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The age of rescindment: Why some job offers are being canceled and how you can prevent it from happening to you

At a glance

  • Rescinded job offers can occur because of economic downturns, miscommunication and failed background checks, among other reasons.
  • While rescinded job offers are getting some attention on professional networking sites and in the news, University of Phoenix career advisor Carla Hunter sees the trend as temporary.
  • Job seekers should protect themselves from having an offer rescinded by doing due diligence on an opportunity before accepting an offer, by developing a relationship with the recruiter and by ensuring the requested salary range is realistic for that role.
  • Get more expert career insight from University of Phoenix’s Career With Confidence™ newsletter on LinkedIn®.

"It’s almost reached a fever pitch,” says Carla Hunter, a career advisor at University of Phoenix.

Hunter could be talking about anything related to jobs. The resigning and the hiring, the upskilling, the conversation in general — when it comes to the post-pandemic job market, it can feel like we’ve seen it all.

But Hunter isn’t talking about any of that. Instead, she’s talking about the latest topic to create buzz among the LinkedIn® community, news outlets and organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): job offer rescindment, which is when a company extends an offer to a candidate but then takes it back (sometimes after the candidate has already given notice to their current employer).

While Hunter acknowledges the practice is having a moment, she also thinks the hype will be short-lived. “I think this job rescinding is definitely a blip,” Hunter says.

The reason for her optimism? Well, there are four. By her estimation, most of the job offer rescindments happening these days boil down to a handful of temporary factors. More importantly, there are some concrete steps everyone can take to prevent it from happening in the first place. Curious? Read on.

What happened to the “employee’s market”?

Understanding the root of any trend is a speculative process, but Hunter follows human resources trends closely and offers the following reasons for the rise in rescindment:

1. The COVID-19 pandemic: “I don’t think we can minimize the narrative of the pandemic,” Hunter says. “For 31 months, we’ve been facing our greatest fear, which is uncertainty.”

2. Natural disasters: Floods, fire, drought — whatever the threat may be, it impacts business and a certain amount of belt-tightening can be expected. The good news? Hunter says some companies are getting proactive about dealing with ongoing threats of natural disasters and hiring “catastrophe modelers” who can identify ways to protect assets in the event of a disaster.

3. Economic recession: Recessions aren’t good for business. Period.

4. Miscommunication: This is probably the most interesting factor on the list and the most difficult to account for. It includes the people who incorrectly enter (or interpret) data in their businesses’ forecasting models. It includes the managers who realize in the middle of the recruitment process that there’s actually an internal candidate who can fill the role. Basically, Hunter says, it means “somewhere there was a person who heard something and then, when repeating it, miscommunicated it.”

So, while the employee’s market hasn’t disappeared completely, it is suffering a sort of existential crisis. This is especially true, SHRM notes, among “high-growth tech employers” and in real estate, as well as among companies that inaccurately projected their growth. Enter job offer rescindment.

How to stop rescindment from reaching you

There’s no silver bullet for avoiding the rescindment of an offer. But you can take steps to protect yourself.

Make sure you can pass a background check

Most of the clients Hunter works with who have had a job offer rescinded have found themselves in that position for one reason: the drug screen. This is tricky territory, as different states have different laws pertaining to the legality of drug use, and these are sometimes different from federal laws (which federal and other organizations abide by).

“There are just going to be those industries that there are no exceptions to the rule,” she says. “I think you have to think about whether your use of recreational drugs is worth [losing a job offer].”

This piece of advice can be extended to any legal issues that may surface during a background check. If you have a criminal record, it may be worth discussing it openly during the interview so there are no surprises after an offer has been extended.

Build a relationship with your recruiter

First impressions matter. Whichever recruiter contacts you is likely the one who is assigned to you, so he or she will be your point of contact during the interview process. Use that opportunity to your advantage by creating the right image for yourself during that initial call.

“You want to sound engaged, highly motivated and energetic, because science proves being highly engaged and highly motivated leads to longevity in your career,” Hunter advises.

Talk numbers, and ask if you’re in the right ballpark

Almost every call with a recruiter includes a question about salary. When asked what your ideal range is, Hunter recommends being strategic. First, if your ideal salary is under $100,000 per year, offer a $10,000 cushion to negotiate. If your ideal salary is over $100,000, make that cushion twice as big.

So, if your ideal salary is $60,000 per year, offer a range of $60,000 to $70,000. If your ideal salary is twice that, offer a range of $120,000 to $140,000.

The most important part of this discussion, however, is the question you ask after presenting your ideal salary range. “Ask the recruiter, ‘Is this realistic?’” Hunter says. “Because if you don’t ask that question, you will always wonder if it were because of your salary range that the [opportunity] was rescinded.”

Watch for red flags

Sometimes it’s not you, it’s the employer. If a recruiter reaches out and is flaky with scheduling or opaque about the role, it can hint at larger organizational problems within the company. Or, if the people interviewing you seem to be in crisis mode, that’s another red flag to look elsewhere.

When rescindment strikes anyway

Looking for a job is tough. But thinking you have one only to discover you don’t? That’s even tougher.

Whether the rescindment was your fault, the company’s fault or no one’s fault, it’s important to set aside time to grieve the loss and acknowledge the disappointment. Reflecting on what you could’ve done differently and opening yourself up to the support of family and friends can help you recover your confidence and equilibrium, Hunter notes.

During that self-reflection, Hunter advises clients to do two things. One, consider how to leverage their strategic network and, two, embrace a growth mindset. You can’t control what a company will or won’t do with a job offer, but you can control your response.

Rescindment, Hunter says, “becomes an invitation to build resilience. We only have resilience because of adversity.”

And resilience, in work as in life, is what drives momentum.

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