It might’ve taken weeks, or maybe months, to lure and land the perfect candidate whose skills
and experience check all the boxes. The person has accepted your job offer. But shortly before
the start date, he or she has a change of heart and decides not to join your organization.
It happened to Aparna Menon, now the regional HR Manager of ABS Group Inc, UAE. “After a
long negotiation regarding compensation, the candidate accepted a verbal offer and returned a
signed offer letter,” she recalled. “The day before he was scheduled to start, he called to say
that he had accepted another offer that he could not refuse.”
Aparna said she was livid “given [their] extensive discussions regarding compensation, the team
and second chances”—he had declined another offer the previous year.
Recruiters are understandably frustrated when a candidate rescinds a job acceptance, but the
decision also creates larger problems for the business. The employer has likely notified any
recruitment agencies it was using and other potential applicants that the position has been filled;
job ads may have been pulled; and supplies, software and hardware may have been ordered
and are being set up.
Why Does This Happen?
There are several reasons candidates might accept a position and later rescind it, starting with
the fact that the current labor market favors job seekers. In this market, all job seekers and
candidates have more options. “Top candidates have no qualms about exploring multiple
opportunities with multiple employers.”
It’s possible that candidates received a better offer from a different company or accepted a
counteroffer from their current employer.
“You see it when individuals are trying to negotiate with their current employer or negotiate two
employers against each other, especially if their skills are in high demand or they didn’t do very
good research initially, and they find out something they really don’t like about an employer and
change their mind. I’ve seen this happen when the hiring manager wants the person to be in the
office every day 8 to 5, and the candidate decides they need more flexibility.” Said Aparna
Menon, Regional HR Manager, ABS Group Inc, UAE
Aparna added that if salary negotiations didn’t go as planned, candidates may rescind
acceptance to look for an opportunity with a higher salary.
Legal Recourse
Simply put, there isn’t any legal remedy that’s worthwhile, Reshma said. “We’re in an at-will
environment where someone can quit at any time, even at the point of offer or before the first
day of work.”
A signed contract, which outlines specific employment terms, generally supersedes at-will
employment, however. “If they signed an employment agreement that outlines a certain amount
of notice that needs to be provided before resignation or specifically lists the reasons that they
can leave the company, the employer could challenge their resignation and try to initiate legal
proceedings—but I don’t advise that,” Reshma said.
Hopefully, they can make an offer to their No. 2 candidate, the runner-up who is now the top
choice.”
How to Prevent Candidates’ Rescinding Job Acceptance
This can be a great opportunity for feedback and critical awareness about what may need to
change about the job’s terms and conditions or the company’s recruiting process, especially if
it’s happening with the same roles, hiring manager or recruiter.
“It could be that the offer is too low, or working conditions are not attractive. The candidate’s
perspective gives you additional ammunition when you go to the hiring manager and ask him or
her to re-evaluate how they think about the positions,”.
For example, if the salary was too low, the organization may be able to offer other perks and
benefits that satisfy the candidate’s needs, Reshma said.
Reshma added that successful recruiters will identify any pain points the candidate has about
the role or the company early in the process and reassure the candidate on those concerns. “Do
everything you can to shorten the process, sell the socks off the offer and make the candidate
feel wanted,” she added.
The hiring process of the company can be refined so that by the end of it the candidate and
hiring manager can make a mutually confident, well-informed decision.
“The interview is not just a time for us to get to know the candidate,” Aparna said. “It is an
opportunity for the candidate to learn about us too, including the company, the team they would
be working with, and additional details and expectations of the role. We don’t sugarcoat
anything, and we offer a lot of transparency. From the first conversation, we discuss the good,
the bad and the ugly. If a candidate has made it to the point where we’re ready to extend an
offer, it is likely they are in it for the long haul.”
Recruiters can also probe candidates about their job search. “Be sure to ask throughout the
interview process what other opportunities they have considered and how your opportunity
compares. In today’s highly competitive market, it’s important to realize there may be others
wooing them even after they’ve accepted an offer, including their current employer.”
A well-developed onboarding program, which starts once the candidate accepts the job offer, is
also important, Aparna said.
“Once the candidate has accepted the offer, we stay in contact with them until their first day,”
Reshma said. “We onboard outside technical representatives once a month, so sometimes we
have to keep a candidate engaged for a month. Their recruiter reaches out to them on a weekly
basis to check in and maintain the excitement of joining the team. We know we have to keep
them engaged so they don’t start to look at other options.”