How to cope when an employer rescinds your job offer

Put the experience in perspective by considering a few key points
by Brian Gorman


When you’re looking forward to starting a new job, it may seem like a devastating blow to be told the company isn’t going to hire you after all.

Although it’s a rare occurrence, it doesn't mean that there's something catastrophically wrong with you. There are a many possible reasons for an employer reversing its decision to hire an individual, according to an article in themuse by Jenny Foss, who cites some of the most common:

  • You have failed to pass background checks. This could be because references prove unsatisfactory or because you have a criminal record. In the UK, some employers may contact the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to check the background of candidates.
  • You do not accept the job offer quickly enough. Some employers will specify a date by which you are required to give your written acceptance.
  • The company's needs change or it experiences financial difficulties
  • Decision-makers cannot agree on hiring terms.

Background checks

An employer should verify certain credentials in the hiring process. However, sometimes the results of certain enquiries can take longer than expected. The UK’s CRB suffered a massive backlog in the 2000s when the government introduced more extensive background checks on those applying for positions in schools. The government was looking to combat a problem of sex offenders coming into contact with children. The CRB was taking several months to deal with enquiries.

Jobseekers should think about whether there is anything in their background which may emerge from a criminal record check and references and consider whether this may be a major problem.

Taking too long to accept an offer

If you do not respond by the required deadline, the employer is likely to look elsewhere to fill the position. But even when there is no deadline, you should think about the impression you are giving – a long silence could suggest to the employer that you are waiting to hear back about another position.

Business needs change

Companies experience downturns. Foss points to loss of key clients, cancelled projects and reorganisation as reasons companies decide they are not going to hire for the position.

Decision-makers cannot agree

This could be disagreement about the scope of the role or how much the candidate should be paid, and could delay the process to such a degree that a job offer becomes untenable

What can you do?

When a job offer is rescinded, it may affect your confidence, but there are lessons to be learned from the process, such as the points listed above.

You may contact the employer to get more information about their decision, asking them to speak ‘off the record’.

You could choose to remain in your current job but that may not be easy if you have already given notice. You may, under certain circumstances, have a legal claim, says Norwich-based Spire Solicitors in an article on their site. Spire makes a distinction between a conditional and an unconditional offer: “Usually, job offers are conditional. This means that the applicant first needs to satisfy certain requirements such as satisfactory references, criminal record checks, and proof of right to work in the UK. When an applicant fails to meet these requirements, a job offer can be withdrawn. This is because the job offer remains incomplete until all conditions are satisfied.”

But if the application has met "all the conditions required after the conditional offer has been made and accepted", then the applicant could "take legal action against the employer for breach of contract".

Many employers believe there is nothing wrong with taking back a job offer prior to the proposed employee starting work. But Spire points out that "the employment contract rarely begins on the employee’s first day. Instead, it usually becomes binding upon acceptance of the job offer, and if a conditional offer, then once the conditions have been satisfied. ...The overall effect of withdrawing an accepted offer is to terminate the employment contract without notice.

“The financial liabilities for breach of contract can be very costly where a successful claimant may be entitled to recover damages for any losses suffered,” says Spire, adding that a claim will aim to put the applicant "back in the position they would have been in before the breach occurred". This could mean, for example, three months’ pay in the case of a senior employee.

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Published: 16 Sep 2022
  • Soft Skills
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • job offer rescinded
  • Recruitment
  • job-hunting
  • job offer

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