You did it: You applied for the position, went through rounds of interviews, and that all-important job offer landed in your lap. Then, for some reason, the employer changed their mind.
How did this happen? What did you do to scare them away? And is there anything you can do to fix the situation? Don’t panic. Help is at hand.
First, take a breath and read the rejection carefully
It’s extremely rare that you will simply get a call from an employer telling you the offer is withdrawn. Usually, it will be an email or a physical letter. When you receive it, your first reaction can feel like a punch to the gut. But take a deep breath and read the letter carefully. Was there one specific reason, like salary expectations? Was it something more vague, like “We no longer believe you’re a good fit at this time?” Knowing why you were rejected is imperative in approaching your next move.
If this is about salary, hours, or benefits, you have options
What did you ask for that the company just could not agree to? You need to initiate a conversation with human resources or the person who sent the rescission letter, and you need to do it quickly. Don’t act desperate. Be calm, ask for a call or in-person meeting, and tell that person you really want to work for the company and are flexible on the terms of the deal. How flexible is up to you, and you do not want to put yourself in a position of taking an offer that cripples you. So, have your bottom line ready.
Can you swap salary for other benefits, like extra vacation days or the ability to work from home a few days a week? Is the company open to part-time work, allowing you to get another source of income? You could also negotiate a 90-day reevaluation, and ask for a raise if you meet certain goals or criteria by that date.
If this is about something more vague, you’ll have to move on
Sometimes, you will be rejected because of company politics. Maybe you were given the job offer, but the boss has someone else he or she wants to give the job to, and that’s that. You can’t do much about favoritism or corporate demands.
On other occasions, you may have been the second choice, and the first-choice candidate has suddenly become available. Again, in that situation, you’re out of luck. For whatever reason, you have been replaced. If the rescission letter is vague, that’s probably the reason why. You might be tempted to make a case for why you are the better candidate; you’ll take less money, work longer hours, and accept less vacation time. Those are all positions of weakness on your part, and you should not make these kinds of demeaning compromises. Instead, in this situation, you should cut your losses.
Understand you don’t really have many legal rights
There are three words you need to know regarding any offer letter followed by a withdrawal: employment at will. You can complain all you want, but you will get nowhere — you have no legal recourse in this situation.
If you turned down other jobs in favor of this one, you’re stuck. If you quit your current job on the back of the offer letter, once again, it’s all on you. An offer letter is not a binding contract. With that in mind, never quit a current job or turn down another offer until you are absolutely certain there is a new job waiting for you.
Do damage control at your current job
Nightmare scenario: You were so confident that you had the new job in the bag, especially armed with the offer letter, that you handed in your notice at your current workplace. And boom — the offer was withdrawn. Now you don’t have a job to go to, or a job to go back to. What do you do?
The first thing you can do is arrange a meeting with your current employer and tell them you made a mistake. You thought you wanted to move on, you acted hastily, but you thought it through and it really isn’t something you want to do. In fact, you really regret handing in your notice (which is probably 100 percent accurate right now). If your employer is reasonable and they have been happy with your work, they will more than likely accept this and keep you on. Most of the time, these wheels can be stopped right up until you have left the building. (See also: How to Ask for Your Old Job Back After Leaving)
It might not be this simple, though. If the employer doesn’t want you back, you’ll have to get work fast. You won’t have any kind of severance package since you quit voluntarily. Take whatever you can to make money, and get yourself back on track financially. It doesn’t have to be for long.
Leave a good impression with the employer that rejected you
After being rejected, it’s natural to lash out. You can be overtaken by a whirlwind of emotions, and when it dawns on you that you are not getting the job, you can get angry. The temptation to tell the employer off is huge. You may even threaten to sue (you will lose) or bad-mouth them on social media. All of these scenarios will hurt you far more than the company that rejected you.
You did enough to get a job offer, and that means the employer saw real value in you. Maybe you just weren’t quite right for the role, but in a few months, they may call you about a different position. Or, maybe the person they gave the job to won’t work out. If that happens, they might come back to you. However, if you have been rude, aggressive, and defensive, your file will go in the trash. Don’t burn a bridge that could lead to a great future.
Get back out there and interview for more roles
It’s important to get right back on the horse. Sure, you’re a bit demoralized. And after doing all that work to get a job offer, you’re now back to square one. But, that’s just part of the job-hunting life, and you need to accept that and use the experience to become a better interviewee.
What can you learn from the rejection? Did you knowingly ask for way more than you wanted as part of a negotiation tactic? Next time, don’t shoot so high. Did you come across as aggressive or cocky? Tone it down. Did you actually appear weak and cave in to a lowball offer, only to be rejected anyway? Maybe the company was testing you. Take it all in as lessons learned, and use it to get a better offer letter from a better company.
Never accept anything less than what you’re worth
If you wanted the job badly, you may start thinking about going below your bottom line. In almost every case, this is a mistake. For a start, you’re devaluing yourself. You know what your experience is worth and what you can do for the company looking to hire you.
There are businesses known to be stingy with salaries and benefits, and most of the time, this does not bode well for your future at that firm. You are basically giving yourself a mountain to climb in the hopes that one day you’ll get what you’re owed. But by the time you reach the salary you originally wanted, you would have naturally moved to a higher pay scale. So, stand tough. You know the bare minimum you need to make ends meet and feel valued. Anything less is not worth your time.