June 4, 2012

Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?

Filed under: For Managers, Hiring, Q&A, Readers' Forum, Recruiting, Stuff I worry about, Stupid HR Tricks, The job offer

In the June 5, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a guy gets honorably discharged from the military, carries a secret clearance, but has a misdemeanor conviction from 2003 for which he’s done probation. He gets a job offer. Then the nightmare begins:

Today I received a job offer from a large, well-known and respected company. I have a misdemeanor criminal conviction from 2003. I told the headhunter about the conviction. I put it in the application before my interview. I put it in the e-application for the background check. I even discussed it with the HR person that was giving me the offer.

After discussing the conviction, she extended me a verbal offer. At the end of the call, I accepted the offer. She welcomed me to the team and said I will get all the details after the background check clears. After the phone call, I turned down a competing job offer from another company and told my headhunters that I am no longer on the job market.

Less than an hour later, the HR person called me back and said she has to withdraw the offer because my three-year probation was cleared in 2006. Since that’s less than the company’s policy permits — seven years — I am ineligible for the job. The company’s security regulations would prevent me from gaining access to their campus.

The job posting required that the applicant must qualify for a government secret clearance. I was just honorably discharged from the military, where I held a secret clearance that I was able to renew after my misdemenor conviction.

It seems quite unethical to extend an offer prior to assuring that the information that I provided multiple times wasn’t an issue. This should have been caught well before I got the interview. Is this legal?

My Advice

This sounds like you got the shaft, but it’s a bit more complicated, based on the information you’ve provided.

I published your story in this week’s Ask The Headhunter e-mail newsletter, but I did not publish my advice and comments because I wanted to challenge our community to figure this one out. I asked subscribers to think about your story, and then come to the blog ready to post their take on it.

  • Did HR give this job applicant the shaft?
  • What went wrong?
  • How could this situation have been handled better?

Here’s how I see it.

HR blew it.

While it was nice of the enthusiastic HR lady to give you the offer on the phone, she jumped the gun when she “welcomed you to the team.” You weren’t on the team yet, and she had no business implying you were. Someone needs to call her on the carpet.

The HR lady tipped you off.

The key to this entire unfortunate episode lies in this sentence: “She welcomed me to the team and said I will get all the details after the background check clears.” That meant she made you a contingent offer. It was not bona fide. That is, it was dependent on the background check. In other words, you had no offer to act on.

You jumped the gun.

I always tell job applicants who “get an offer,” to never, ever, ever resign their old job, or turn off other opportunities, until they’ve been on the new job for two weeks. Sounds kind of extreme, eh? Yah, well, so’s what happened to you. While odds are pretty good that a job offer will turn out fine, the enormity of the consequences if anything goes wrong is why no one should do what you did. [Correction: My bad on a poor turn of phrase that confuses two issues — when to turn off other job opportunities and when to resign your old job. Please see my comment about this below.]

Before even orally accepting the offer, you should have waited for a bona fide offer in writing, signed by an official of the company.

Before setting aside other opportunities (because there is no sure thing), you should have completed the company orientation, met your new boss, started the job, and ensured nothing goofy was going on at your new job. I’ve seen many people quit new jobs within the first two weeks. It takes that long to… well… make sure nothing’s goofy. You don’t want to be out on the street with nowhere to go if the new job goes south. (Likewise, an employer should not stop recruiting and interviewing just because a candidate accepts its offer.)

You did the right thing, again and again.

You disclosed, from the start and throughout the interview process, that you had a misdemeanor conviction. That takes guts, and it was the smart thing to do. The company had an obligation to be as candid with you, and to disclose its policy about hiring people convicted of crimes. It had no excuse for not detailing its policies once you made your disclosures.

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  • Investigate privately-held companies — Here’s the secret!
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Don’t waste your time with the wrong employers! These methods are all in
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But somebody didn’t do their job.

As soon as this employer learned about your conviction, HR should have pulled out its policy book and mapped it to your situation before making you an offer. The HR lady explained the policy clearly to you — too late!

What bunch of numbnuts knows it’s got a policy issue from the start, but ignores the implications of its policy? Especially because you were so candid and forthright about your problem, HR should have had the background check completed far sooner, and should have inquired about the dates of your conviction, sentence, and the resolution.

(I’m waiting for someone to suggest that, for legal reasons, the background check could not be done until you accepted the offer. That would be a good trick — accepting an offer for a job that company policy prohibits you from accepting.)

Who’s on the hook now?

I think the HR lady is on the hook. She should have made it crystal clear to you that the job offer was not yet bona fide, and that it was contingent on the background check. I think she should have even gone so far as to advise you not to take any other action until the check was confirmed. She blew it. She should be on the hook, but you’re the one who got hurt.

You’re on the hook because you rejected another (more bona fide?) job offer, and notified the headhunters that you’re no longer a candidate for a job.

Most important, this company’s HR practices are on the hook, and they need to be gutted and cleaned.

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  • HR demands too much private information, like your salary history. But two can play this game!
  • HR throws a “behavioral interview” at you.
  • Online job application forms — learn to get past them.
  • HR gets between you and the decision maker. Learn how to go straight to the hiring manager!
  • The HR rejection letter: Why you should reject it!
  • And more!

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Doubling HR Costs: Time to change company practices.

Poor HR practices are what make HR executives scream that, “There’s a talent shortage!” Well, here’s the talent, fresh out of the military, worthy of a job offer, but… Aren’t an honorable discharge and a fresh secret clearance enough to merit more careful treatment when the company is looking at an applicant who qualifies for a secret clearance?

Now where’s the talent shortage? In HR.

HR spent a lot of company money to process this hire — only to stumble at the last minute. Now HR will spend the money again on another candidate. HR costs just doubled in this case. I wonder what the board of directors would have to say? Because HR will sweep the mistake under the rug, along with all the other good candidates HR lost because:

  • An otherwise excellent applicant’s keywords “didn’t match;”
  • A wise applicant didn’t want to disclose her salary history;
  • A highly motivated applicant dared to contact the hiring manager directly;
  • HR interviewed the engineering applicant but doesn’t understand engineering;
  • The applicant seems a bit old;
  • The applicant refused to meet with HR until he first interviewed with the hiring manager;
  • And on and on… through the myriad wasteful practices we discuss on this forum that cost companies good hires every day…

It’s time for this company — and many companies — to take a good, hard look at HR practices because good talent is not easy to come by.

Whose bad?

That offer was no offer, so give it back! Has an employer ever given you a job offer, then rescinded it? Why? What was the reason? What did you do? What’s your take on this reader’s experience?

: :

147 Comments on “Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer?”
By John J
April 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

I had a job offer, accepted, and then had contingencies added after acceptance. So, I then added my contingency as well. That opens a back door for me, should I want to refuse the verbal offer. I sent an email thanking the HR officer for the contigency offer, and spelled out what their additional hoops were, then added my own (which is not inappropriate). No letter has been received, and only a verbal offer was extended. I have certainly learned from past experiences. No offer should be extended, accepted, and then have additional contingencies added. It is a red flag to me. I have to protect my family, my future, and my financial stability. If they rescind the offer, that is certainly their perogative. If I decide to rescind my acceptance, that is my perogative. The contingent offer is only a potential offer, as the entire process has not completed, and either party can pull out. Lesson learned: ALWAYS leave a back door for yourself. No one will protect your interests, but you!

By Nick Corcodilos
April 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

@John J: Nice work. And my compliments on seeing a verbal offer for what it is. Even if a verbal/oral offer is preliminary to the written offer, I think the employer needs to stick to the terms it presents. You were smart to leaven the new, contingent version with your own contingencies. I’d love to know the outcome. I’d guess 70-30 chance they will drop the matter entirely, having been shocked that you’d dare to introduce your own contingencies. Hope I’m wrong. But you’re right to factor their behavior into any decision you make. It’s not a good sign.

By VP Sales
April 26, 2013 at 11:27 am

“Sometimes you (refers to HR, my addition) just do not know all the ramifications of a policy until you are faced with it and have to respond, especially when it is a negative response”

As a hiring manager, I am recoiling in horror from this statement. If HR doesn’t understand the ramifications of HR policies, what value do they bring to the table in the hiring process?

For Stuart
” on the day the prospective employee is to report for work, the company is told that the “new employee” has used the job offer to leverage a pay raise at their current (or another) company and won’t accept the position”

The employee has acted unethically by waiting until the start date to inform the hiring employer s/he is not accepting. Furthermore, there is usually a time window for acceptance of an offer which would predate the start date by at least 2 weeks, speaking generally, so such a scenario is unlikely.

There is nothing unethical about using a job offer to leverage your present position. Thats called competition.

By Henry
May 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

” a large, well-known and respected company”

Something is wrong here. Large and well-known ok. But respected ?

If the company was respectable, they would have never behaved like that. They would have found a solution, whatever the legal aspects, if they really wanted you.

The fact is: You have been taken for a commodity. They haven’t respected you. For them, you’re just another expendable commodity.
Never quit or leave another offer before having signed or started in the new company and beware of H.R, this profession gather one of the highest rate of incompetent and dishonest people on earth. Plus, they decide of nothing, they are just in betweens.

By Henry
May 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hello there,

here is a nice story in the same style. After a round of several interviews, the manager of a company tells me I am at the last stage of the process and I should get an answer next Monday. He also confirms that I am in the last 2 candidates and a choice will be made among this two.

Next Monday arrives and, nothing, no call, no email. I then conclude I haven’t been selected.
On Tuesday I send an email to be sure and have a confirmation by email.
I receive apologetic answer asking me to be patient until Friday.

Thursday evening after dinner, I receive an unexpected call from the H.R guy. To my surprise he offers me the job ad we have a conversation for 1 hour and a half. I accept and start to negotiate a bit for the salary.
He tells me that he will call me back tomorrow Friday with an answer about the negotiation, and that I will receive a series of documents with a formal offer (the outcome of the negotiation itself didn’t seem to be a hindrance).
Friday comes: nothing.
I wait after the week-end, and I send an email on Monday about our conversation and his offer and follow-up. I put his boss in copy.

No answer.

This is not a well-known, large respected company, but it doesn’t change anything. I have been taken also for an expendable commodity.
If an employer can’t deliver on these type of promises and schedule, if they don’t respect their word and don’t respect you, there are good chances that they will never do if you ever get the job…

My advice: if it smells fishy, it is probably fishy. Run away.

By Nick Corcodilos
May 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

@Henry: I love your story. The company and the HR wonk are so pathetic. An hour and a half on the phone. Then the rest of their careers with their heads up their… well, you know. You can’t make this stuff up, it’s so absurd.

By Kristi
May 29, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I was offered a job last Friday through a temp agency. The position was temp to hire, and I went for a job interview with the prospective employer. The interview went well. While driving home from the interview, the temp agency called me and said I was offered the position, and it started the following Monday. So I accepted.
The temp agency said to stop by Tuesday (Mon was a holiday) and get the paperwork for a drug screen and background check. I passed the drug test, and have nothing on my background, I was just fingerprinted and had a background check done 8 months ago to work as a substitute school bus driver, so I am sure there was nothing.
The following day, (today) Wednesday, (5 days after the offer) the temp agency called to say that the employer just got out of a meeting and was told they are on a hiring freeze and cannot hire anyone right now. What? Really?
Then she said, of course, you’re on the top of our list if anything comes up. This just seems wrong, as does the other stories I’ve read in the previous posts. So, of course, I had called family and friends, told my supervisor I got a new job and it started on the following Monday… I really needed a full time job and was so happy and relieved to finally be offered one. Now, I’m mortified. I’ve never had this happen to me, and didn’t know they could do this, but I didn’t get anything in writing. I see I’m not the only one who felt they were treated like a commodity. The hiring freeze reason sounds like an evasive excuse to me, but I really don’t know. So, that’s my story. I’ll remember this the next time I’m offered a job, and wait to celebrate after I have something in writing and have worked there for a couple of weeks. I sincerely feel for everyone who posted with similar experiences, or anyone reading this article who has had to go through having a job rescinded. It’s an awful feeling.

By Eddie
May 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

My experience with temp jobs are they are what they are. No one in their right mind would leave a perm for a temp. If you were going from a temp to a temp, not much was lost. The idea of going from temp to perm is a yesteryear idea that today is delusional at best.

By Nita
October 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I was offereda position after working for a company during my internship. Thè President and I sat down discussed the details( ie, salary, wages, start date). We both agreed verbally.

Then was notified there would be background check and drug screen. I was very up front with a past conviction over 7 years ago. She ask me was all that behind me. She said that wouldn’t have bearing on hiring me but, she need consult with her colleagues.

Received an email saying she appreciate me being honest but regret have withdraw the offer. The background check or drug screen wasn’t even conducted.
Can a potential employer withdraw before the background check is done or can they just by what I told them?

By Nick Corcodilos
October 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm

@Nita: Employers are very cagey in situations like this. You sometimes run into managers who just won’t take a chance, no matter how forthright the candidate is. An employer can stop the process any time it wants to, and you’ll never know why. It’s really sad – a company can lose out on a very good hire without even discussing the details.

Not all employers will behave like this. Don’t let the experience sour you. Keep looking for a better employer. And remain honest about your past if you are asked. The best employers will respect that, and you need just one good employer to move your career ahead.

By Kari Aguilar
December 28, 2013 at 6:21 am

I got offered a job and even signed my paperwork. when I got out of the room from filling it out nobody was around so I put it in the hr box and left as the person in charge said to do. The next day I wait to start and they said I needed to redo the paperwork. When I got there they gave me the handbook and told me to read and sign it but that I needed my high school diploma, a dmv printout, and another set of fingerprints. I already did them for the credential I was applying for and had to pay again. I was supposed to start teaching in the prison. Also, they required a verification letter stating that I met the credential requirements which they had and my college transcripts as well. The lady from hr said I needed the actual diploma from my University as well. I had to order it and it was xmas vacation so the high schools were closed. These documents were never needed until 4:00 p.m. on Wed. And suddenly they had to be in by Friday just a day and a half later. I had to have the wardens approval to have another job so I quit my tutoring position, and I now have to pay a nanny for two weeks that I hired because I have a special needs daughter. I lost near $350.00 with the fingerprints and credentialing fees and when I went to turn it in on monday they said it was not in by Friday even though they never gave me that deadline and that they chose another candidate. I am in the middle of a divorce and have two children, one with special needs and I wonder if that’s allowed to happen?

By Maggie
February 25, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Never mind whether it’s in writing. Don’t turn off your other recruiters and sources until you’ve actually started the job. I have had everything signed and sealed, on-boarded, everything ready to go and still not gotten a start date–TWICE in a row now. The first one, the hiring manager just changed her mind about needing anyone. Her HR department and my recruiter were as astonished as I was. and now I’m sitting on another similar situation. No date to start because it’s a remote position with a bank, and they need to get me their laptop. I was supposed to start 10 days ago. Here I am now, still waiting on the equipment with no clue how much longer it’s going to take. Again, I shut down all my other connections, told contacts I had accepted a job, so who knows what has passed me by. I’ve been out of work 6 months and my bank is just about empty at this point, and I’m still waiting for the Big Name Bank to get their act together. And yes, this is after the background check, fingerprinting, and everything cleared. The contract is signed, but I still have no work.

By Alexander
May 29, 2014 at 1:45 am

My situation is much smaller scale and I’m probably younger then most of the people here, but it can in a way relate to this. I was working at a job where I made more money then most people my age, but my co-workers were bad, and the owner was even worse. I got another job offer, a little less money but what seemed like a much better environment. I put in notice I would be leaving the first job and instead of working the two weeks the owner thanked me for my service and told me to leave. I thought it was fine because I started the other job immediately anyway. So I thought. The GM at the new job was going to call me three weeks ago, didn’t, I called twice a day for a week and she was unavailable every time. I went in and spoke to her and she apologize for not getting back to me and said she would call me the next day, she didn’t. I continued to call twice a day and still haven’t spoken to her. I now find myself out a job offered to me, unable to go back to the job I left for it, and in need of funds.

By Drea
July 1, 2014 at 7:58 pm

I had a similar situation happen to me, which left me unemployed. I want to know if any of you are honest about what happened at your next interviews you go on after you lost your job. I am torn & don’t know if honesty is always the best way to go!?!?

By Jacmel291
July 9, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Just accepted a verbal offer but of course it was contingent based of my background check.

I was arrested earlier this year and later the case was dismissed. I got so paranoid, when I accepted the offer that ended up telling the hiring manager what he may see on the background check.

Was this stupid to tell the truth, because now I opened up a can of worms, and they could potentially take back the offer.

By Nick Corcodilos
July 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

@Jacmel291: Do you think a background check would not turn up the arrest? It seems you disclosed it because you thought it would – a smart choice, I think. Would it be better if the manager found out about it through the investigation?

By Jacmel292
July 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Hi Nick,

Thanks for getting back. I feel better explaining it to the hiring manager, then them looking at a report and making judgements.

Either way I guess I need to wait for an outcome. It sucks because they did not inquire about arrest on the application. I would have disclosed it then, instead of going to all these interviews and getting accepted.

Who knows, maybe they will see past that!


By David
July 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

Hi Nick i was given appointment lettet on 2011 den later company had to freeze the post and i was told to wait until the post are open again.then they wil proces my staff they didnt until they take me out f company 2014.what can i do to gey help

By Edward
July 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

I tentatively accepted a job on a verbal offer. They would accept me on passing conditional background check and would get back to me. They were quite open verbally with the results. I passed the drug screening, had no arrest records, They went so far as checking my driving record (only one non moving traffic violation- no problem). However they said there is “area of concern”, specifically my climate change activism with local groups and feel this could be a hangup with senior management. I have yet to hear back from them.
Nick, I am flummoxed why this would be a problem. These are civil liberties,s not criminal activities. Have you ever encountered this before?

By Nick Corcodilos
July 26, 2014 at 11:12 am

@Edward: Unless your climate activity somehow conflicts with the job (I doubt it), my guess is that senior management has strong political biases. They’re behaving like idiots. You may have a discrimination case. If you think so, talk with an attorney. I’m frankly surprised they disclosed that their politics influenced their decision. Unless your activities would adversely affect the job, I think what they’re doing is inappropriate. I’ve seen this sort of thing before, but the employer usually hides the bias.

By sonia
August 1, 2014 at 1:11 pm

I applied to a hospital. I told him about my crimal history.sof 2 days after the offer me the job. Tells me to come for phsical and orientation. Gives me start datw.20 mins minutes before I start my physical and drug test they call me and says he got the background check and it need further review. And denied me the job. Is that legal

By Nick Corcodilos
August 1, 2014 at 1:35 pm

@sonia: Employers usually have a lot of leeway when hiring, and they usually will not explain for fear you’ll use it against them. You’d have to talk with a lawyer to get specific advice. You might start with your state’s dept of labor — ask them what they think. And that won’t cost you anything. I hope you didn’t quit another job to take this one.

By sam gallezzo
August 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm

And now you know why people show up at the workplace with a shotgun.

By Dan Webster
September 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Alexander, I understand exactly where you are coming from. 2 weeks ago, I turned in an application and interviewed. Then, I get a call 1 week later saying for me to give my notice to my current employer. The new job offer is pulled, after my position is filled at my old job! How do people sleep at night doing nonsense like this??? I think the old saying is true, if it smells fishy, it is.

By Can Employer Withdraw Job Offer | Develop My Career
November 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

[…] Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer ? – … – By Eric Cole June 5, 2012 at 1:51 am Hi Nick. Interesting conundrum, this. I agree that the HR lady is mostly responsible for extending the offer before she had …… […]

By Dave
January 16, 2015 at 2:10 pm

I am angry I just had a company make me a job offer gave me an e-mail saying welcome aboard and then gave me a start date had me come in fill out all the paperwork W2, do the contract, direct deposit pay days and all that and then later in the evening at 7:00PM after 4 days of having the offer they withdrew the offer. I turned in my resignation to my present job 4 Days ago is there anything I can do the please that gave me the job and then after I filled out all the paperwork tell me I don’t have a job

By Nick Corcodilos
January 16, 2015 at 6:25 pm

@Dave: If you live in an at-will employment state, there may be little you can do. Legally, it’s no different from you working there a year and being let go. They can do. But I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I suggest two things. First and cheapest, contact your state’s department of labor and employment. Ask them whether you have recourse. Second, find a good employment lawyer and go talk to him. I’m very sorry to hear you’ve been hung out to dry like this. It sucks.

Why did this happen? You’ll probably never know. Best contender guesses: (1) the company had a last-minute reversal and lost some business and now doesn’t need you. (2) Something came up in your background at the last minute, they don’t like it, but they’ll never tell you what it is because they don’t want to argue about it with you. But you’ll never know.

By Candice
February 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm

So I do not have a criminal record, never been to jail. I applied for a job, interviewed twice, then called in for a tour of the facilities, made an offer, excepted, & ask when could I start. Told them I could start right away on the next orientation. Well, she stated she was sending paperwork to HR. Called me two days later to tell me how much I was getting paid then asked for references. Called me back said everything looks good, I am waiting for HR to give me a start day. Never got the official letter though & this was a surgery center. After that last call I received two texts asking me when I could start, told them again now. No reply, no call back. So I waited patiently because I figured they were doing a background check. To this day they have not returned my 1 phone call or email. Not even to say they change their mind, filled the position. Nothing. LOL! Trust me I did not wait I just moved on. Can I sue them for wasting my time. They have copies of all my important documents. I-9, voided check, driver license, immunizations, references, etc. So can I sue because during that process, I did pass on 3 other jobs paying much more.

By Candice
February 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm

So I do not have a criminal record, never been to jail. I applied for a job, interviewed twice, then called in for a tour of the facilities, made an offer, excepted, & ask when could I start. Told them I could start right away on the next orientation. Well, she stated she was sending paperwork to HR. Called me two days later to tell me how much I was getting paid then asked for references. Called me back said everything looks good, I am waiting for HR to give me a start day. Never got the official letter though & this was a surgery center. After that last call I received two texts asking me when I could start, told them again now. No reply, no call back. So I waited patiently because I figured they were doing a background check. To this day they have not returned my 1 phone call or email. Not even to say they change their mind, filled the position. Nothing. LOL! Trust me I did not wait I just moved on. Can I sue them for wasting my time. They have copies of all my important documents. I-9, voided check, driver license, immunizations, references, etc. So can I sue because during that process, I did pass on 3 other jobs paying much more.

By Candice
February 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm

So I do not have a criminal record, never been to jail. I applied for a job, interviewed twice, then called in for a tour of the facilities, made an offer, excepted, & ask when could I start. Told them I could start right away on the next orientation. Well, she stated she was sending paperwork to HR. Called me two days later to tell me how much I was getting paid then asked for references. Called me back said everything looks good, I am waiting for HR to give me a start day. Never got the official letter though & this was a surgery center. After that last call I received two texts asking me when I could start, told them again now. No reply, no call back. So I waited patiently because I figured they were doing a background check. To this day they have not returned my 1 phone call or email. Not even to say they change their mind, filled the position. Nothing. LOL! Trust me I did not wait I just moved on. Can I sue them for wasting my time. They have copies of all my important documents. I-9, voided check, driver license, immunizations, references, etc. So can I sue because during that process, I did pass on 3 other jobs paying much more.

By Josh
February 17, 2015 at 2:52 pm

I have been unemployed for four months. I am a software engineer. My job search got very busy mid-late January and I found myself going on interviews almost every day and when I wasn’t interviewing I was on the phone almost all the time. This culminated into receiving two written job offers. Over twenty years ago when I was 18 years old I got in a lot of trouble for braking into a grocery store at night which resulted in felony convictions for burglary and larceny. This has not been a problem for me professionally in at least 15 years. Upon receiving the job offers, I informed the company about the felonies. Mostly I just wanted to double check and not decline the offer just to find out my background check would prevent me from working at the one I had chosen. I was told that since it was so long ago and I was clearly a different person that it would not be a problem and so long as my background checks didn’t show anything more recent I wouldn’t have a problem. So I accepted the offer on a Friday and then on Wends I received a call stating that they had to rescind the offer because they have customer contracts about not hiring convicted felons. I was told that the problem was that I told them about it, and told them in writing. That the background check only goes back 7 years but since I had exposed it they feared a possible legal problem. I have proven myself over and over since my troubled youth. I have done very well professionally and have been a cub scout den leader as well as a soccer coach for my kids. I have worked with three people at the company in the past. This is all so crazy. Not only did I decline the other offer, which now is not available, but I took myself off the market, telling people I had accepted an offer. I had even updated my Linked in profile. Now I need to start all over and now have some kind of explanation as to what happened. I lost nearly two weeks of job search time between the time the first offer was made and the time my offer was rescinded. Ugh!!

By Nick Corcodilos
February 17, 2015 at 4:41 pm

@Josh: I’m very sorry to hear this. The way this usually goes is, the company withdraws the offer because the candidate FAILS to disclose a conviction. “If you’d been honest about it, we’d have hired you.”

This is a really pathetic spin: “We can’t hire you because you told the whole truth.” I smell a lawyer who errs on the side of total idiocy.

I’d see a lawyer myself. While there may be nothing you can do in an at-will state, something tells me that what the employer disclosed to you may put it in another kind of jeopardy. But I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

I don’t get the feeling you’re a litigious person, and I don’t recommend legal action lightly. But this is wrong and it’s very stupid. Think about it. Most lawyers will do an initial consultation at no charge. If you talk to one, get a good referral.

Stories like this drive me nuts. I suppose this employer will now modify its job descriptions to read, “Slightly honest candidates only, please.”

By Timothy Monk
April 2, 2015 at 10:40 pm

I was given a written contract of employment by Americold logistics by their lead manager. In which I signed and he signed. And upon the results of my background which as this gentlemen did as well, I openenly told them about my felony charge, and explained the situations to the fullest. I was told don’t worry about it. They refuse to return my call whatsoever. So I was forced to contact labor and industries and they send the job denial in a email. their dodging me like a bullet since I requested my drug test result and the signed contract.

By Alice Johnson
August 5, 2015 at 10:09 am

My son has a felony conviction on his background. He has been applying for jobs since February & has gotten 12 job offers (written). All of them have been rescinded when he tells them of his background. These are IT jobs at good companies who only want the best.It doesn’t matter that he has a college degree, 10 years award winning work experience & great references.The conviction was not job related or violent.
He had an offer for a contract to hire from a big box home improvement store & was told by the recruiting rep that the recruiting firm only ran background checks if the client required it. This client didn’t but my son had told the rep about his background anyway. The next day he got an email saying the offer was rescinded due to background.
There is a personal bias in hiring. A conviction on your record will almost always result in a flush. This is legal discrimination. I could understand the concern if the conviction was job related or violent but when it isn’t, who benefits from the denial of employment?

By Nick Corcodilos
August 5, 2015 at 9:07 pm

@Alice: This is an example of rank bias and stupidity. HR plays it safe, not smart. I’ll take your word that your son’s conviction creates no risk for an employer today. So I’ll suggest he talk with a good employment lawyer. He may have enough examples to make a case for discrimination.

By Katie
August 22, 2015 at 5:56 am

I was told I had the position at Kia in the parts department. The manager discussed salary and benefits. He informed me of my schedule and asked when I would be able to start. He had me read the employee hand book as he went and copied my drivers license and social security card. He then returned to tell me I had the position as soon as my motor vehicle record came back clear. He told me he would call me then to go take a drug test and let me know when I could start. A week later he called to say my mvr was fine but the owner of the company wanted to interview me. I went to the interview with the owner and she informed me that she had other candidates to interview. I have not heard from them since that time.

By Andrew Lee
September 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Your blog has been a great help for me. Thank you!

I recently had an interview, I felt there’s click with the hiring manager and so does he. I confessed to him that I have a misdemeanor conviction (related to theft, almost 5 years ago) after our 2nd interview. He didn’t tell me no and said I may need to talk to HR. They ran background check and sure it showed on the report. HR has been calling me today and want to talk to me. I want to ask if you have any advises on how should I talk to HR about the conviction that may help me to win a job offer?
Thank you again!!!

By Jennifer
October 30, 2015 at 7:57 am

I have a question. I applied for, interviewed for a position with a nonprofit organization. I was told they needed to consult their director etc about my employment. A background check was done (it’s clean) and 2 days after the interview I was verbally offered the job on the phone. We set a start date of 2 weeks so I may give notice at my current job, salary was discussed and we had a quite lengthy talk. The next day I received an email that my BA was not in an acceptable field. My BA is in Education. They are telling me my BA needed to be in a Human Services field (isn’t Education!?). This position needed 4 years experience. I have 11. Why interview me?! My education did not change in 2 days. This feels unethical and possibly illegal. Advice?

By What Kind Of Job Am I Qualified For Quiz | Informantion
December 8, 2015 at 5:18 am

[…] Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer? – … – … as the supply of motivated and qualified job seekers … Nick Corcodilos: Pop Quiz: Can an employer take back a job offer? … 14 am I had a job offer, … […]

By satya
January 7, 2016 at 11:21 pm

I am very much impressed with the suggestions you have provided to the readers in tackling salary negotiations.

I have a question where I am in a situation:

1. I have been interviewed with a company recently and surprisingly they did reference check, back ground check and offer approval took 3 weeks and i was not informed about the feedback in the whole process and my salary expectation was taken only initial application where i mentioned if atlas they can match my current salary. so finally one day Recruiter suddenly called me and told me he has good news and read the job offer details including base, sign on and some stocks. He asked me how the offer was and I was satisfied with the overall offer and said it looks good even i mentioned that if i get 5K more in my base, i would be more happy but i told him it is fine since the approval process is taking more time.
He asked me again if i was verbally accepting the offer and asked me about my start date and said he will send me offer letter.
I regretted to accept the job offer on the spot and could have asked one more day to review and even forgot to ask the details in writing.
Next day ,i asked for his appointment and told this is really great company and generous offer, but i asked him when will i be eligible for salary increase, in this year or i have wait for next fiscal year. he said he needs to get this information from manager. i also asked him if it is very negative to ask for another 5K increase and if he has any flexibility in his hand, he said it is not in his hand and need to go to review panel and he also said they will not rescind the offer but they might either not agree or come back with some adjustments overall if not in base salary.
but he said first he will find out if i am eligible for salary review in this year and get back to me next day and said we can decide on the next step to ask for salary increase and i agreed.

can you please suggest if he comes back and says, I will be eligible in this year, should i just finalize the offer process or still ask him to find about the 5K base salary increase?

is my approach correct?

Can you please provide your suggestion asap?

Thanks in advance


By Nick Corcodilos
January 8, 2016 at 11:37 am

@satya: Until you have an offer in writing signed by the employer, none of this means anything. You cannot negotiate without a firm offer. Get it writing first, then you can negotiate. Otherwise, I think the recruiter is playing games with you.

Even if he gives you a written offer, any promises about a raise later on are not binding unless they are in writing. Get it all in writing. Do not let yourself be badgered by the recruiter.

By satya
January 8, 2016 at 12:12 pm

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your reply. The recruiter has sent me the high level details of the offer in email. Is this good enough? Can I ask for more salary even after verbally accepting the offer?

By Nick Corcodilos
January 8, 2016 at 8:23 pm

@satya: Do you have a letter from THE EMPLOYER that says something like, “We are pleased to offer you the job of X for compensation of $Y, and the terms are…”? Is the letter signed? An e-mail is not an offer. The letter may be a PDF, but it should be on letterhead and signed. I’m assuming this is in the U.S. I don’t know all the business customs in other countries – but to me, an offer must always be in writing and signed by an authority at the employer.

You are free to negotiate any time you want to, until you either accept or refuse the offer. Then it’s over.

“Verbally” accepting an offer that is not bona fide (written and signed) is no more real than a “verbal” offer. That’s my opinion.

Often, recruiters play a game. They “tell” you the offer, and insist on a verbal acceptance. But there is nothing to accept unless the offer is complete and properly and fully delivered as a COMMITMENT from the employer.

I would ask the recruiter for a written, signed offer letter.

By Tabatha
January 12, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Hi I recently applied for a job at a city hospital in the Bronx, I was called back interviewed with the supervisors and head doctors and later was verbally offered the position. During this time, I provided references, had a physical done, drug test done, background check, photo ID and everything that entails starting a new job. I went to the hospital HR to finalize the hiring process and was informed verbally that I should put my two week resignation in and was told my official start date would be Jan 11, 2016 and that my offer letter would come by mail. So I gave my previous employer 2 week notice and I resigned from my job. However when I report to my new job on Jan 11, I report to HR as previously instructed to pick up my photo ID and other credentials. I was then told someone must’ve messed up because the hospital was currently in a hiring freeze and my promised job will not be available til end of March! As u can imagine I am devastated upset and have no monies on reserve to cover my household responsibilities I don’t know what to do. I needed that job yesterday not in March! Can I sue them. Can I collect unemployment? The HRs incompetence has cost me my livelihood and someone needs to be held accountable and no the letter hadn’t come in the mail..

By Nick Corcodilos
January 13, 2016 at 10:40 am

@Tabatha: I’m going to reprimand you sternly. Why in heaven’s name did you resign your old job without a bona fide written offer? Because some personnel jockey told you to do it? “Quit, and your offer will be in the mail.”

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but you were foolish to do this. You can talk to a lawyer about recourse, but you face three problems. First, you had no job offer so you can’t sue the company as your employer. Second, while you might claim there was an implied contract in what HR told you, HR will argue they clearly stated they had not yet given you an offer. Third, if employment in your state is at-will, they could fire you right after they hire you. So I don’t see how you can win this.

As to following HR’s instructions to quit, I don’t see how you can sue HR for giving you bad advice or the wrong instructions. Perhaps you can sue for “damages,” but you’d need to ask an attorney about that.


I hear so many stories like this that I want to scream.

By Tabatha
January 13, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Thank you nick for being so blunt, Lesson learned, this will never happen again I am beyond frustrated but this is what happens when I don’t have things in writing. Wish me luck the job search has begun! Upward and Onward

By Nick Corcodilos
January 13, 2016 at 9:00 pm

@Tabatha: I’m really sorry you went through that. I often say what you said in slightly different terms: On to the next! :-) I wish you the best.

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