There are few workplace situations more dispiriting than being offered a job, accepting it, and then having the offer taken away. But if it happens, you need to face up to the situation and take a practical, rational approach to dealing with it. You might even decide it's for the best in the long run.
Can they do this?
It feels wrong and unfair. Laws about such practices will vary widely based on your organisation's location — in some countries it is legal to rescind a job offer for almost any reason; in others much less so. You should seek legal advice in your jurisdiction as you may have options, particularly if there is any element of discrimination involved. You may also be able to claim back any significant expenses you have incurred in preparing to take the job. Otherwise, you need to look at how you are going to cope with this setback.
If you haven't been told why the offer was pulled, you need to try to find out. At the very least, the company owes you an explanation. Also, knowing the reason informs what you do next.
Have you resigned?
If you haven't resigned from your current role, then things are easier. You stay at your existing job and look for another new job should you wish to do so. However, if you have resigned, all may not be lost. If the resignation was amicable or your employer tried to get you to stay, you could ask to come back. That said, it's hard to return once you've made the decision to leave, so you might suggest that you consult, provide cover for your old role, or ask for something different. In fact, even if you haven't resigned, you may have "mentally left".
Is it them or you?
It is possible something happened at the company after you were offered the job. For example, finances might have taken a turn for the worse, or the business on which the job offer was based was lost. These are legitimate reasons to rescind the offer — and if the organisation's fortunes are waning, you might not want to be going there. Other possibilities are that the company is chaotic and disorganised, that it discovered a candidate it liked more, or that the company was not certain about you. In all these situations, you may have had a lucky escape. They were not playing straight with you, so you might be better off elsewhere.
Did they discover something in your past?
This is unlikely but possible. If so, you are unlikely to have a legal comeback. An example might be that you failed a criminal background check, have a bankruptcy on file, or have a poor credit history. You could also have failed a drug test (although drug tests can give positives for reasons other than drug abuse — famously, eating poppy seeds can give positive results for opioid use). Another reason is that you have misrepresented your background. Obviously, if you have lied about your education, this is pretty cut and dried. But there may be shades of grey — for instance, if you have put too much gloss on a previous role, you got a bad reference, or perhaps an internet search revealed ill-advised social media posts.
How can I protect myself?
You should not only get the job offer in writing but also get details of what happens if the offer is rescinded. You should supply a prospective employer with references whom you have spoken to, delete any questionable social media posts, and so on. Wait until you have passed all the company's checks before you resign from your current job — and when you do, be professional and amicable. Never burn your bridges, tempting as it may be. Even with all this, you need to think about what might happen if it all goes wrong. In an ideal world, you have applied for multiple jobs and have a fallback offer.
What if I have no fallback position?
It's not the end of the world. You can look for another job; try your hand at consulting, contract work, or self-employment; talk to your network about opportunities; or try something completely different. You might also take some time off to take stock or travel. There is no rule that says you have to go from one job to another.
Moving on from the situation
A rescinded job offer is very unlikely to ever be unrescinded. Look at where you might have gone wrong or made poor choices and learn from your mistakes. Then move on. You probably don't want to work for an organisation that does this sort of thing — so focus your energies on finding a job with a better company.
Rhymer Rigby is an FM magazine contributor and author of The Careerist: Over 100 Ways to Get Ahead at Work. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Oliver Rowe at Oliver.Rowe@aicpa-cima.com.
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