Question

I’d like to bring up an old subject — a rescinded job offer. I’ve been a reader for a while and have been helping my father in an interview process. He has been in the construction industry for 30-35 years and consistently climbed the ranks from laborer to owning his own construction company and hiring and managing project managers. He was recently approached for a president position at a mid-sized company. I spruced up his resume and helped him prepare for the interviews.

rescinded job offerAll went well. They said they wanted to grow the division to 3X its size under his leadership, and that they would make it worth his while. We were shocked when the offer came through without mention of any incentive plan to meet the ambitious growth objectives that were a cornerstone of their discussions. The offer was just a solid salary and a promise of a “review in 6 months.”

He was disappointed but still interested in the job, and he wanted to think it over for a few days. He had some concerns about the leadership team and the way this job would change his life. On day 2 they gave him a deadline to decide: evening of the next day. He replied, asking until the afternoon of day 4. On the afternoon of day 3 they rescinded the offer because they wanted someone who was “all in.”

I believe he dodged a bullet. The sudden rush for a decision, no plan to reward the ambitious growth they want him to commit to, and the sudden withdrawal of the offer —  these are all red flags to me. What are your thoughts? Am I off base?

Nick’s Reply

Last week we discussed how job opportunities go south. This is special case because a tendered job offer went south! Sometimes you cannot see an employer clearly until you witness its behavior after it makes you a job offer. These people sound like jerks, and I’ll explain what I mean in a minute.

What’s behind a rescinded job offer

First let’s look at the facts and at the employer’s behavior. These are signs a job offer might be rescinded.

  1. They came to your father; he didn’t approach them. In such situations, the employer should be extra respectful (they want you to marry them!) and deferential (no rush for intimacy!). This employer demonstrated neither the appropriate respect or deference.
  2. Their pitch was not matched by their offer. I agree – there should be terms in the offer about rewards for meeting the key objectives for the job. It appears that 3X growth is a cornerstone of this job, so where’s the support in the offer?
  3. You don’t woo someone that you really want to hire by giving them ultimatums.
  4. It seems to me this company was not “all in” on hiring your dad, and while there are several indications, it became starkly evident when they ignored his request for an extra day. Granting it would have been a courtesy — and a sign of good faith.

Based on what you’ve shared, I agree your dad dodged a bullet. I think the company rescinded the job offer because your dad’s hesitation signaled that he saw problems — and this employer likes its executives to be a little bit blind. The reason for my conclusion is simple: What you see is what you get. If he accepted the offer under these circumstances, he should expect to be treated exactly this way once he’s in the job.

Pursue dreams, not nightmares

Regular readers know that my mentor taught all his students this rule: “Never work with jerks.” The dismissive behavior of the company reveals jerks. Withholding a simple courtesy that your dad requested, and pulling the offer without any discussion, tells us all we need to know.

I know your dad is stinging a bit. It’s understandable that he was having dreams of running a larger company, growing a business, getting rewarded for doing a heavy lift (3X growth would indeed change his life!), and rising to the level he thinks he deserves. It’s hard when you can see it and taste it, it’s so close. But when we look at the reality of this deal, this company is not part of that dream. He’s got good dreams that he should absolutely pursue, except not with jerks that almost dragged him into a nightmare.

Turn the tables

The only advice I’d offer in retrospect is this. Since your dad had reservations about the management team, he could have bought more time to consider the offer. Rather than ask for more time to think about it, he could have turned the tables and asked for one more round of meetings with the executive team.

How to Say It
“For our mutual benefit, I’d like to make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the company’s ambitious growth plans. Before we finalize our decision to work together, I’d like to suggest we meet to review our objectives and plans for growth. Is your team available tomorrow?”

I could be wrong, but I think that might have bought him more time as well as more data points on which to base this important decision. I’m guessing the employer took more than 3 days to decide to make the offer! However, I don’t think any of this would have changed the outcome, except perhaps that your dad would have been the one to end the discussions.

Rescinded job offer? On to the next!

Please congratulate your dad on getting an offer to run a company. Even jerks recognize a talented manager, even if they don’t know to treat him. I’m sure your dad knows the difference between good people and jerks. In the throes of getting a job offer, we sometimes set aside our good judgment. Having had time to consider the signals this company gave off, I think your dad might see what life probably would have been like working there.

Please tell him I suggest that, now that he knows how to sell himself as a top executive, he should pursue that kind of job with good people at a healthy company that demonstrates respect and appropriate deference.

Some might view your conclusion and mine as “sour grapes.” But I really think the evidence you’ve shared tells us your dad dodged a bullet.

I hope something I’ve said is helpful. On to the next! I wish you both the best.

Is my analysis sour grapes? What could this executive job candidate have done differently? Was the employer to blame for rescinding this job offer? Have you ever dodged a bullet? What happened?

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25 Comments
  1. Nick’s points are all spot-on (how’s that for sucking up?). But more broadly, being pushed to make a decision is absolutely a sign there’s something fishy. It’s the HARD SELL that everyone falls for at least once in their lives. SIGN NOW while the deal is still on the table.

  2. David Hunt brings up a good point about falling for (and I’d add succumbing to) the hard sell.
    The closing of this article states “is my analysis sour grapes”? That’s the Ted Talks consensus and defense often seen on here. There’s a difference between realism and “sour grapes” and/or being naive.
    This whole scenario is a bevy of toxicity and red flags. If it looks like feces, and smells like feces, well then it is feces.
    Unclear, ambivalent, and vague about the high expectations=making up expectations as they go along=invariably being terminated sooner than later.
    Vague about compensation and coming in with a low ball offer with the dangling string of an eventual raise= blowing smoke=an ethically questionable employer.
    High pressure to accept a sketchy offer=just as quick to throw you into the weeds.
    This candidate did dawdle, and with employers today, it’s fish or cut bait when an offer is extended.
    This candidate is old school, with lots of practical work and life experience. But we old school folks often naively believe that most employers are principled, honorable, and play by the same rules as us.

    • “…looks like feces, and smells like feces, well then it is feces.”

      True.

      Offensive to the naive – but nonetheless, true.

    • offer doesn’t have to sketchy to look at high pressure accepts with a jaundiced eye.

      If a potential employer believes that the offer is as solid as they can make it, they should have no worries about someone mulling it over.

      Especially if there’s a change of venue, or possibility of it. There’s quality of life stuff. Do I really want to drive across town? Do I really want to uproot my family?

      As a manager I want people to have thought it through , talked it over with whoever. The hard rush just sets both of us for problems later. Which could be avoided.

      What dad has walked into is a “ready, fire, aim” scenario

  3. Great advice, Nick. I agree that the company rushed to offer the job and should have at least invited dad to meet the team, tour the company and have a chance to do his own due diligence vetting the company.

    On another note, I have recently rescinded two offers because the candidates tried to use my offer to leverage a counter offer from their current company. The candidate stalled on accepting my offer but it was pretty clear he was waiting on the current company and wasn’t really interested in my company. There are definitely two sides to every coin.

    • You don’t say how you knew he was strolling at you don’t say why it was clear he was leveraging your offer for a better offer from his current employer. What evidence do you have??

    • I advise against using a job offer to get a counter from your current employer. It’s more than the ethics — it reveals the person isn’t sure about what they’re doing.

      “Before considering a job change, ask yourself if you would consider a counter-offer. If the answer is yes, identify exactly what changes you would want in your current employment and compensation and try to negotiate these with your boss before you step out. If there’s nothing you really want, then you’re ready to move on.”
      From: https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/store/pc/partingcompany.htm

    • So how is what allegedly happened in your case any different than you employers inviting candidates in for interviews under false pretenses, and for non existent jobs, just to check off boxes, and cover your tail with the EEOC, because you have an internal candidate already in mind to offer the job to? Or you employers inviting candidates in for interviews under false pretenses, and for non existent jobs, to try and gain intel about your competitors, to see what your competitors are paying, or what type of candidates are out there? Or for that matter, offering a job to a candidate, the candidate quits their job to come on board with you, then you rescind the offer, or shortly after the candidate is on boarded, you have sudden buyer’s remorse, pull the rug out from under them, and quickly terminate (under at will employment) the now employee.
      Yeah, there’s two sides to every coin (as you stated), and there’s also rules for thee, but not for me.

  4. Did I ever dodge a bullet? Yes, but not intentionally. Years ago, I interviewed for a position and found that I was one of two people who were in the final running. I lost out on the position. About three weeks later, I got a call from the recruiter that I’d been working with. He let me know that the person they’d made the offer to had accepted, given his two weeks notice, left his job, and, when he showed up on the agreed upon starting date, found that the company had decided to not hire /anyone/ after all but never bothered to let him know. Needless to say, lawyers were now involved.

    • Most people are not aware that they do have many legal causes of action when the employer’s cruising around like this such as they rescind a job offer. Many attorneys will take a contingency fee case. All you have to do is talk to them and find out. We each need to proactive on involving lawyers.

  5. I inadvertantly dodged a somewhat similar bullet years ago. Same scenario – they came to me offering a real upward move in my career. I had been working hard for it for a long time.

    I interviewed, they offered quickly. I had known them for several years and was surprized at the pace. I asked for a few days to see about reorganizing my life to optimize the job I could do for them. Next morning I got a call I will never forget – “You’re too smart and too honest. We could have one, but we can’t have both”. I was shocked, but then realized that I was also relieved. I had felt uneasy about the whole thing.

    As it turned out, they had used the offer to me as leverage to get another person to take the position, and 6 months later the Chief Executive was arrested for embezzelment.

    If it doesn’t seem right, it most likely isn’t. Glad you and your dad avoided getting involved with a questionable situation.

    • Wow — that’s a new one on me! Company uses offer to get a different candidate??

      And what does this mean??
      “You’re too smart and too honest. We could have one, but we can’t have both”.

  6. I am sitting on the fence here. While the compensation package was not there, he obviously already had concerns about leadership and maybe the father has been out of the game for so long he does not understand employment offer etiquette. The father should have asked some tough questions, after all, he is the candidate, instead he chose to stew about his concerns instead of voicing them. That is not the way to get answers.
    Furthermore, I have never been in a situation where telling an employer to wait FOUR days is ever okay. This is beyond overkill and 48 hours is the norm and if more time is necessary then you have that discussion and again, you have that discussion. Instead, they had to contact him. Now if I was a company, really excited about the top candidate and the ‘said’ candidate is non-committal, even non-communicative, that would throw me red flags.
    Is this how he is going to “Lead” the company and staff?
    The father was not all in and the executives read that loud and clear and to be honest, I could sense that after reading this.
    I do not blame them one bit for rescinding, it should never take more than TWO days to make up your damn mind.

    • I agree he should have asked the tough questions before he got the offer. But I disagree that 48 hours is a reasonable decision time. What employer decides to hire you in 48 hours?

      Then we have the matter of who is pursuing whom. The company recruited the candidate. He didn’t go looking for the job. This company looks like dirt for its behavior. If word gets out, it’s gonna have a hard time attracting good candidates.

  7. Sour grapes? Nah. He dodged a bullet. I think he dodged a bullet. Their talk of comp was blah blah vaporware.
    They just told him in non-writing they’re into BS.
    And will be internally.

    Back in the day you run into the hard sell. One IT company had a rep for immediate take-it-or-leave-it offers. I mean an offer was made before the person left the building & an immediate yes or no was expected. otherwise the offer is off.

    As to @Lisa’s point. a good point but more of a sign of dad’s job hunting inexperience. Which in the hands of a more savvy hunter would have been addressed differently. e.g. You guys came to me & I want to know a lot more about you before I give you an answer. Listing the more abouts. Their deadline smelled more like ego than business…”we’re so wonderful you should jump at the chance”. Dad’s answer sounded indecisive.

    Dad’s whistle was wetted…and he started his engine. Rev it up, and take what he learned and remember that when the going gets tough, the touch go shopping.

    And their deadline approach seems suspicious. There’s an old saying about throwing a # of things against the wall & see what sticks. It’s quite possible that dad was not the only candidate they approached & threw deadlines against the wall to see who stuck.

  8. Your Father was already “all in” – doing his own thing.

    Now you know why is was a waste of time to even consider attempting
    to entertain join someone else’s rat infested ship.

    Predictable from the start (OP’s first paragraph) – a dead end.

    Unicorns and promises of pots of gold at the end of the rainbow
    are just that – FAKE.

  9. Most people are not aware that they do have many legal causes of action when the employer’s cruising around like this such as they rescind a job offer. Many attorneys will take a contingency fee case. All you have to do is talk to them and find out. We each need to proactive on involving lawyers.

  10. Why would anyone need to involve an attorney? I have been involved in a federal and state whistleblowing case since 2015 and I ASSURE you, employment attorneys will not touch ANY case unless it is rock solid and they can get a dime out of it.

  11. Often a letter from an attorney works miracles. Translate miracles to cash.

    • Yeah, she clearly doesn’t get the “walk softly and carry a big stick” analogy in life (seen her posts before).
      You have a point. I once paid $200 to an attorney to draft a letter to a state agency about a matter that I was rock solid right about. The attorney showed little regard for my case, and for me being right on principle (which kind of annoyed me at the time). But the letter was the silver bullet, and the state stood down.
      While the law generally favors employers, I agree with what I think is your premise that lawyering up may be the best course of action sometimes.

  12. Nick asked me to weigh on this thread. I have a two part answer here. First, if the employer is not willing to offer incentive compensation, that is their choice. The father should have proposed a draft employment agreement representing what he wanted. The employer can respond by negotiating the terms of the deal until both parties agree. If no agreement, there is no legal cause of action against another party for failing to negotiate an agreement. Even if they choose someone else. If they chose another person, you would then examine the age, race, gender etc. to determine if there exists discrimination in the hiring process.

    The fact pattern and follow up threads also speak to a different claim of misrepresentation. This claim applies when the applicant leaves a job for a new one and then is terminated shortly after being hired. There are legal causes of action to assert for purposes of engaging in settlement discussions without any legal action to be filed. The claims are negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation, and most states have these common law claims (not created by statute but by the courts). In essence, you need to demonstrate the employer made a material misrepresentation of facts, known or should have been known to be untrue at the time the material states were made. Our clients typically find out the real facts once they are hired. But if not hired, you can still alleged it in an attempt to negotiate a deal. We prefer clients avoid litigation due to the time and expense of paying legal fees. Typically, employers settle these cases before litigation.

    Lawyering up is ok and should be part of your arsenal against employers. How else are you going to get the employers attention regarding any bad actor employers. I ask that everyone begin to understand what leverage they have against their employers and truly understand the parties’ bargaining positions. Employers have abused employees for far too long, until now. You can do something about this.

    Mark Carey
    Carey & Associates PC
    http://www.capclaw.com
    info@capclaw.com

  13. “Lawyering up is ok and should be part of your arsenal against employers.”

    I agree. Yet we all know that even if an abused candidate/employee Plaintiff wins hands down, their chance of being blacklisted (behind closed doors) increases in their local area, industry, etc.

    “We prefer clients avoid litigation due to the time and expense of paying legal fees.”

    What about contingency fee? Why would this not be feasible in this case genre? Wouldn’t common sense dictate that only cases with a high probability of winning would be filed in the first place?

    Overall, contingency arrangements keeps counsel on their toes for many reasons. And of course, costs (vs. fees) are a different matter. A lawsuit I won (PI genre) left the opposing party choking on about a 15% payout for costs alone of which I warned them about from the beginning.

    The “time” factor can be a real mess since some employers will drag out litigation even when they know ahead of time they’re on the wrong side of the law – effectively cornering themselves.

  14. Chris I wanted to respond with a realty check as to what we see routinely. Employers actually do not want to head into the storm with our clients. 80% of the time we are able to negotiate a great deal for our clients without using the courts and without a great expenditure on fees. 20% of the time, the employer plays the hard ass role and we are forced into litigation.

    As far as fees, most all employment lawyers work on an hourly basis because of the unique nature of the practice area and litigation. I disagree about contingency fees keeping lawyers on their toes. We actually do not accept contingent fee cases because the client is not invested in the case. The lawyer has an ethical obligation to promptly handle the case, if not, then he/she must be confronted on that basis.

    • “Reality check” you say?

      Ok, here we go…

      You “…do not accept contingent fee cases because the client is not invested in the case.”
      So, following your logic, lawyers aren’t “invested” in a case on contingency?

      As I write this, an acquaintance has a sexual harassment case (contingency fee) against an employer that is about to settle for millions. NO way this person could have afforded hourly billings over two-plus years. Sound like a great deal for both client and lawyer.

      Sorry, common sense and generations of experience with lawyers tells us that “hourly” is much more open to inflated billings and dragging out cases to the “litigation line” only to “settle” at the eleventh hour over a simple issue that was obvious in month #1.

      Firing the lawyer and winning my PI case (Pro Se) was the only way I got results. Not one, but TWO mediators (lawyers) were recused only after I filed motions to remove these “professionals”. Then, further showing his true colors, one of those mediators sent me invoices (hourly based) for the next half year! Told him to go kick bricks and never heard from him again.

      What about that lawyer I fired?

      Took him to Small Claims Court and WON (Pro Se). Funny how he was then “ethical obligated” to reduced his fee (hourly based) by 85%!

      So, more proof that the only thing said lawyer was “invested” in was his own hourly billings.

      THAT is reality.

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