A reader writes:
I had a job offer pulled last week, and I’ve reflected on it, but I still don’t know where I went wrong.
I interviewed with my would-be supervisor on Thursday. On Friday, the recruiter calls to extend a verbal offer for the position. I express that this is good news to hear, and I ask for some time to think it over (I intended to accept the job offer, but wanted time to receive/review the written offer letter and an opportunity to negotiate salary). The recruiter says, “Yes sure, would you like to take some time over the weekend to think about it?” I respond, “Yes, I would really appreciate taking time over the weekend. If I have any questions, would it be appropriate to still reach out to you during the weekend?” Then the recruiter made herself (strangely) available by mentioning how her boyfriend is a CEO of some company, so she would somehow also be available and working.
I review the offer letter, which in terms of total compensation package only stated my salary. I call the recruiter back at the end of business day Friday, with the intent to ask her questions about the medical/dental benefits, retirement, time off, holidays, etc. and to negotiate salary. She doesn’t answer, so I write her an email asking her to contact me at her earliest convenience.
The weekend passes and on Monday, I received a call from the recruiter and she states that they are rescinding the offer to move forward with another candidate because “it seems like you didn’t even open or sign the offer letter, and you don’t appear to be as interested in the position as we had hoped.”
I said, “I did review the offer letter and there wasn’t information about health benefits, holidays, and time off, so I wanted to discuss this with you further since these items weren’t stated in the offer letter. And I’m not sure if I misinterpreted our conversation on Friday, but it appeared that taking time over the weekend to think about the offer was appropriate.” She says that she would speak with the team and get back to me. 36 hours later, she calls to say they are rescinding the offer and moving forward with another candidate.
Is there anything I should have done differently? I’m not sure where I went wrong!
Based on this account, you didn’t do anything wrong. Everything you did was textbook standard — you thanked them for the offer, expressed enthusiasm, asked for some time to think it over, and then contacted them the next day with questions.
That’s exactly in line with what you should do when you receive a job offer.
My guess is that one of the following happened:
1. They didn’t include any info about health insurance, time off, or retirement contributions because they don’t offer much on that front at all. Maybe none of it. And they don’t like the audacity of candidates who expect those things.
I’m leaning away from this explanation because most employers who are stingy about benefits will just shamelessly tell you they don’t offer those things when you ask. They might not be transparent about it earlier in the process, but usually by the time they’re making you an offer, they know the jig is up and they have to tell you.
2. Another candidate emerged in those few days, they preferred that person, and they were looking for an excuse to the pull the offer. This one is very possible. Or relatedly, it could be that someone higher-up was putting pressure on them to hire someone else, and when you didn’t accept immediately, that person had more opportunity to push their preferred hire. (“Well, has she accepted yet? No? Then we can still offer it to Cecil Mongoose.”)
3. There was some sort of miscommunication. For example, it’s possible that you didn’t convey your enthusiasm as much as you thought you did or maybe even said something they interpreted as aggressively unenthusiastic, or something else was misunderstood in those conversations. Or who knows what. I do wonder about the recruiter’s statement that “it seems like you didn’t even open or sign the offer letter” — while of course you hadn’t signed anything yet, why do they think you didn’t even open it? Is it possible there was an attachment you missed that did cover their benefits, or that an attachment went missing? This would be an awfully extreme reaction to that, but it’s a weird enough statement that I wondered about that.
In any case, it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. Pulling an offer is a really big deal; it’s something employers should do only when they have a really good reason. These people seem to have done it pretty casually — which says some damning things about them. That means this is probably an employer you wouldn’t want to work for … although if you really needed or wanted the job, I know that’s not much comfort.
One key thing to take away, though, is that normal employers don’t do this. As a general rule, employers don’t pull offers just because you ask for a few days to think it over, ask questions, or try to negotiate salary. So don’t let this make you gun-shy about negotiating or asking for time in the future.
employer rescinded my job offer — where did I go wrong? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.