'It's almost unbelievable': People are having their job offers rescinded days before they start
Joynese Speller was excited to start a new job as a project delivery specialist for a health care company on June 6.
As she wrapped up at her old nonprofit job on a Friday, she emailed her new company to confirm her start time on Monday. Hours later, she got another email: The company had some logistics to work out on their end, so Speller would actually start on Tuesday. That slid into Wednesday, and then Thursday.
On Friday, Speller got a phone call. Due to budget cuts, the job she hadn't even started yet was being eliminated.
"I was told they were trying to find me a position in a different department, but it's also the end of their fiscal year, so they're taking a long time to get back to me," Speller, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina, tells CNBC Make It. "I left one job thinking I was going to another, so I wasn't financially prepared for what was coming."
Going back to her old workplace, which she says was "toxic" and had high turnover, wasn't an option — but she needed to pay for a car repair and care for her 4-year-old son. She's been doing Doordash deliveries to make ends meet for the past three weeks.
After taking a few days to process her rescinded job offer, Speller fired up LinkedIn to apply for jobs and saw more news of major companies doing layoffs and taking back offers. "I didn't realize it was so prevalent until it happened to me," she says.
The most recent Labor Department data shows that the U.S. labor market is still tight, and workers have more bargaining power than ever. Job openings and quitting rates have shot up in the last year while unemployment ticked downward. As of April, there were roughly two job openings for every worker who wanted one.
But over the past few weeks, many employers started scrambling to tighten their budgets due to rising inflation, rumblings of a looming recession and swings in the crypto market. Tech giants like Uber and Meta said they'd scale back hiring, while others including Robinhood, Peloton and Carvana conducted layoffs.
Weeks after announcing its own hiring freeze, crypto exchange Coinbase laid off 18% of its workforce and began pulling job offers. Other companies including Twitter and Redfin have rescinded offers in recent weeks.
Most of these high-profile staffing cuts are from hyper-growth tech companies focused on nixing early-career jobs, says Sid Upadhyay, co-founder and CEO of the recruiting company WizeHire. There could also be trouble brewing for other employers tied closely to economic conditions, like in mortgage and financial sectors.
But the whiplash going from rapid hiring to rescinding offers, due to dramatic market swings, is "highly unusual," Upadhyay says. "The broader economic environment has shifted so much: Tech companies were incentivized to grow at all costs, and in a matter of weeks, we've moved into a world where we're focused on resiliency."
Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist, 35, of Los Angeles thought he'd found a "match made in professional heaven" when he found an opening with a social commerce company in April. He hit it off with the team over interviews and dinner, and a few days later, an offer landed in his inbox.
Turner-Gilchrist took the weekend to think it over. On Monday, he emailed back with a few questions on the job details, and then "I didn't hear from the co-founder for a few days, which was weird, because communication until then was great," he says.
A few days later, Turner-Gilchrist got a call from the CEO, who rescinded the job offer — explaining that the company was largely funded by crypto investors whose digital assets were losing value by the day. "We're revisiting what's happening in crypto market which has taken an unfortunate turn, and as a result, we don't believe it's a good idea to bring on additional headcount at this time," Turner-Gilchrist recalls the CEO telling him.
"I've heard of offers being rescinded," Turner-Gilchrist says, noting that background checks or professional references sometimes don't pass muster. "But it's never happened to me [before]."
To an extent, he considers himself lucky: "I could have been laid off in three months, and that'd be worse," he says. If anything, the experience taught him to be more cautious in interviews. He says he's more inclined to ask about a company's retention rates, thinks news of rescinded offers or recent layoffs should be noted on hiring boards, and believes senior leaders should be more publicly forthcoming about the financial health of their organization.
"I'm not looking at crypto-adjacent companies at all," he adds.
Jennifer Bell, 27, was set to start a operations manager job with Walmart in Louisville, Kentucky, but within days of accepting the offer, got a call the role was being eliminated. "It's almost unbelievable," she says. "I had a day to be upset, and then the next day I started applying to jobs left and right."
A Walmart spokesperson said the company isn't currently eliminating open positions or rescinding job offers, and declined CNBC Make It's request to further comment on personnel matters. Despite the experience, Bell says she's still in touch with the hiring manager at Walmart — and would take another position with the company, if offered, calling it "recession-proof."
"I'm hopeful, knowing it's the type of company that has been stable for decades," she says. Still, she adds, getting back into the job hunt is emotionally challenging: "It's hard to work through and tell yourself every day, 'Hey, it's not you,' when you know it's not your worth or confidence or background."
By contrast, Bell says she wouldn't return to her prior employer even if asked. In May, Bell was one of 2,500 people laid off from Carvana. She says some people were escorted off the premises, while others at home were laid off over a Zoom call.
"If Carvana ever reached back out and wanted to bring me on, I don't care what amount of money they'd offer me. I would say 'no,'" Bell says. "That trust is betrayed."
Bell may still have that latitude to turn down job offers: She says she's taking lots of interviews these days, including for an HR manager job she says she's excited about. Upadhyay confirms that it's still a job-seeker's market across most sectors, and economists say the demand for tech workers remains so high that anyone laid off in that industry will likely be snatched up quickly by recruiters.
Upadhyay urges candidates to remember: A rescinded job offer is a reflection of a business figuring out its balance sheet, not the job-seeker's skills or abilities.
"Broadly speaking, we're seeing rescinded offers in a minority of cases," Upadhyay says. "There are still hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the market, and most organizations extending offers are resilient and profitable companies."
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