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How to Revoke a Job Offer

by Ruth Mayhew

Revoke, rescind or withdraw a job offer -- anyway you put it, it's not good news. Revoking a job offer means you must let a job candidate know that the offer you originally made has since been withdrawn. In terms of the most difficult human resources responsibilities, this probably runs a close second to terminating an employee. If the candidate was enthusiastic and grateful for the job offer, it will be even tougher to convey the bad news. The key is to be upfront, professional and empathetic.

Review the reasons you must revoke the job offer and gather information that substantiates it. For example, if you discovered that the candidate didn't successfully pass the background check or the drug screening, access the results to ensure you have the correct identity, such as her accurate birth date and Social Security number. Double-check the background check results as well as the drug screen for possible misinformation.

Determine if the job offer rejection was based on company finances. If so, recalculate your department's salary and benefits information. Determine if there is a way to still bring the person onboard even though you must revoke the original job offer and terms. If you absolutely need someone in that role, play around with scenarios such as a flexible working arrangement or part-time hours. Likewise, if you have to revoke the job offer because your company doesn't have approval to take on another full-time employee right now, devise alternatives such as a delayed start date.

Contact the candidate and ask if he has a few minutes to discuss the job offer. Don't leave this kind of news in a voice mail message or an email. Giving the candidate the news in person is preferable if you're rescinding an offer to an internal candidate. For an external candidate, however, doing this via phone is acceptable because it spares the candidate travel time as well as the humiliation of being given such bad news in a face-to-face meeting.

Express your disappointment and regret that the company cannot honor its job offer at this time. If the job will be available in the future, let her know when to look for the posting. Compliment the candidate on her qualifications and assure her that the decision to revoke the offer wasn't based on whether she was suitable for the job, but don't go overboard. Be direct and straightforward, yet empathetic.

Tell the candidate that you and others within the organization were looking forward to building a working relationship, but that the timing is wrong, based on the company's financial status or business demand. Suggest alternatives such as part-time employment, if such plans fit into the company's budget and strategy. Don't ask the candidate for an immediate answer to the alternative choices. Give him a day or two decide.

Apologize to the candidate for the time she spent applying and interviewing for the job. Tell her it was a pleasure getting to know her. Invite her to monitor your job postings for future positions and wish her well in her future endeavors.

Tip

  • If you cannot offer the candidate the job, but have a great deal of confidence in his skills, offer to make contact with people in your professional network who may be looking for candidates with his skill set.

Warnings

  • If you are revoking the job offer based on the results of a background check, you must provide the candidate with an "adverse action notice." This lets him address disputed information with the company that provided the information, such as credit bureaus, law enforcement agencies and creditors.
  • If the job offer came in the form of a written employment agreement, contact your lawyer and review the agreement for revocation procedures or the process for terminating the agreement. You want to avoid a lawsuit from the candidate.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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