Can you withdraw an offer of employment?

8 min read  |   18 December, 2023   By Aimée Brougham-Chandler

A man and a woman sit across a table from each other, reviewing paperwork that appears to be a contract. A laptop and tablet are also on the table. Their heads aren't shown, just their arms.

Withdrawing an offer of employment is a task no company wants to be faced with—especially when you thought you’d found the perfect candidate.

However, sometimes withdrawing a job offer is necessary, so it’s important you’re fully equipped and know how to address the situation.

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Can you withdraw an offer of employment?

Can an unconditional job offer be withdrawn? 

What reasons might an employer have for withdrawing a job offer? 

How to withdraw an accepted job offer 

Withdrawing an offer of employment - letter template

How to withdraw an unconditional job offer once it's accepted

Example withdrawal of employment offer follow-up letter 

What if a candidate changes their mind?


Can you withdraw an offer of employment?

Up until the job offer is accepted by the candidate, the employment offer can be withdrawn at any time. If the offer was conditional, you can also rescind a job offer at any time if it’s found that the conditions set out in the offer haven't been met.

These conditions can include:

  • Failing to hold or provide qualifications specific to that job role

  • Not being able to provide satisfactory references

  • Being unable to demonstrate eligibility to work in the country 

  • Being unable to pass any background checks that have been requested

However, if a job is offered unconditionally (where no conditions are stated as part of the offer) and the candidate accepts, it becomes a much trickier task.


Can an unconditional job offer be withdrawn?

Although it's possible to withdraw the job offer, you could be at risk of being sued for breach of contract. This is because the candidate's employment starts at the point of acceptance, meaning as soon as the offer is accepted, they have the same rights as an employee. This applies if an individual has not started their first day of work, or even received their contract.

It’s also important to remember that this is the case for a verbal job offer and acceptance, as it is considered just as valid as a written job offer.

To avoid any legal issues, it helps to treat the withdrawal of an unconditional job offer in the same way you might treat ending someone’s employment, as this is technically what is happening. This means serving any relevant notice appropriate to the company's policy.

When withdrawing an offer of employment, it’s also essential you are not being  discriminatory. When choosing to withdraw the offer, ask yourself if any of the following have influenced your decision:

  • Age

  • Disability

  • Gender

  • Relationship status

  • Pregnancy and maternity

  • Race

  • Belief

  • Sexual orientation

If any of these aspects have affected your decision to withdraw the offer, you should rethink your decision. Following through with this could also open you up to legal action from the candidate.


What reasons might an employer have for withdrawing a job offer?

It takes plenty of time and effort to find the right candidate in today’s competitive job market. The last thing you want to be doing is putting all that time to waste.

Sadly, sometimes it has to happen. A sudden change in company finances or circumstances can make the offered role unsustainable. Internally there may have been mistakes made as part of the hiring process, such as double filling a position, or improper conduct in the interview process. The offer may even have been sent to the wrong candidate in error.

In rare cases, the withdrawal of a job offer may be necessary because the candidate behaves in a way that causes the hiring team to decide they are not the right fit after all. This could be down to the candidate handling the offer unprofessionally by delaying, being rude to the recruiting staff, or trying to renegotiate the salary offer after accepting the role. 

In other instances, routine checks on the candidate can return a criminal record, failed drugs test, falsified qualifications or unsatisfactory references. This is in part why conditional offers are common for many companies, as a way to protect themselves when hiring new staff.

Regardless of the reason, the withdrawal of a job offer should always be handled professionally. 


How to withdraw an accepted job offer

If you find yourself in the frustrating position of withdrawing a conditional job offer that has been accepted, you must provide evidence that the withdrawal was not discriminatory or unfair. Not only does this ensure your decision was fair, it supports you and your company in any law proceedings. It will also reflect well on the professionalism of your company. 

If you are stuck on how to start, have a look at our sample letter for withdrawing an offer of employment.



Withdrawing an offer of employment - letter template


Dear [candidate’s name],

On [date], you received a job offer for employment with [company name] as [job title]. As stated in your offer letter, employment with our company was dependent upon successfully passing a [e.g., background check], as well as [list additional pre-employment qualifying criteria]. 

During the hiring process, we found that we [e.g., were unable to substantiate information you had provided regarding your previous employers.].

Therefore, this letter serves as formal written notification that your offer of employment given on [date] with [Company name] has been withdrawn. 

We wish you all the best in your future career. 

Yours sincerely,

[Sender’s signature]

[Sender’s printed name]

[Sender’s job title}


Please note that this letter template is meant to be used as informational guidance and doesn't replace or provide formal HR advice. Our network of trusted HR Partners can help with professional HR advice around withdrawing offers of employment. 


How to withdraw an unconditional job offer once it’s accepted

Withdrawing an unconditional offer that has been accepted is much more complex. Once the offer has been accepted, by law the employment contract is considered to have started—so think carefully before you write a job offer letter to a candidate.

If the candidate has already accepted an unconditional offer,  it’s best to call them to discuss the withdrawal of the offer before you send them a formal letter. This is an opportunity to be open and honest about why you are making the tough decision. If it’s an internal error, say so. If it is due to a change in financial circumstances, explain this to them. Most people appreciate recruiters being straightforward, honest and transparent with them. 

Taking the time to approach your candidate in this manner reduces the chance they will feel alienated, and could mean you leave yourself with an opportunity to reach out again in the future, should another suitable role come up.

We also recommend you follow up this call with an official letter, as this shows professionalism while also acting as a formal notice. 


Example withdrawal of employment offer follow-up letter 


Dear [candidate’s name],

On [date], you received a job offer for employment with [company name] as [job title]. 

As discussed in our phone call on [date], we regret to inform you that the offer you received for said position has now been withdrawn. This withdrawal is due to [reason for withdrawal of offer] .

We are communicating this to you to make it clear that acceptance of the offer does not constitute a binding contract and that [Company Name] is under no obligation to provide you with employment or compensation of any kind. 

If you have not yet signed or returned the offer, there is no need to do so.

If you have any further questions, please direct them to [name of HR representative], who may be reached at [phone number] or via email at [email address]. Thank you for your time and understanding.

We wish you all the best in your future career. 

Yours sincerely,

 [Sender’s signature]

[Sender’s printed name]

[Sender’s job title]


What if a candidate changes their mind?

Unfortunately a candidate may also choose to decline a job offer after previously accepting it. Although this can be frustrating, they will most likely have a good reason. Similar to your organisation sending out a letter of withdrawal, you should expect an email or letter from the candidate, detailing the reasons they have chosen to decline the role. 

In response, you should reply and explain how you wish them all the best in their future endeavours. This way you will be able to keep the door open to any later roles in case something else comes up that might be more suitable.


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Author: Aimée Brougham-Chandler

An IDM-certified Digital Copywriter as of February 2023, Aimée is Breathe's Content Assistant. With a passion for guiding readers to solutions for their HR woes, she enjoys delving into & demystifying all things HR: From employee performance to health and wellbeing, leave to company culture & much more.

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