likely not legal… and Massachusetts is rather employee-friendly.

              2. Lauren*

                I did go to someone else (we are less than 10 people in my agency), and had the other company’s legal team look at it too. The employment lawyer says it could go either way. Since the other company is a client that tried to poach me, I didn’t feel safe knowing that I wouldn’t get to keep the new job since one part of the non-compete says that I could not steal clients. Lawyer said that a court could say that taking that job could be seen as working toward removing them as a client at my current job. The non-compete part was about me working at a competing firm and taking trade secrets. The new job was about me creating my own firm with them. So very tricky, and safer to go away for awhile. I just want out now, and am actively looking. Especially since my boss told me I was not getting a raise.

    1. anon-2*

      Some companies are very up-front about that — they don’t pay well, but you will get some excellent working experience.

      It’s “sort of” an internship. You’re paying dues. The big questions are — can you advance in such an environment? And, will you actually get the experience you’re seeking (in exchange for a lower salary)?

      In the practice of law, it’s common for new law school LL.Bs/J.Ds from prestigious schools to work as law clerks in prominent firms. Looks great on the resume. And after a year, you either advance within or move on. But all parties know, that’s how the game is played.

      My reference was pertaining to a veteran in any field moving from one place to another. Low-ball offers, if accepted, only serve as that same stepping-stone to the next job. Or, alternatively, a demand for an increase down the road — which may be politically difficult for a manager to obtain for you.

    2. Joey*

      I would agree that it is indeed harder for a new grad to negotiate salary, but you should at least be able to get something reasonable. And you just can’t go in saying you want more unless you back it up with something ( and rent, loans, etc don’t count).

      But the way she’s handling it is terrible .

    3. Evan the College Student*

      Is there any way of telling (as a new soon-to-be-grad) whether a given company is like this? I’m sure I’m going to be really nervous when it comes time to talk salary, and I’d like to know ahead of time if I’m going to be sabotaging myself.

      1. Anonymous*

        Just ask what the starting salary range is for this position when they offer the job. 35k is still a livable wage as much as it sucks. You may have 3 roommates or live at home, but only you can decide if you are willing to eat ramen noodles to get that first job experience.

        1. Lindsay H.*

          My first job out of college paid $9.00 an hour, but I had a fancy title: Director of Operations and Volunteer Coordinator. This was also the same place where the manager would buy torque wrenches.

          I was able to pull off living sans roommates. Starting that low is not ideal for a new grad, but it did make me more appreciative when earning a slightly higher salary.

      2. KayDay*

        Just go ahead and negotiate, you don’t want to work for a boss like that! I know a lot of new grads aren’t able to get much from negotiating, but I’ve never ever (until now) heard of an offer getting pulled for it. Once, when I tried to negotiate the salary, I swear the hiring manager had to hold back laughter when I asked for $3K over what he was offering…and then said no….but they certainly didn’t hold it against me! It is generally expected that you will at least try to negotiate, even for low paying jobs…now if you are asking for $10K more, they might be a bit taken aback…

  3. Anonymous*

    Another way to have a job offer pulled, is to act unprofessionally (ie rudely) towards the HR assisant/clerk who is responsible for getting you “on-board”.

  4. Mary*

    This happened to me yesterday. I was in the middle of extending an offer and the candidate interrupted me after I told him what the salary was to let me know that he was expecting considerably more. I knew his offer was competitive and was in line with our salary structure and market rates. Never, ever interrupt. Listen politely through the entire offer before starting the negotiation process. I was ready to “pull the offer” before I could discuss the benefit package.

  5. ks*

    My husband got a job offer recently and tried to negotiate his salary. They were offering him an entry-level/just out of college salary, despite his extensive experience in a similar industry, as well as his doctorate. They said there was some wiggle room with salary, so he asked for a reasonable amount higher than the original offer, expecting they would come somewhere in the middle.
    He was confident, explaining his value to the company, but not at all arrogant or unreasonable.

    The company said they would discuss the salary the next day, but then spent the next few days postponing the conversation. When they finally spoke, they said they rescinded the offer because they felt like he should have just accepted the lower, entry level salary immediately, rather than trying to negotiate. They obviously spent those days finding someone who would accept their low salary. They told my husband he should have just been grateful to get the job whatever the salary, despite saying throughout the interview process how much experience and value he would add to their company.

    So, no, negotiating is not always a good idea and offers do get rescinded–even when the job applicant is polite, respectful and honest. But then again, if you don’t negotiate, you could get stuck at a job where they undervalue and underappreciate your worth.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It definitely does happen — but it’s unusual enough (and generally the sign of a problem with the company or with the fit) that it’s still not a reason not to try to negotiate if you don’t think an offer is what it should be!

  6. Chloe*

    This just happened to me. I was excited to get the job offer but not only was it low for the average I researched for the position, it was low for my experience. I initially responded to the salary with I thought it was a little low for the average for position based on my research and qualifications and asked if there was some flexibility. I thought I had made it clear that I really wanted the job and stated that I had no intention of declining the position. The manager said she would call me back the mext week but would be consumed with end of month close. I gave her a week with no response and called and emailed her the next week, She responded by email and said “we are pursuing other candidates because my salary demand was out of the range of their pay scale” I made no such demand, she briefly threw out some numbers she thought I might be looking for after she made the offer and I attempted to open negotiations, I never said a number, it was all her nor did I comment, then she immediately said she would call me next week. I thought she would be calling me back to discuss if she could increase the salary or not. If she had said I am sorry the salary is not negotiable I would have accepted the offer anyway because the job is what I wanted to do and my would be co-workers whom I met with as a second interview were great and they really wanted to work with me. One of them specifically stated I was the only candidate she wanted to work with. She never actually withdrew the offer so I am not sure what to do at this point. I do have concerns about her management style and I do know she had only had the job 6 months. I have negotiated many offers no one had been offended even when one of them said they couldnt offer any more amd I accepted anyway as it was a decent offer anyway. Any advice?

      1. Anon*

        This just happened to me (hence looking for this thread!). In my case, the salary negotiation was happening with HR, and I am fairly certain that the hiring manager is quite disconnected from the process.

  7. Alice*

    I just had an offer revoked, as well. I think I may have tried to negotiate too much. I was made an offer that was significantly lower than I was expecting, so I countered with a number in the low end of what I would accept. They then came up very slightly, still way below what I would have wanted. I then asked if there was any more room for negotiation, and named a number just slightly above their counter offer. They said they would get back to me. From their initial offer to my final counter was in the single digits, percentage wise.
    The next day, I talked with the recruiter and found out that my offer had been rescinded because the amount I wanted was too high. I said I would gladly accept their initial counter instead of not taking the job at all. However, that was now off the table. All of our conversations about had been pleasant, we even made small talk and laughed throughout about the “awkwardness” of it all. I had been through many, many interview rounds and had them tell me that I was “awesome”. So, I was shocked they pulled the offer. I always thought you could ask for more in job negotiations, and then if they said no, you could still accept their initial offer. But I think I ended up quibbling too much over small amounts of money, and they didn’t like it. I guess 2 counters is too many. Lesson (painfully!) learned.

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