Advice & News

February 3, 2020

4 Reasons to Turn Down the Job Offer


Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Deciding to leave your current position and take a new job is not something to take lightly. It can be tempting to accept the offer on the spot, especially when you're desperate to leave your current position. Whether you're just looking for a fresh start or there's something you're running from -- such as a bad boss, exhaustion, burnout, or low morale -- it is in your best interest to pause and reflect on whether the job is truly a good fit and aligns with your long-term career goals.

This could be the opportunity of a lifetime -- or it could be a misstep in your career. While it's flattering to be offered a position, and it's always tough to turn down an employment offer, there are some good reasons to do so:


1) You haven't taken the time to truly evaluate and analyze what your next move should be.
Have you done your due diligence before deciding to jump ship?

Wendy Webster, a Finance and HR Manager in the corporate world -- at Ramblers Walking Holidays, cautions that "first and foremost, job seekers should analyze what it is about their current job that they don't like."

"Are they unhappy with the work they are doing?" she continues. "Is there not enough responsibility? Have they stopped learning new things in their current [position]? Are they unhappy with the way they are being managed or do they not get on with their boss? If these are the issues, then there's a high probability that it is the [employer] that needs to change, not the career path. These are [employer-related] problems, meaning you could escape them elsewhere. On the other hand, if they find no fulfillment in what they do, think there is too much pressure or stress in their field, or feel that the job doesn't pay enough, this may be a sign that a career shift is worth thinking about."

This all goes back to the idea that taking a new position isn't a decision to take lightly. Take some time to pause and reflect on why you want to quit your job and what really is the best solution for whatever problem you're facing.

2) The department/school doesn't offer the professional growth opportunities your current job does.
I've been here before. I had applied for dozens of jobs and finally got an offer, and I was tempted to take it. However, after taking a day or so to think it over, I couldn't see many opportunities for growth in the position I was offered and concluded that my current job offered greater experiences to sharpen my skills. To take the offer would be a step back for me.

"If you are offered a job after passing the interview/task stage, you may have had time to reflect on what an average workday may look like there," Webster says. "A perfectly acceptable reason for turning down a job offer is if you don't think the level of work would satisfy you."

Similarly, Tim Toterhi -- a TEDx speaker, career coach, and author of "The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job" -- lists a lack of opportunities for growth as one of the valid reasons for turning down a job offer. "Everyone needs a paycheck and sometimes you have to fix a career Band-Aid to pay the bills," he admits, "but when you have the option, try to avoid dead-end positions by discussing growth and promotion opportunities."

It's important to distinguish this type of dead-end job from one with an opportunity to transform and advance the institution or department. If you're up for the challenge, and think you could move the needle there, that's a much different story than taking a dead-end job!

3) It doesn't meet both your financial and non-financial expectations.
Christopher K. Lee, Founder and Career Consultant of PurposeRedeemed, says there are two parts of evaluating a job offer. He reminds candidates to focus on the big picture.

"Those changing jobs may expect their next position to pay better, yet they often neglect to do their due diligence," he says. "Some excitedly take positions with higher salaries. Yet they don't realize that the total compensation may be comparable, perhaps even lower, due to less generous benefits, added commuting costs, and so on."

However, beyond that, he says there is also a non-financial, overall satisfaction component. "Often job seekers are fixated on the one or two points of contention with their previous job," he explains. "The new job appears to fix these issues. But what new problems does it introduce?"

Those are things you must ask yourself as you evaluate the job offer. Just because it eliminates a current problem, doesn't mean it's the right move. Focus on how the position -- as a whole -- would affect your situation.

4) It just doesn't feel quite right.
Trey Wright, managing partner in Higher Education Practice at Kaye/Bassman, says that the "first, and probably most important, sign that you should turn a job offer down, is your gut feeling or instinct."

"This reason as a standalone might not qualify as the best reason," he cautions. "It should, however, prompt you to do additional due diligence on the institution, the department, and the team you would be working with. Additional research could include talking to people who are currently employed at the school both internal and external to the department that you would be a member of."

In the end, if something doesn't feel quite right about taking the job, don't do it. Perhaps you noticed some red flags about the people with whom you'll be working closely, have doubts about fitting in there, etc. It's best to keep searching for something that doesn't make you hesitate. As my mother would say, you don't want to "jump from the frying pan into the fire." In other words, you could be going from a bad situation to a worse one. Be careful what you're jumping into, and don't do it unless you get positive vibes from the institution, department, and your future colleagues.

Remember
Interviewing is a two-way street. It's a chance for you to evaluate a potential employer as much as it is for them to evaluate you as a potential employee. If you haven't taken time to analyze your next move, don't readily see opportunities for growth at a position you're offered, it doesn't meet your expectations (financial and otherwise), or something just feels "off," don't be afraid to reject the offer. Do it tactfully so as not to burn any bridges and keep searching for a job that excites, satisfies, and motivates you.