7 reasons to say no to a job offer

NOI don’t recommend that my customers say no to a job offer unless there’s a good reason. That’s why when one of my most promising customers told me she was reluctant to accept a job offer at a leading hotel corporation, I advised her to consider the circumstances.

First of all, she would be assuming a great deal of responsibilities. And second she’d be making 70% of what she previously made. Both of these factoids seemed the equivalent of doing hard labor in a rock quarry and being paid minimum wage.

I only needed to point out the disparity of salaries for her to decline the offer, even though she had negotiated a $4,000 increase. (Actually she’s smart enough to realize this.) You must be practical when considering the salary for the position. Can you pay essential bills with the salary? Will you have to cut back too much on “wants?”

There are times when you should decline an offer. My customer’s story is just one of them. A ridiculous salary offer isn’t the only reason for declining an offer. There are six others.

You’re not excited. When pundits say you’re not the only person being interviewed, they’re correct. The responsibilities of said position have to motivate you to be your best. They have to excite you.

So it figures that not only should the employer be concerned about your motivation; you should want to be motivated as well. Will the position challenge you to do your best and offer variety, or will it be a dead-end street?

Bad work environment. Another reason for not accepting an offer is sensing a volatile work environment. A former colleague of mine would often confide in me that where she was working was a toxic work environment. Management was distrustful of its employees and would often be abusive.

During an interview you should ask questions that would uncover the company’s environment. A simple one is, “Why did the former marketing specialist leave?” Or, “What makes your employees happy working here?” What about, “How do you reward your employees for creativity and innovation?”

Sincere answers to these questions will assure you that you are entering an environment with your eyes wide open, good or bad. Vague responses should raise a red flag. The best way to determine what kind of environment you may inherit is to network with people who work at a potential organization.

It goes against your morals and values. Salary.com gives this reason. “The nature of your temporary work shouldn’t make you feel like you’re compromising who you are or your beliefs. Obviously you should avoid anything illegal, but beyond that black and white is a lot of grey.”

Some of my customers have learned this lesson too late. They took a job they were not sure of and had to resign because of lack of integrity. “I should have known the company was wrong when they put off my questions about integrity,” one of them said to me.

Security. A fifth reason for not accepting an offer is the financial status of the company. If you discover through discussions that the company is at risk of closing its doors soon, it’s not wise to accept the offer, even if you “just want a job.”

This also goes for grant-funded positions. A position that will end in less than a year should make you consider if you want to join the organization only to be let go before you even get your feet wet.

You lack goals. Some of my customers have told me that they’ve been taking temp-to-perm positions that have spanned over many years; and that they’re tired of the short-term stints. Additionally, their résumé resembles one that shouts, “Job hopper.”

Your current unemployment can be a time to strategize about where you want your career to go, a time to experience clarity, not throwing darts at a wall of short-term jobs. Or if you’re unemployed, take time to think about what you really want in your next career. The offer you’ve just received should match your goals and career direction.

It’s not a cliche when I tell my customers that things happen for a reason. After I was laid off from marketing, I had a chance to reflect on what I really wanted to do. I had clear goals. So here I am.

Because you can. I say this knocking on wood. The labor market hasn’t been this healthy in years. With the “official” unemployment rate hovering around 5.0%, this is a great sign.

This also means your chances of getting a job are very good, so you can be selective…to a point. I’m not encouraging you to wait until your 25th week of UI to pull the trigger. You don’t want to cause undue stress by waiting too long to begin an earnest job search.

This may be a great time for you to get trained in skills you lack. In the state of Massachusetts, you can train (often free of charge) 20 hours a week, while still receiving your UI benefits. Are you a project manager but don’t have a Project Management Professional (PMP) cerfification? Now would be a good time to pass up a job you’re not so sure about.


While I wanted my customer to land a job in a short period of job seeking, I would have kicked myself for telling her that a bird in hand is better than nothing. I have tremendous faith in her abilities and tenacity and don’t want her to take a job that won’t make her happy. She will be land soon. That I’m sure of.

Photo: Flickr, Nathan Gibbs

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