Getting a job offer is good news—most of the time. However, sometimes you receive an offer and are not immediately filled with joy and excitement. When you’re on the fence about whether to accept or reject the new position, it can feel like every move is the wrong one.
It’s hard to walk away from an employment opportunity. In addition to the fact that we all have bills to pay, we’re conditioned to think of any change as a positive thing. After all, how can you move up the ladder if you don’t move?
10 Reasons to Decline a Job Offer
But there are times when the best thing you can do for your career is to stay put. If you have qualms about accepting a job offer, ask yourself if any of the following are factors:
1. The Pay Is Below Market Rate
Before you even set foot in the employer’s offices, you should know what kind of salary range is appropriate for the role. That means doing salary research ahead of time, so that you know what’s a reasonable scale for the job title, employer, and geographic location.
It’s important not to "go with your gut" when setting your range. Several sites offer free salary calculators that can help you come up with a range based on data collected from peers in your field. Use these to set your salary expectations, and you won’t have to worry about walking away from a perfectly good job because your asking price wasn’t in line with the current job market.
2. The Benefits Won’t Work for You
Your compensation package is more than just your annual salary. Employee benefits like health insurance, dental insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off all add to your bottom line, as well as your quality of life. In addition, many companies offer fringe benefits and perks like telecommuting privileges, paid gym memberships, free visits to local cultural attractions and sporting events, and more.
For example, if one employer offers a health plan with lower deductibles and copays, that might make a big difference to your budget. But other benefits are more difficult to quantify. If you’re a working parent, having a flexible schedule might be more valuable to you than it would have been when you were child-free, for example. (Or then again, maybe not. Even people without kids like flexibility.)
In the end, it all comes down to what you value. To get the information you need, ask the human resources representative for more details on the benefits offered.
3. There’s Nowhere to Go
One of the questions you should ask during the interview process is, “What are the prospects for advancement at the company?” If the hiring manager hems and haws or can’t provide a satisfactory answer, ask yourself whether you’ll be happy just staying in the job you’re interviewing for.
There are cases when you won’t mind staying put. The new job may offer you a chance to develop skills and responsibilities that will enable you to go further at another company down the line. But if there are no chances for promotion and no opportunity to learn anything new, think twice before accepting.
4. The Company Culture Is a Bad Fit
If you’re an introvert, for example, you might not do well in an open-concept office where people pride themselves on collaboration. On the other hand, if you’re more traditional, a startup atmosphere that’s very casual might not work for you.
5. Flexibility? What Flexibility?
Part of company culture is flexibility. Some organizations are fairly rigid in their approach to how the workday is structured and where employees must do their work. Others allow their workers more latitude to make their own decisions about how, when, and where to get the job done.
Again, there’s no single right way to do things—but there is a right way for you. If you’re someone with a lot of responsibilities outside the office, you might not fare well in an environment where being five minutes late is seen as a capital offense. On the other hand, if you need a lot of structure to get stuff done, too much leeway might sink your productivity.
6. You Don’t Like the Boss
There’s a saying in business: “Workers don’t quit companies. They quit managers.” And in survey after survey, bad bosses rank among the top reasons that employees leave their jobs.
When you’re considering a job offer, pay special attention to the person who will be your supervisor. What kind of feeling do you get from them? How do they describe their work style, and what do they value in a direct report? Do you see yourself developing a rapport with this person, or does it seem like you’ll have a hard time communicating?
Of course, you won’t be able to figure out everything about what it will be like to work with this manager before you take the job. But you can learn as much as possible before you commit.
7. The Employer Is Unreliable or Disrespectful
8. The Commute Is a Killer
The best job in the world might not be worth taking if it means that your commute will destroy your quality of life. Pay attention to what it takes to get to the office during the interview process, and ask yourself if you can do that every day, twice a day, for as long as you work there.
Again, everyone is different. One person might love an hour on the train to read and prepare for the day, while another wants to be able to walk to work in minutes, and still, another prefers to drive themselves and telecommute once a week. It all depends on what works for you.
9. You Get a Better Offer
One of the best reasons to say “no” to one job offer is to say “yes” to a better one. Just keep in mind that the best offer isn’t always immediately apparent.
Before you jump at a higher paycheck or a more prestigious employer, consider each offer in the context of your career and day-to-day life.
There might be times in your life when flexibility will matter more than money, and vice versa. You might choose a tough job at a big-name employer to build your personal brand, but move on to something more comfortable once you have that capital.
10. Your Gut Says, “Hard Pass.”
Analyze the details of the job offer, but don’t forget to listen to your instincts, too. While nerves might not be an indication that something is wrong, it’s always worth listening to that inner voice when it tries to tell you something. Pay attention to your gut feelings and try to figure out what’s prompting that reaction. You might find quantifiable reasons as to why you should turn down the job.
How to Turn Down a Job Offer
When you have decided that you’re not going to take the job, here’s the best way to politely and gracefully decline the position while staying on good terms with the employer. This includes graciously thanking the hiring manager for the offer and clearly articulating that you will not be joining the company. This should include a brief summary of your reasoning, that neither insults the employer nor reveals too much about your next endeavor. If you already accepted but are having second thoughts, here’s how to withdraw your acceptance.