Growing up in a small town in Bahia, Brazil, Yure Pablo “never imagined” working abroad for a big tech company. That changed after winning a local hackathon at Facebook (before it was renamed Meta) as a first-year University of Sao Paulo student in 2019.
“Meta was actually a dream because of this kind of relationship that we created since this first year, in Sao Paulo,” Pablo told me.
Six months ago, Pablo was “very, very excited” to receive a 2023 internship offer at Meta’s London offices. But last week, Meta rescinded his offer, along with offers extended to other 2023 London interns, as the company scales back on hiring in response to the economic downturn.
“The recruiter called me. She was, I think, really frustrated as well,” Pablo said. “I think it was unexpected for everyone.”
The decision to rescind London interns’ offers was “not made lightly,” Meta spokesperson Andrea Beasley said in a statement emailed to Protocol. “This company-wide hiring shift is to ensure that our hiring targets are aligned with our highest-priority efforts and business needs.”
The company said it would strongly consider those whose offers had been rescinded for future internships.
For Pablo, whose current internship at Amazon’s London offices has now been extended by a couple of months, a direct offer from Meta may be the only way he would pursue a future internship, even though he’s “still aligned with the culture,” he said.
“If I would need to do the whole process again, I don’t think I would do all of it,” Pablo said. “You don’t trust anymore. You receive the offer and I think you wouldn’t [have] the whole excitement that I had before.” (Pablo has also gotten some offers as a result of posting about the Meta ordeal on LinkedIn, he said.)
The move followed Meta’s postponement in making job offers to this year’s summer interns. In early July, the company told interns in an email that it would push back offers as leaders evaluated hiring plans, which have since all but halted company-wide for the rest of the year.
Meta has been recruiting junior employees faster than senior ones, the company said. Whenever hiring ramps up again, Meta previously said that leadership and senior hires would take priority, especially in machine learning, AI, graphics, gameplay, audio, and embedded software.
Coinbase, Twitter, Redfin, and other companies have all rescinded employment offers this year.
The trend is a painful reminder of other economic shocks in 2020, 2008, and 2009, according to David Hanrahan, a startup adviser who stepped down as Eventbrite’s CHRO earlier this year.
As the economic downturn continues, many companies have tough choices to make as they head into Q4 and plan for the upcoming year.
That said, rescinding an internship offer six months after making it is “kind of abnormal, to have that big of a delay,” Hanrahan said. “It would be pretty jarring.”
When to consider rescinding
Rescinding job offers rather than laying off existing employees is “probably a worthwhile tradeoff,” according to Sandra Sucher, a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and the co-author of “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It.”
In these economic conditions, companies are deciding how much pain to endure up front, Sucher told me. “Usually, that kind of forethought is good when you’re looking at a downturn, because you should start thinking about the things that you can control now.”
Executive teams should go through all other operating expenses that they can cut — marketing, servers, facilities, travel — before rescinding offers, Hanrahan said. Rescinding offers can do significant damage to an employer’s brand, particularly when they’re large or noteworthy enough to make the headlines.
“What has to happen is a really careful analysis of all the financials and all the different considerations that we could pull on spend that would have less of an impact on our employment brand,” Hanrahan said. “Cutting jobs and livelihood has got to be one of the very last things that you do.”
Companies considering making these types of cuts should be able to justify them — because they’ll need to, internally and externally.
The company needs a “good story analysis as to why it is that it’s doing what it’s doing,” Sucher said. Some companies have done this well, while others’ plans have come across less persuasively as “I’m feeling nervous, and so I’m going to pull back,” she said.
How to rescind an offer gracefully
Rescinding offers has a “psychological effect that’s probably on par with losing a job” and can mar a company’s employment brand, especially if done in a “robotic and inhuman” way, Hanrahan said.
Rescinding an offer is a “trust betrayal,” Sucher said, and calls for the company to acknowledge the harm it’s created, explain why it did it, and make an “offer of repair.”
Apologies should acknowledge the rigor of the interview process — did the candidate have to go through 20 interviews to get the job? — as well as the fact that the candidate may have already given notice at their current job, leaving them in a potentially precarious employment situation. Taking these personal factors into account when apologizing “at least will give the person the sense that they’re being treated like an actual human being, and not just like a number,” Sucher said.
Secondly, an explanation for why the company rescinded the offer should be “pretty persuasive” and may address what outcomes the decision makers are trying to avoid by rescinding, Sucher said.
“I think we need to imagine a world where job offers don’t mean anything,’ Sucher said. “There’s no universe that most people would want to live in where a commitment to have a job can be so easily walked away from on the part of the company that made the offer.”
Finally, an offer of repair should be an attempt to make the candidate whole, by offering a severance package, a spot on a “callback list” for future opportunities, a formal acknowledgement of the candidate’s job offer for any future engagement with the company, or referrals to other companies that are still hiring.
“It might build some kind of an on-ramp for a would-be employee to say, ‘These are okay people. They understood that they did this to me,’” Sucher said. “‘Here’s how they’re trying to help me — at least with respect to them — know what my next step is.’”