To Accept or to Decline the Job Offer — That Is the Question

Before I get into the meat of this blog, I want to preface it by noting that I realize it’s an understatement to say we find ourselves in an extremely challenging job market — one in which many people, perhaps yourself included, might shake a finger at me and say, “Shame on you for even considering turning down a job offer, let alone trying to justify why it’s OK to!”

Still, it’s a different world today than it was for my parents and even their parents. People don’t stay in jobs their whole careers anymore, and companies don’t care about “their own” the way they used to, either. The goal of most job seekers is no longer to find somewhere they can collect a steady paycheck from for as long as possible; it’s to grow and keep growing, in part because that stability of yesteryear is simply nonexistent today.

English: RNA instability due to the 2'-OH.

Too abstract and example of instability? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That being said, if you’re looking to advance your career in any way, it’s important to be able to identify whether the job offer that landed in your lap is really going to propel you forward or drive you to start your job search over again in a month or two. In other words, like this blog by Hunter Walk details, you have to know what you’re optimizing for in your job search. It can be anything — money, more time off, new skills, advancement, etc. — but you have to know what’s most important to you before you decide anything about a job offer.

Think of it like a romantic relationship. It’s perfectly acceptable to have dealbreakers in those because you know the painful results of trying to force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to dating prospects. Job prospects should be considered no differently.

Square Peg in a Round Hole - geograph.org.uk -...

Just say no. Actually, I would live here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once you know what you want out of your next job, it’ll be much easier to see whether or not the opportunity on the table has real merit for you. Admittedly, you could still get to the job and find it was not all that was sold to you, but you’ll have a better chance of weeding out bad fits before you ever sign on the dotted line if you get to the root of what matters most to you.

Assuming you know your priorities, here are some things to consider — potential dealbreakers, if you will:

1. Your gut is saying — nay, screaming — “Heck no!” You’ve had bubblegut ever since you met with your potential direct supervisor. Or the CEO. Or ever since your meeting with your direct supervisor or CEO was put off or canceled. Or some other reason.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you can or can’t pinpoint why you feel the way you do. You just feel it. In fact, you know reading this right now if your gut is telling you to run for the hills from the opportunity you’re considering. How else did you end up at this blog, anyway? Was it because you Googled “I really want to accept this job offer!” or because you Googled “I’m thinking about turning down this job offer, but should I?” Come on, now!

American singer Dionne Warwick.

It doesn’t take psychic friends to figure this one out. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. You weren’t treated the way you need and deserve to be treated. This is different for everyone, but I personally follow the Golden Rule and expect that in return. If you’ve been professional, considerate, and have done your research on a company only to walk into an interview with someone who hasn’t even looked at your resume, it’s not going to be a good fit. On the other hand, if you’ve done nothing but showered (maybe) and showed up, this might be perfect for you. Everyone’s different, but wherever you end up, the culture should be a decent fit with your personality.

3. What’s being said doesn’t align with what’s put in writing … or nothing’s been put in writing, period. If every time you get on the phone with the employers’ representatives, you’re promised the world, but then nothing matches when it comes to what’s on paper, run. If a company makes you a verbal offer so you can put in your notice at your current job immediately, then drags its feet on sending you the offer in writing or gives you some other kind of runaround, run. Yes, both these things have happened to me, which is why I advise that you, like me, never, ever, ever give notice at your current job until you at the very least have the “good faith” written offer.

English: Snake charmer and cobras, Sri Lanka. ...

Be not deceived, my friends! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, while I’ve read that even having an offer in writing won’t definitively protect you legally if an employer retracts an offer (check out Shawn’s comment on this blog I’ve linked to, then read the rest of the people who, along with me, emphatically disagree with Jessica that a verbal offer is enough), having worked with a few current and prospective employers who had binding contracts, I can tell you that there are times when it absolutely does. Granted, a contract is different from an offer letter, but I do see it as a sign of seriousness, good faith, and, honestly, hard evidence in the event that you do for some reason decide to pursue legal action against an employer who retracts an offer — especially in a case where you suspect there was discrimination, which is illegal. Nowadays it’s simply too risky to give notice at one job to leave for another just feeling confident or optimistic it’ll work out; sometimes it doesn’t, and then guess what? It’ll be awkward at best if your old employer takes your groveling patoot back, and you probably won’t be able to collect unemployment if it doesn’t. Having hard proof in your hands at least gives you something to show someone in that unemployment office to make them reconsider your case.

4. It’s not going to take you anywhere, and that matters to you. You want growth, but the job offer is for a position you’ve held before, maybe even a couple jobs back. You want advancement, but the job offer is for a terminal position. You may end up taking one of these types of positions out of sheer need or because of some other benefit (e.g., working for a prestigious company that will open these kind of doors for you with another employer down the line), but if there’s nothing like that associated with the offer, you might be better off waiting for another opportunity.

Admittedly, there are some people out there who this won’t apply to. Some want nothing more than a steady, secure state or government job to hunker down in for the rest of their working lives, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not right for everybody.

Red Swingline stapler

Some people just want the red stapler for life — and that’s OK. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stay tuned for the next blog, “4 More Things to Consider When Considering a Job Offer,” for — you guessed it — four more things to think about with that job offer.

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