Why Your Job Offer Was Rescinded—And How To Handle It

Having a job offer rescinded can feel like a gut punch.

The awkwardness of phone screens and “grit” interviews gives way to the relief and joy of a job offer—and in an instant, that offer is taken away, replacing your sense of victory with nausea.

In an ideal world, the only loss you'd face is the time you spent interviewing. In reality, candidates stand to lose much more. If you've already left your old job, turned down other offers, or, in the worse possible scenario, moved to a new city, a rescinded offer has actual financial consequences.

To properly respond to a rescinded job offer, you need to understand why they happen and what your options for response are.

Understanding why companies rescind offers

Companies don't want to rescind job offers. As one recruiter we spoke to put it, “Given the highly competitive market for technical talent, the amount of time and resources that go into a normal hiring process, and the fact that negative interview experiences can easily end up online, companies typically resort to rescinding an offer for the worst offenders or for highly unusual circumstances.”

In other words, a rescinded job offer represents wasted resources and potential reputation damage for a company. Because of this, the two situations that usually trigger a rescinded offer are:

  • The candidate behaves in such a way, post-offer, that the hiring team decides they cannot work together.
  • The company's financial situation changes drastically, and suddenly the role is no longer available.

While the second situation does happen, it is far more common that the candidate does something to jeopardize their offer. Speaking to hiring managers about what has triggered them to rescind an offer, two themes emerged:

  • Handling the offer unprofessionally: One hiring manager told us about a candidate who claimed to have signed the offer, but hadn't. The person blamed the delay on “WiFi problems” for several days, then completely ghosted before trying to reengage the team a week later. The candidate could have asked for more time from the jump, but after all the strangeness, the company felt it was in their best interest to rescind.
  • Trying to negotiate after signing: A recruiter who works with multiple companies told us about rescinding an offer from a candidate who “had signed their contract and set a start date. We were preparing for their onboarding, when, out of nowhere, we receive an email from them requesting an increase in their salary of $50,000—with a competing job offer attached.” As the recruiter told us, this was the most common reason they'd seen for rescinded offers.

Deciding what to do if your offer gets rescinded

If you are in the unfortunate position of having an offer rescinded, your options are few. You need to first figure what went wrong, and then evaluate what options are available—which probably comes down to “apply to more jobs.”

If your point of contact at the company hasn't explained why your offer was rescinded, you need to ask. Don't be aggressive, but communicate how disappointed you are in the outcome and that you'd like a more detailed explanation. You can then mine their explanation for actionable takeaways when you continue to job-hunt.

For example, if you had less-than-stellar references, particularly backchannel references (meaning ones the company engaged without you supplying them), you know you must be more proactive in future interviews. You can give companies explicit permission to speak only with the references you supply—while this maybe a red flag, companies need express permission to conduct a reference check—or you can talk about problems you've had with former teammates during your interviews.

Similarly, if you find out that some of your interview behaviors—around negotiating, for example—were what triggered a rescinded offer, you need to reflect and potentially change whatever behavior it was that lost you the job.

As for finding your next job, get back on the horse and keep applying. If you were interviewing at other companies and dropped out because of your offer, reach back out to their recruiters and let them know that you won't be moving forward with the other offer. You don't need to be explicit. As long as you didn't burn any bridges with the recruiter, most will let you resume the interview process if its still ongoing.

A rescinded job offer could be a blessing in disguise

Assuming you've held off on any life-changing decisions—like quitting a job or changing cities—until your new offer is signed, you have a confirmed start date, and your actions weren't the trigger behind the offer getting rescinded, losing out on the position might become a blessing in the long run.

There is clearly something wrong internally at the company. Whether its in dire financial straits, or so disorganized it needs to eliminate a role before it begins, you're likely better off.

Just remember, the job isn't real until the papers are signed.