How to Decide When to Turn Down a Job Offer [Careers]
TOP TECHNOLOGY STORIES | NOVEMBER 21, 2011
How to Decide When to Turn Down a Job Offer
Jobs are scarce these days, but barring a survival situation, getting a new job offer doesn’t automatically mean you should accept it. Even if you’ve been interested enough in a company to apply and go on an interview, when it comes time to sign on the dotted line, you should take time to consider whether or not this job is actually right for you. Here are some warning signs to look out for.
Photo by Egan Snow.
The Basics: Money, Travel, and Leave
As we said, assuming you’re not in a survival situation where you have to take whatever job offer comes your way in order to stay afloat and pay the bills, you should take some time to think about the offer itself and determine whether the fundamentals you’re being offered are right for you.
- The pay: Is the offered pay what you’re looking for? If it’s the same or even less that you make now, are the other conditions like paid leave, sick leave, benefits, or the work environment or commute enough to make you take a new job without a pay increase? Head over to Salary.com and Glassdoor before agreeing to the offer to see if you’re being lowballed compared to other companies. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on salary after the job offer has been cut. We’ve talked about how to negotiate getting paid what you’re worth, and why you should avoid tipping your hand when talking about salary, but make sure the dollar signs make sense before accepting.
- Vacation/Sick Leave. Is the new job offering you competitive leave? In some cases, if you’re not getting the salary you’re looking for, you can negotiate more leave to compensate. Many firms would rather you take an extra week’s vacation than lose you entirely. Ask how much paid and sick leave you get before you accept the job offer.
- Travel and Other Duties. Some employers are up front with this kind of thing, but others aren’t. One employer I used to work for would tell all of our candidates that they’d work at corporate HQ, but depending on your skillset, you could see yourself on a plane with an hour’s notice for one of the satellite offices to resolve a problem. Make sure you ask about travel, long hours, heavy or long-term projects you may be assigned to, and other required responsibilities that may influence your decision before you accept.
- Benefits. More and more companies are cutting back on the amount they’re willing to chip in towards an employee’s benefits, and many more are delaying when they offer those benefits until after the first month or so. Does your job offer include information about the benefits you’d be eligible for, and are those benefits enough to cover your needs? Benefits definitely aren’t the kind of thing you want to wait until you’re on the job to find out about, but unfortunately they often don’t come into the discussion until late in the game, and they’re usually not something you can negotiate.
Who Will Your Manager Be?
With luck, you interviewed with the person who will likely be your manager. Often, an HR department is the intermediary between a candidate and the manager who actually has the opening that needs to be filled, but did you at least get the chance to speak with the person who would be your boss if you took the job? If you didn’t, would it be possible to speak with them or meet with them before deciding on the offer? It’s not unreasonable to at least want to have a phone conversation with the person you’ll work for and find out whether the two of you are compatible people, and whether your future manager’s goals for your position are the same as the HR recruiter told you, or that you have for your career. If you get the feeling that your actual boss doesn’t want to or doesn’t have time to speak with you, even if there’s an offer on the table and the company is saying they want you to join the team, be wary.
Photo by bpsusf.
Who Will You Work With?
Many companies put candidates through “gauntlet” style interviews, where they meet with groups over the course of a long interview day. My last job was this way, and I had the privilege of being on both sides of the table when I was hired and as I interviewed other candidates over the years. When I interviewed at Google, I learned they did the same thing, and the trend is catching on at more companies, not just technical ones.
The reason for this is twofold: it gives the entire team the opportunity to meet and learn something about the person who may be joining their ranks, and it also gives you—the candidate—the opportunity to meet and learn more about the people you’ll be working with. You get the opportunity to question them and see their personalities just as they have the chance to find out if you’re right for the job. If you didn’t get a chance to meet any of your colleagues during the interview process, that’s a warning sign, but not a big one.
Ask the manager interviewing you (or the recruiter) about the team you’ll be working with. Ask how many are on the team, and where you fit in as far as roles and responsibilities. Ask how long they’ve been on board and when the last person left that team. You should definitely try to get some insight into your team before you join, and if you don’t like what you hear, trust your gut. The last thing you want to do is take a job offer where the money and benefits are right, but your coworkers are all wrong and you dislike working with them every day.
Photo by Lloyd Johnson.
What Will You Work On?
Most job interviews do a great job at explaining what your roles and responsibilities will be (although you should make sure you’re clear on these before you accept the offer!) but make sure you’re also clear on exactly what projects you would start working on as soon as you start, who will work with you, and any team members you may be required to manage or direct. Make sure that the first projects and tasks that you’ll be given should you accept the job offer are things you actually want to work on, and would be passionate about doing. Also, consider whether or not those projects are ones you think you can make an impact on as soon as you arrive. You don’t want to be set up for failure as soon as you start.
You should also consider how much training or orientation you’ll be expected to take when you start. Some companies consider orientation and training important, others just want you to start working and make an impact as soon as you get in the door. Make sure you know what you’re getting into, and that it’s okay with you—if you’re the type to take it slow and learn as much as possible before jumping in with your ideas and your boss expects you to start chiming in on day one, you may be in trouble.
Similarly, make sure that your career goals and the goals for the position you’re applying for as similar. You don’t have to have your career all written out yet, but hopefully you have a general idea, and you can find out whether your overall goals are at all in line with what your future manager sees for this position.
What Does Your Gut Say?
Talk over the job offer with your friends and family. Your offer should be good for at least a few days while you make the decision and sleep on it for a night or two. Think it over, and make sure it lines up with your career goals. Does the job give you the flexibility you need to have a life outside of work? Can you pursue your passions in your off-time, or even on the job? How did you feel about the people you met during the interview process, and did it go too quickly or slowly for your tastes? Ultimately the decision is yours, but your instincts should have a say in the matter as much as the fact and figures do.
If you don’t have a job currently, you may be tempted to take whatever comes along, and there may be something to that if you need a job right now. If you’re currently employed however, or you’ve been going on several interviews and have more than one prospect in the hopper, you may have the luxury of thinking over whether or not this job offer is a good move for you personally and professionally. Taking a job offer that you know isn’t right for you is a quick way to set yourself up for failure down the road, and possibly a worse situation than you’re in now. Remember, a job interview is a two-way conversation, and a job offer is a two-sided agreement. Just because a company offers you a job doesn’t mean you have to take it, especially if you have the nagging feeling it may not be right for you.
Photo by Dani Lurie.