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If you offer a candidate a job, and they accept verbally, but then withdraw 1-2 weeks later, what do workplaces do in this situation?

Is this a big problem that they'd hate the candidate for, or something that happens regularly? Do they call up the other candidates that they already turned down and give them the job (must be an awkward conversation ...) or do they re-do the entire recruitment process?

I did this, and I'd like to know whether it really affected the company badly, or if its something easily dealt with

more information from comments:

No written offer, that's why I declined it, since the salary did not meet my expectations. I got the written offer 1-2 weeks after I accepted it verbally.

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    Different companies will do different things. The real question here is why does it matter to you? Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 16:09
  • Because I did this, and I'd like to know whether it really affected the company badly, or if its something easily dealt with.
    – bukaar
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 16:12
  • @bukaar Was the offer verbal, or was it a written offer with a verbal acceptance? Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 17:02
  • @mhoran_psprep No written offer, that's why I declined it, since the salary did not meet my expectations. I got the written offer 1-2 weeks after I accepted it verbally.
    – bukaar
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 18:25
  • Why did you verbally accept the offer before finding out what salary they were offering you? Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 19:19

5 Answers 5

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No written offer, that's why I declined it, since the salary did not meet my expectations. I got the written offer 1-2 weeks after I accepted it verbally.

Until you got the offer in writing you couldn't actually agree to the terms of the offer. I have done exactly the same thing. They said over the phone they were able to meet my salary needs, but it turns out they were actually low but gave me a small bonus to make up for lower salary. It didn't make up for it and I turned them down when I saw it in writing.

If they were allowed to lock you in based on a verbal offer, they could add anything they wanted to the written offer. They could decide no vacations days, or that you have to work nights.

If the delay was short they will just switch to the next choice. If they know that they need a few days between them notifying a candidate and the deadline to accept, they may try and delay sending a rejection to their second choice just in case the offer is rejected.

Ultimately it is up to them regarding their next steps. Sometimes they have to start over again.

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  • Is 1-2 weeks of waiting time until a contract arrives normal? I know it may depend on the situation (HR people might be on vacation), but you would think they'd be able to send one over instantly.
    – bukaar
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 19:14
  • Depends on the HR department. 1-2 weeks of delay isn't too unusual. I think the unusual thing here is that the contract contained a surprise for you. Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 19:22
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    "They could decide no vacation days, or that you have to work nights." - Would that really be possible in your country (regarding law)?
    – guest
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 19:31
  • I have seen offers that said that because they underbid the contract there would be no 401(k) match and only a week of vacation/sick, and that the only benefits were those they were required by law. This was even true for people who were already employees. Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 19:37
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    @mhoran_psprep: While I don't know what 401 means or which country this is about, a law that allows only one week of vacation seems horrible. Does vacation/sick mean that people who took a vacation are no longer allowed to be sick (?)? If so, this seems especially horrible in covid times.
    – guest
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 20:12
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First and foremost the employer wants to fill their vacancy. They will reach out to someone they declined and say that due to some unforeseen circumstances, they have another vacancy now (just as they would do if you died, or if someone else happened to quit that week) and ask if the person is still available and interested.

Then one of two things will happen. Either they will quickly fill the spot with a great person, in which case when they think of you at all it will be to say "we really dodged a bullet there", which is not very flattering, or they will have a nightmare where all the good people have taken other jobs and they have to re-advertise and re-interview and when anyone thinks of you it will be with resentment and scorn. The absolute best you can hope for is that they will forget you. If you want to work for them someday, but not now, then that's generally a foolish hope.

There is one exception though. If you want to work for them someday, and intended to work for them, which is why you accepted, but then something tragic and enormous happened, you may have a positive path forward. I mean like "both your parents died and you have to move to their city/country to raise your younger siblings" or "you have to be in the hospital for months and then years of rehab" level of enormous. Something that anyone can see at a glance makes it impossible for you to take the job now. If that is your case, you contact them immediately and say "I was so thrilled to be hired by you, and so looking forward to starting, but [thing] has happened and so I cannot. I will let you know when I am available again, in 6 months or a year, and I hope there will be a similar position with you I can be considered for."

If your reason isn't (a) out of your control, (b) something even a person with different cultural norms would instantly agree keeps you from working there, and (c) something with a long enough duration that you're not just asking to delay your start date a few weeks, then don't try this. For example, if you got a better offer somewhere else, go ahead and take it, but understand, that first place will very likely never (well, ok, 5-10 years, people move on) want to talk to you again. It's ok. There are lots of companies.

Tell them as soon as you can, as politely as you can. Don't tell them you got a better offer. Just say "unexpected circumstances." If it's not a better offer, then tell them the reason (need to be closer to my parents after my father's sudden illness, need to move to another country because this one no longer lets my fiancée visit, need a less stressful lifestyle while I recover from a car accident) in the hopes they won't hold it against you too much or for too long.

I see now in comments that your reason is "the salary isn't what I was verbally offered and verbally accepted." I'll leave the rest of this answer in place for other readers, but in your circumstances I would reply "the salary in this letter isn't [salary], which what I was verbally offered and verbally accepted. I can't accept this offer. Perhaps this is a clerical error? I look forward to a written offer that matches the verbal one, so that I can accept it and still start on [agreed date]." Then let them take the next step from there.

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There is no set answer for this; there are too many variables for each company and situation. The most likely case is that the company goes back to the pile of applicants to decide on their next choice.

It happens, and businesses move on with their hiring process. Depending on the company, you may be considered for future positions or put in the "never hire" file.

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  • yeah, a big "it depends", to amend perhaps: The probability of a negative future impact also depends on how the withdrawal happened. Can they understand the reason, were they just ghosted, told as early as the person knew or must they suspect they dragged it out willingly, does it appear to be a better offer or the person being generally flaky etc. pp. Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 16:47
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By accepting a (very vague) verbal offer and by removing yourself from the marketplace in the meantime, you gave them the ability to string you along while they kept on looking for someone with better skills, and/or someone willing accept the job for less money.

In other words, you were their plan B. And don't worry, you were not their only backup plan. By offering you so little money to begin with, that means they were stringing along other potential candidates as well, just in case you refused their low-ball salary offer.

Never accept an offer until you have the final contract in your hands with an actual starting date and an actual salary. Also, never accept to be bound by the terms of an employee handbook you haven't read yet.

In fact, I'd even take it a step further. During this pandemic, assume that all job offers/contracts/starting dates may be retracted, rescinded, changed, or pushed back indefinitely. Do not take yourself off the marketplace until you both signed an actual contract and you actually started your first day on the job.

But at the same time, be verbal in your desire to read the full contract before making a final decision. That will make their HR take you more seriously. And if they don't want to risk losing you, they'll try to make sure to get the final contract to you in less than 24 hours.

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When I make a verbal offer, I let the candidate know they'll be receiving the offer via email by the end of business that day. I also let them know they have 48 hours to respond and to call me with questions so we can discuss. That's called recruiting and making a job offer. It's the candidates job to review the offer and call me if they want to negotiate or have a question about anything. Once it's all good, they sign and return the offer to me.

Now...in your case, you didn't get a written offer for 2 weeks so your turning it down isn't a concern. If hiring were a priority, they would have sent you the offer immediately. They will most likely move on to their number 2 candidate.

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