I've just had an experience that raises this question for me.   As the hiring manager, what can and/or should I do if after interviewing a candidate, making an offer, and receiving verbal acceptance, the candidate then decides to not take up the position.  
Am I within my rights (ethically/legally?) to call him and expect a proper reason for his reversal?  I can't imagine any point in taking punitive or strongarming actions - the results would just be a sour employee.  
But what good is an offer-and-acceptance if it can be reneged on so easily?
Looking forward to hearing your views.


TNoxtort's picture

I'm not a hiring manager. I speak from a perspective of relationships, boundaries, assertiveness.

It's a free country (USA), and people have a right to do what they want. There are consequences. If you don't give people that freedom, you also don't give them the freedom to choose you. I see this problem in relationships all the time. The same is true at work. Some of the concepts I am talking coming comes from a book called Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend - you have a desire, but it is YOUR job job to meet that desire, not someone else.

You have a desire that he would work for you. But that's your desire, not his. I would absolutely NOT call and demand to know why he reneged on his offer. He has that right. Just as he has a right to start working and resign. Just as you have the right to recall an offer. Just as you have the right to fire him three days after he starts.

I might ask yourself - did you offer him a competitive offer? How does your company stack with others? How interested did he appear in the company? At the interview, did you act like you were interested in him as a person, or interested in a body to fill a job. You might call him and express that you felt disappointed and inquire what factors led him to change his mind. I would then just listen, not defend, explain, or excuse. If you put your best out there, you have to feel good. If you didn't then you need to look at the mirror.

It's interesting I was reading another old thread the other day where the hiring manager was upset the candidate tried to negotiate a higher salary. Here's the alternative, where they just leave. I think it comes down to realizing each individual is separate, giving our best, and accepting the decisions they choose. By the way, I would have asked him to submit the offer in writing; it doesn't mean anything, but the act of him writing it down may play with his psychology.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Did you give the candidate an offer in writing? What is your goal at this point? Was this person an out of this world superstar? Where there/are there other good candidates?

pedantix's picture

Nope, it was a verbal offer via the recruiter and accepted via the same channel.  A contract was sent out to him with the agreement that he would bring it signed on his first day.  But really, the point isn't that I'm out to flame him or demand anything of him.  


I'm more interested in what I can take away from this experience.  Listening to the Interviewing Series Mark often says that an offer is a very specific thing, and my understanding is that acceptance of an offer carries a certain weight with it.  So I'm trying to figure out how that plays out when someone accepts but reneges.

TNoxtort's picture

An offer is a very serious thing - but you the employer need to make it writing. I have often received offers via Fedex.

In fact, I irritated my wife about this last year. She had gotten an oral offer; however, as much as she hated her job, and was required to give a 30 day notice, I would not let her resign until she had the offer in writing. It took a while, and she finally got it (she got out of the 30 day requirement by claiming she was resigning due to health reasons).

In fact, the candidate may not have taken you seriously because he never received an offer in writing. As I show in the story of my wife, I would not have.

maura's picture
Training Badge

I think it's worth speaking to the candidate and learning what you can from the situation. 

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the recruiter messed up in some way.  Maybe the candidate had other leads that the recruiter didn't know about, or the recruiter said yes based on your offer falling within predetermined requirements, but without actually talking to the candidate.  Lots can go wrong when there's a middleman involved.  Chances are though, the candidate was simply interviewing with several companies, and got a better offer just after yours came in.  Not saying it's right, but it happens.

Maybe you learn about your interview/offer process, maybe you learn about the recruiter you're working with, and maybe the candidate declines to comment.  But I don't think it will hurt to ask.


asteriskrntt1's picture

Was the recruiter in-house or 3rd party?  Did you call the candidate yourself as well?  I am pretty sure that MT recommends that the hiring manager do the offer and facilitate things as much as possible, not a recruiter.  And the same as a job hunter does not have an offer until it is there in writing, you don't have an employee until the job offer is signed and returned.  How long from the offer being sent did you have until his first day? 

The candidate owes you nothing and doesn't have to give you any feedback.  It is the flip side of when a candidate doesn't get an offer, rarely does the candidate get any feedback about why he/she wasn't chosen/given an offer. 

And let's make this clear. It is an offer.  Not an indentured agreement.  The offer doesn't have to be accepted.  And maybe you were better off with this this situation. Some who does this might be more likely to quit on you after 6 weeks and you have to do the whole process all over again, if you can even get permission to do so.


ChiffaN's picture

I would definitely call him up and double check. Maybe you'd learn something interesting or surprising. I just went to an interview to a company where I applied for a job roughly 5 years back. And of the questions was - "What were my reasons for not accepting the offer all that time ago?". But the funny thing was - I never received any formal offer after that interview. Though according to their internal records - they made one. Go figure.

mtietel's picture
Training Badge

 I once had someone who accepted verbally, then the next day got a better offer somewhere else.  When that fell apart, he came back later in the week and asked if the position was still open.  It was and I thought he would be a "star", so we re-extended the offer and he accepted.

Only to renege again a week later...

And sure enough he came back again a few weeks later and asked if the position was still open.  Even though we hadn't filled the position, I declined to extend the offer again.

I don't think you're entitled to an answer as to why they changed their mind; just let it go and move on.

The one piece you might consider changing is asking for the signed contract to be returned within a reasonable time frame (e.g., two business days) rather than "when you come in on your first day".  That might imply a bit more formality and weight to that part of the process.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

And you're stuck.  The right thing to do is wish them well.  Encourage them to have a great experience wherever they're going.  You can't keep them, so the question really is what kind of relationship you want to have with him (by the way, you offered him) if he works elsewhere.

You're not entitled to a reason...but if you treat him well, I don't see any reason not to ask politely.  If he equivocates, you're not entitled to press.

And, you could legitimately decide I'm going to be thrilled for him, and wish him well, and offer any help, and vow NEVER To hire him nor help anyone in your firm do so, because what he did was legitimately egregious.

And, maybe he's young, and you congratulate him, and wish him well, and then tell him what he did is UNCONSCIONABLE, and he ought to be careful in the future.  The fact that he won't be able to understand how you could be so nice and tell him how poorly he behaved is a reflection of his youth and your professionalism.

ALL THE COMMENTS ABOVE ABOUT WRITTEN OFFERS AND VERBAL OFFERS AND THE LIFE ARE IRRELEVANT.  Don't waste your time with written stuff if you intend to use it to enforce something.  Wasteful and dangerous to your recruiting reputation.  Word will spread.  BAD.

Your recruiter blew it, by the way, and I would assume (this is just me) that he had a hand in it, and I'd not use him again.  Recruiters worth a nickle NEVER conscience what he (apparently) allowed.