Sometimes It’s a Good Idea to Turn Down a Job Offer

By Sam Woolfe on 09-08-2017
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It’s finally happened. After all those months of relentless job applications and interviews – and wild fluctuations between hope and hopelessness – an employer decides that they want you.

Out of all the other applicants, they’ve decided that you’re the best person for the role and they want to make you an offer. It’s a cause for joy, pride and celebration. It’s when you get to announce to everyone that you’re making the transition from unemployment and job-hunting to having a job, now with somewhere to go and something to do.

The only problem is, you don’t want the job. It may seem crazy to turn down a job offer, given that competition for jobs is so high and how depressing unemployment can get, but there are times when it really is in your interest to politely turn down the offer at hand than take on a job that isn’t right for you.

job seeker


They won’t budge on the salary

The salary range was advertised and during the interview the subject may have come up, in which case you gave your desired figure. But the salary you’ve been offered is at the very bottom end of the range, which you find isn’t justified given your experience and skill-set. You did well to ask if the salary on offer was negotiable and mentioned some reasons why you deserve the salary you’re after.

But if they won’t budge on this, then you may decide that the nature of the role doesn’t justify the pay. If the position is more senior or complex than your previous role, but the pay is the same or only marginally more, then it’s important to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Also, while the salary may be decent at face value, the location of the office may mean that a long commute and/or cost of rent actually outweigh the attractive pay package.

You have to do more than you thought

Some job adverts give a better indication of your duties and responsibilities than others. An interview is a chance to discuss the role in more depth. What you may find out is that the role may actually be more than you bargained for. So while giving presentations, networking and attending industry events all over the country may not have been mentioned, the interviewers say that you would be expected to do all of this on a regular basis.

What you thought would be quite a solitary job turns out to be a very proactive and sociable role. Nonetheless, you perform well in the interview and an offer is made. Interviews are there for both you and the interviewer to gauge your suitability for the role. If after the interview you feel you’re not a good fit, then turning down the offer may actually be in everyone’s interest.

You didn’t get on with the interviewers

The key to being successful in a job is getting on well with your co-workers, especially your line manager. If you don’t feel you really got on with your prospective manager – if the interaction was completely cold or awkward – then this could hold true on a long-term basis as well.

Of course, the interviewers may also find the whole interview process awkward themselves. Maybe they’re just having a bad day or they’re trying to conduct the interview in a professional manner.

It’s best to trust your gut about whether you can imagine working with who’s interviewing you. If they were being rude during the interview, for example, then this is probably a red flag.

The work environment didn’t seem right

The job may be perfect in every respect, except the office has left a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe it’s dead quiet, except for the sound of clicking and typing; or it’s the complete opposite and it’s so noisy you can barely understand how any work gets done.

If you know how you work best (and, conversely, what wears you out), then what the work environment is like shouldn’t be ignored. You may prefer a quiet working environment and a small team. So if you get shown around a big open-plan office with a hundred people, then this could be a deal-breaker for you.

If you can afford to, wait until there’s a role that you genuinely feel is a good fit for you, or a company that you’d be thrilled to work for. It’s better to be patient than sign a contract for a job that’s going to turn out to be a personal nightmare for you.

After all, doing a job you hate is worse for your mental health than being unemployed. When it comes to your career, you should always do what’s in your best interest, rather than make decisions based on other people’s expectations.

Sam Woolfe writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available.

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