Dilemma of the Month: Retracting a Job Offer

Back Q&A Sep 7, 2017 By Suzanne Lucas
I recently made an offer to a new director of communications for my company. They asked for a few days to consider our offer, which seemed fair. However, I then found out this individual had posted to Facebook asking friends for feedback on two job offers — one for my company and another for a local competitor. I was horrified that a prospective employee would elicit advice and critique in such a public forum. I want to remove my offer. Any advice on how to tactfully prevent this from happening in the future?

Yes, go back to 1983 when people just asked their friends at dinner parties rather than on Facebook.

If that’s not a possibility, then consider exactly why you are so horrified by the action of this individual. Social media is how people communicate today. Unless they said something horrific about your company or your competitor’s company, this is something you actually want to happen. Here’s why:

Landing a job is not like winning a beauty pageant

If you win a beauty pageant, you’ll most likely never see the people judging you again. But a job? It’s a lot more like getting married to one of those judges. Employees spend more time with co-workers, direct reports and bosses than they do with their spouse. It’s important that everyone is happy with the situation. Would you marry someone without introducing him to your friends? Of course not. So why would you take a job without asking others what they think?

You are subject to background checks the same way your candidates are

If you hired properly, then you probably contacted former bosses and asked questions about the candidate. If someone had said, “They’re great at getting ideas out there, but rude to their staff,” you’d have sent this person a polite “No thank you.”

You, undoubtedly, were on your best behavior during the job interview, and the candidate knows that. They just want to know what it’s really like to work at your company. So, this is their background check on you. It’s easier to ask friends what they know than to ask strangers on LinkedIn.

Your company is (probably) not the best option out there

Most jobs offer good things and bad things, and people are better fits for some jobs and worse fits for others. But, when it comes down to it, people take the best job they can get at the moment. Your company is like your child. You love it and would do anything for it. Your employees may like their jobs — in fact, they may love their jobs — but it’s not their child like it is for you. When the job gets annoying, or something better comes along, they’re going to leave. That’s not a condemnation of your business, it’s just a reality of worklife.

You should be happy your candidate has options

First, this means someone other than you evaluated this candidate and came to the same conclusion — it’s great to have some outside confirmation. Second, if this person accepts your offer, you know it’s because they want to be working for you — not that they didn’t have any other options. That means there’s a better chance for success.

Take this as an opportunity

This depends on exactly how you discovered the Facebook post. If it was posted privately and someone took a screenshot and sent it to you … that’s creepy. Don’t bring it up directly, but do send an email offering to answer any questions they have as they make their decision, and then include some additional reasons why you think they’d be a great fit for your company.

If it was a public post, you can email the candidate and say, “I saw your Facebook post that said you were choosing between us and [competitor]. They are a great company, so you can’t go wrong, but we would really love to have you on our team. If you have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me.” Notice there’s nothing negative about your competitor there, just positive things about you.

Employers have the upper hand, but …

Seeing the Facebook post was probably pretty jarring because you’re used to being the one who makes the decision, instead of being the one decided upon. Employers still have more power in the hiring process, but the information asymmetry is not as great in today’s connected world. With websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and even Yelp, candidates can learn a lot more about your business than they could in years past. You’ve got to up your game and be a better place to work if you want top-notch people to accept your offers. 

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