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Having Second Thoughts About a Job Offer? What Should You Do?

written by: •edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 7/22/2011

You’ve just accepted a job—great! Your long job search is over and you’re sure the new company you’ll be working for will be a good fit. But, what if you have second thoughts? Is there turn down etiquette you need to consider?

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    Job Considerations

    Job Offers Many of us, once offered a job, have reservations about accepting the job offer once we look at all the fine print, distance to travel, the hours, benefits or even the salary. We were sure at the interview the job seemed perfect, but now that we’ve thought more about it, and discussed it with our spouse or partner it’s starting to sound like it’s not the right job after all.

    Your saw the workspace, met some of the team and were very enthusiastic about the possibility of working at the offered environment.

    Believe it or not, this happens more than not where once away from the interview and offer, you realize it’s not the job for you and now you have a dilemma—how to tell them you’ve changed your mind, but thanks anyway.

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    Determine the Reasons First

    Make a List First Before you pick up the phone and politely decline the offer, what are the reasons for rejecting the new job? Make a list of reasons why you feel the job isn’t right for you and counter the negatives with what would be acceptable. Include things such as:

    Distance – You realized it would take three hours in travel time each day—much longer than you had anticipated. Your ideal travel time is no more than forty-five minutes per day.

    Salary – The salary offered is a little less than expected, but you’ve been job searching so long, it seemed good at the time. What is your salary range? How much money do you need to cover all of your living expenses? Are you looking for a job that offers bonuses for goals reached or incentives?

    Job Duties – The job seemed interesting but once you accepted, you now find some of your responsibilities are too much or not enough. What types of job duties and daily tasks did you expect? What is it you really want in your career? What skills do you feel you don’t possess that would make the job hard for you? Are they skills you could learn quickly?

    Growth – You forgot to talk about company-offered training and now find there isn’t any, or room for advancement is pretty slim. How important are continuing education credits, in-house training or advancing in your career at present? If these things are important to you, this may not be the job for you.

    Benefits – You did briefly cover the benefits, but now that you have the job, they don’t offer spouse or family benefits. Personal and sick days are also not included. Make a list of what you need as far as benefits including retirement, healthcare, dental and why sick or personal days are necessary for you—for example, do you need a personal day here and there to go to your child’s events?

    Specifics – You totally forgot the job would require you to wear uniforms and hide your tattoo. Why are uniforms a turn-off and do you feel your civil rights are being violated by hiding your tattoo even though it’s legal for an employer to ask you to? Think of other things that are job specifics or turnoffs.

    Word on the Street – As soon as you told your family and friends about the job, you hear the word on the street is high turnover, bad bosses, and unfair practices. Here, you may choose to believe what you hear or not, this is a personal choice on whether or not declining the offer is the best thing to do.

    The point here is by making a list of the things you don’t like about the job that are giving you reservations about accepting the job offer, perhaps certain elements can be modified via a discussion with a supervisor or human resource representative. If after looking at the pros and cons of the job, you think you might be able to negotiate, call the person who offered you the job immediately and politely discuss your concerns. Prepare to make some adjustments. For example, they may offer you the salary you want but just don’t offer personal days.

    Or, if the job is really not for you, how do you turn it down without seeming like you don’t appreciate the offer?

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    Declining the Offer

    Politely Decline Telling a possible new employer you really don’t want the offered job doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do, but there are some rules you should follow, or at least, utilize some turn down etiquette.

    Be Timely – If you’ve already accepted the job and are expected to start in two weeks, contact the supervisor who hired you or the personnel department as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute.

    The Reason – Have you ever been let go from a job where the supervisor just kept saying, “It’s just not a good fit?" If so, you can use this in reverse and you don’t have to offer up lengthy explanations—even if you’re prodded to. Tell them you’ve thought about the offer and thank them and say, “It’s just not a good fit for me at this point in my career."

    Pressed for Answers – Be prepared for those dreaded questions such as why don’t you want the job? Why did you even interview for the position? These can be tough to handle, and most people won’t ask, but if they do, again, you can always tell them you’ve accepted another job with another company—and you don’t have to tell them where. What you can say again—“I’ve accepted a job at another company that is more in line with my career goals."

    Follow-Up – It’s polite to send a letter to the person who offered the job as a follow-up to your telephone conversation. While some may say you can decline an offer via email, it’s best to send the letter via snail mail.

    Lastly, an important element to remember before you accept a job offer is to ask the person offering the job to grant you a day or two to think it over. This way, when you do find reasons why the job isn’t for you, calling the potential employer and telling them the job just isn’t right for you will be a lot easier.