29 Oct 2018

When an offer is withdrawn...

I can't remember the last time I heard about an offer being withdrawn.  It's certainly a long time so fortunately it's a rare occurrence.   I had a chat last week, however, with a candidate who had got in touch with me about a fortnight previous to that.  The individual had declined interest in a couple of opportunities that I had in the mix saying that they were at an advanced stage with another potential employer and wanted to see how that went before progressing with anything else (I never understand this one....but then I work in recruitment. I genuinely feel that it's not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket and it's good to have multiple options).  Anyway, the candidate had a second interview and was subsequently offered the job.  A couple of evenings later whilst out with family celebrating the offer, the phone rang (during the meal), where-upon the offer was withdrawn.  Not a celebration dinner after all.

This individual had applied directly to the employer and no recruiters were involved in the process.  I'm not sure that it would have made any difference to the outcome but I thought it might be useful to cover off in a blog and to give my insight as to what I'd do in such a situation.

My first tips include:

1.  When a formal verbal offer is made to you, ask for the offer in writing.  Do not consider anything set in stone until you have seen a formal offer letter which will include details of the role being offered to you, the salary, the benefits, details of the probation period and an anticipated start date.
2.  Review the offer letter. Don't be in such a hurry to accept that you don't check the detail and the small-print. 
3.  Contracts.  Probably 60% of my clients give an employee their contract on day one in the job.  However, most are happy to provide it early if you are keen to review it.
4.  Don't resign from a current role until you have the offer in writing.
5.  Wherever possible stay on good terms with your current employer.

This candidate was pretty distraught.  The first question was 'isn't a verbal offer legally binding?'.  Technically, yes.  Most offers are conditional only on the receipt of references and occasionally a medical.   However, the majority of agencies that we work with are independently owned and it's unlikely that anyone is going to spend any money on tribunals or employment lawyers if the offer has not yet made it to a written confirmation*.

I had a bit of a chat with fellow recruiters.  We all agreed it was uncommon but occasionally there were extenuating circumstances. Typically, this would be the lost of a major client in the days before a new employee started in the role.  Only one of my colleagues had ever experienced an offer withdrawal due to unsatisfactory references.  Aside from these circumstances, we were unsure why a client would go through the process of hiring an individual, only to withdraw at the last moment. After all, that's a lot of their time they've used in the process too.

In the present situation, it transpired that there was 'A N Other candidate'.  Which is probably the least professional employment process ever.  Ultimately as I say, there isn't a lot you can do at this point and objectively, the best solution is to find yourself another offer ASAP.  I refer to my earlier point of keeping a few different options on the go so you don't find yourself at a standing start again.

If you have resigned from a role to accept a new offer, it's worth chatting to your existing employer.  They may be prepared to keep you on a freelance basis until they find a new employee (if they haven't already...).  Most would be hesitant to take one back permanently as they'd be nervous that you would be off the minute another offer came in - so you'd need to be persuasive in your negotiation.  However, if your present employer hasn't found a new solution, keeping you on would certainly reduce their recruitment pain and cost and also solve any issues of client continuity. So it is always worth having this conversation.

Seek out new opportunities. Make recruiters aware that you are available immediately and that you will consider interim opportunities aswell as permanent. This may open up new avenues to you and often, these interim options are made permanent but will buy you much needed time to consider other options.

As I said at the start, these situations are incredibly rare. Keep a few options in the mix, don't resign until you've had a formal offer letter and in 99.9% of cases, you'll be absolutely secure in your new employment opportunity.

*Note, I'm no lawyer.  Always seek legal advice from someone qualified!!