Declining a Job Offer

by | Mar 6, 2020 | After the Offer

Do You Need to Decline a Job Offer?

One of the most exciting times for a job seeker is the extension of a job offer by a prospective employer. Receiving this offer is the culmination of the hard work that is needed to find new employment.

An offer is usually extended first orally by either the Hiring Manager or a member of Human Resources. This orally extended offer is then sometimes followed by a written offer usually sent via e-mail. This written offer almost always occurs for an exempt position and occasionally for some non-exempt jobs.

One of the most common feelings for a job seeker is to want to immediately accept the offer that has been presented to them. This is usually out of fear that the offer will be withdrawn if action is not taken immediately. That feeling is most likely to happen in a situation where an individual is currently unemployed or in a situation where they really want/need to leave their current job.

It is quite possible that leaping at the first offer extended will not leave you with the best salary or job opportunity. Let’s examine some of the keys to consider when one is extended an offer.

  • Most employers expect you to need to think about. There are always some companies that will place you in the high-pressure situation, but those should be the exception. The organization that pressures you to make an immediate decision is probably a company that you would not be happy working for anyway. Most companies assume you will speak to your family/friends or just need a little reflection time before you make such a huge decision. Commonly a company will provide you with a 48-hour period to consider the offer. Something to think about is that if you jump at an offer too soon, you may seem a little desperate to the employer. You don’t want your new employer to begin to believe they made a mistake hiring someone who, by appearances, did not have any other options. While this is not an outright rejection, it is a temporary respite in the process allowing you to determine whether to accept or decline.
  • Is there something better out there? It is almost the curse of the job search. As soon as you accept an offer, another one comes that is much better than the position you have just started. A key is to perform a full analysis of your pipeline of open positions you are pursuing. Determine how close you are to another offer and what you would expect from the other positions you are examining. This will help you determine if something better is forthcoming and cause less anxiety in either accepting or rejecting the offer that is in front of you. If you have a strong pipeline with positions that appear to be better than what has been currently presented, you may be in a position to reject your current offer.
  • Don’t Tip Them Off. The process of receiving an offer is part of your negotiation. You want them to give you their best offer and preferably right from the beginning. Receiving their best offer upfront will help minimize your need to reject an offer, or at the very least know that when you reject a company that you received as much as was possible in the offer. Don’t allow the prospective employer to know anything regarding your financial situation. This will prevent them from believing that they have an advantage in negotiations. It also is not a bad thing to let your negotiating partner know that you have some other options with other companies interested in you. A word of caution is that you don’t want to overdo the talk about your options since this may cause a company to not view your interest as legitimate. It may be as simple as letting a prospective employer know that you are trying to work their interviews in with some other companies you are speaking to.
  • Determine if something has changed – The job seeker process sometimes takes several weeks or even months. In that time things may change. The position may have a different title or job responsibilities, or the positive feeling you had about your prospective employer in the beginning is not there at the end. It may also be something on your end such as deciding the commute is too far for you, or the schedule will not work with your personal life. Any of these situations may cause you to change your opinion regarding the viability of working for a company.

When presented with an offer, consider creating a list of the plusses and minuses attached to your offered job. Prioritize each item on your list to determine the value you place on each aspect. Areas to consider are the job itself, the organization, the industry, the compensation/benefits, and the intangibles (commute, career progression, co-workers). If you are currently employed or considering another offer, compare this list with the lists of your other options. Consider as mentioned earlier asking your support group for their guidance regarding the offer. If you need more information, then go back to the Hiring Manager to obtain additional details regarding the position/compensation/benefits, etc.

If you do plan to reject an offer, then the following are some tips for consideration:

  • Always inform a prospective employer of your rejection. It is tempting to just go away. Contacting the company and letting them know of your intentions to seek other employment allows the organization to move forward immediately with someone else. It also allows you to possibly keep the door open for a different opportunity that may be more appealing to you within this organization.
  • Consider following up your oral rejection with a letter documenting your decision. This will provide you an opportunity to formally thank the company for their time and consideration. Address the letter to the individual who expended the written offer to you. This will further help you prevent the burning of any bridges with the prospective employer.
  • Determine whether your decline is because you have moved on or if it is a negotiating ploy. If you are merely negotiating, then your oral rejection should be made with much regret and the wish that something could be resolved. If it is a final decision to decline, then closure should be made professionally informing the organizing of your decision. Since no negotiating is occurring whether to provide a reason is really entirely up to you. If you feel compelled to give a reason, do so in a way that does not make the rejected organization feel inferior. This will help you in your desire to keep the door open for future opportunities.
  • A difficult situation is whether to back out of an offer that you have already committed to. There are two schools of thought: the first is that you are ethically obligated to follow through with your accepted offer, and the second thought is that a job seeker needs to do what is best for him or her. Ultimately it is your decision whichever school of thought you follow. If you decide to decline your previously accepted offer, do so knowing that it will likely end any potential relationship you will have with that organization. If you have truly evaluated your pipeline prior to accepting the offer, you will most likely not be facing this situation.

It is a difficult decision to reject an offer that is presented to you. By doing your homework you can determine whether a rejection is in your best interest. The bright side is that any offer allows you to know that you are attracting the interest of employers and are on the right track with your job search.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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