When to Decline a Job Offer

It’s flattering to get offered a job. That doesn’t mean you should accept.

The only thing worse than being stuck in a job you hate for years on end is taking a job only to flee from it 3 months later. A company who invests time and money to onboard you only to lose you almost immediately is definitely going to be cheesed off, and it’s a small world.  Plus it’s bad for your resume – having 5 jobs in 3 years makes you look like an unreliable job-jumper and a bad bet.

Approach the Interview Process Like the Beginning of a Relationship

You already know that you don’t have to go out with everyone who asks you on a date, you don’t have to kiss everyone who buys you dinner, and you definitely don’t have to marry someone just because you met their family last Christmas.  Sometimes you just know there isn’t a future in the relationship.

Think of the interview process in the same way.  You may have a positive interview (or two), and the company may offer you a job – but that doesn’t mean you should automatically accept it.

Here are some situations in which you should probably decline the offer:

1.   It’s a Counter-Offer

You decided you hated your current job, so you went on a few interviews and now you have a good offer from another company.  But when you tell your current boss you’re leaving, s/he offers you a raise/title bump/corner office/car allowance to try to get you to stay.

Don’t accept it.  With a very few exceptions, all the reasons you wanted to leave in the first place will still be there (you’ll find that, after tax, that $5000 raise doesn’t actually compensate for the 60-hour weeks you’ve been working),  plus now your boss considers you a flight risk and your co-workers think you blackmailed your way to some kind of advantage.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, people who accept counter-offers end up leaving within 6 months anyway, so you’re better off sticking to your guns and making a clean break.

2.   It Doesn’t Pay Enough Money to Live On

Unless you’re living at home with your parents and just need some work experience, fast, you shouldn’t take a job that pays less than you need for basic expenses, even if they promise you a raise within a few months.  You’ll end up stressed out and resentful – neither of which are conducive to giving 100% to your new job.

What’s more, you run the risk of looking desperate, which means that promised raise may not be forthcoming (“If s/he was so desperate for a job that they took the absurdly low salary we offered, s/he isn’t going to leave even if we keep him/her on slave wages…”).

3.   You aren’t excited about the job

If you get a job offer and aren’t immediately on the phone to your best friend or your mother to tell them about it, it’s probably the wrong job. It’s hard to succeed in a job, especially in the crucial first 6-12 months, if you’re not passionate about it.  What’s more, if you aren’t excited now, imagine how you’ll feel after a year or two. You’ll be back on the market again.

4.   You don’t believe in the company or the brand

So you’re a die-hard fan of Brand X footwear, but you get a great job offer from their closest competitor, Brand Y.  Don’t take it. For most people, career success means being able to get fully invested in what they’re doing, and you’re only going to give yourself a serious case of cognitive dissonance when you have to pretend to love Brand Y all day and restrict your Brand X passion to the weekends.

Sooner or later your managers will notice this lack of enthusiasm and you’ll be passed over for promotion, while your co-workers move ahead.

(On the other hand, you should probably check out Brand X’s career opportunities, where your passion can be turned to good advantage!)

5.   You got a bad ‘vibe’ when you toured the office

Most of us have better gut instincts than we realize.

Think about the last job you really loved. Chances are, the first time you walked into or through the office, you got a good feeling about it. It may have been that people were friendly to you; it may have been that you picked up on good teamwork among the existing employees; it may have been the architecture.

We call our reactions to these things ‘vibes’, but in fact they’re quite rational. People who are friendly to strangers walking through their office are likely to be friendly to new hires. People who appear to be working well together indicate a healthy office environment. And architecture you like means you probably have things in common with your potential new co-workers.

Well, these ‘vibes’ work the other way, too.  If you’re getting a bad vibe, it could mean that your potential new co-workers aren’t all that friendly, that the working environment isn’t healthy, or that you won’t have a lot in common with your teammates. Regardless, it means you probably aren’t a good fit.

The good news? Getting One Job Offer is a Good Sign

Job-hunting is funny. It can take you a while to get on top of your game (finding the right opportunities, writing a killer resume, getting confident in interviews, etc.), but once you do, it’s surprising how popular you start to become.

So don’t panic too much about turning down a job offer. The fact that you got one – especially one that was close enough to what you wanted to be a serious contender – is a good indication that you’re putting your best foot forward and are attractive to potential employers. Which means a better offer – one that’s more suitable for you, anyway – won’t be long in arriving.

For other helpful job seeking articles like this one visit our Guide to Finding the Perfect Tech Job here. And if you’re still hunting for the job that you actually want to take, contact us to see what we have open.