If you’re considering changing your mind and rescinding a job offer, you probably should – whether or not it has been accepted. The cost of doing so will vary depending upon the circumstances and should impact your decision. But all plans are final until they change. So shame on you if you don’t change your hiring plan based on new information about the person you’re hiring or changing circumstances.

New Information About The Person You’re Hiring

New information about the person you’re hiring can leave you with no choice. But do be careful about what you do with new information that cannot impact your decision by law.


No Choice: Some new information should leave you no choice. If the candidate fails a background check, drug test, or did something else egregious, stop before finalizing the offer. Unwinding these situations should be relatively straightforward, low cost and low risk.


Choice: Some new information should lead you to reconsider and probably change your mind. This includes things you learn about the candidate during reference checks, the negotiation process or onboarding run-up to their start date. One example of this was how Donald Trump’s poor May fundraising results opened up choices for Republican convention delegates.

• Reference Checks. Making your offer contingent on reference checks is a smart thing to do. Too many firms treat these as a procedural formality. Bad choice. Reference checks are to an important hire what due diligence is to an important financial transaction. Check the numbers. Check the people. If you learn something in the reference checks that raises a red flag, stop and reconsider your hiring decision. That’s why you do reference checks in the first place.

• Negotiating. Pay attention to every interaction with your candidate/new hire. I pulled one offer just because of the way the candidate was negotiating. We offered him a job. He made a counter proposal. We accepted his new terms. He came back with more requests. I pulled the entire offer because I didn’t want to work with someone who acted that way.

• Confidence. We see a strong correlation between people turning down onboarding assistance and those failing in their new jobs. The former Dean of Stanford Business School, Robert Joss, once told me that only 20% of leaders had enough confidence to be open to help. Those turning down onboarding assistance probably fall into Joss’s 80% of leaders lacking confidence. Not sure I’d pull an offer just because someone turned down help with his or her onboarding, but it’s certainly a data point.


Caution: What you cannot do is change your mind based on new information that should not impact the hiring decision. This includes things like race, background, religion, age, disability and gender.

After I offered one lady a job she told me that before she accepted it she wanted to make sure that her religion was not going to be problem since she had to be home every Friday before sundown. By law my answer had to be that there would be no problem. I’m sure she knew that and was really trying to understand how I felt instead of what I said. We ended up working extremely well together.


Change In Circumstances

Customers, collaborators, competitors and conditions are constantly changing. When they do, your capability needs change. Budgets get cut. Roles disappear. Don’t move forward with a hire that no longer fits. Where you are in the hiring/onboarding process will impact how difficult and costly it will be to unwind the new hire. In any case the impact on the total system will be less if you cut your losses before new hires show up than after they do.


Manage The Situation

Do what’s right and do it in the right way. Yes you can change your mind. No you can’t break the law and should not do anything unethical. Yes you can break a contract. And yes, there will be a cost to that. Just weigh the costs of breaking the contract against the total system costs of going forward with the wrong hire or the right hire in the wrong circumstances.