2 Things To Consider When Turning Down A Job Offer

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You’ve been through many rounds of interviews, maybe even done some pre-work, and you finally get the offer. It seemed like a promising opportunity when you applied, and now that you’ve gone through the whole process... you’re not actually sure you still want the job.

If this situation resonates with you, you’re not alone.

One woman I know had an interview process that lasted five months. When she first applied for a role as a communications director at a private school, her interviews moved quickly and she began thinking about how to resign and whether she’d have time off between jobs.

Then, everything came to a grinding halt. There was turnover on the leadership team, and they wanted to wait until the new person was settled in to resume the job search.

Months later, they reached out again to pick up where they’d left off. Only now, the salary had decreased, but the responsibilities had grown. What initially seemed like a great fit had now soured into something that felt like a waste of time and energy.

When she told me about her experience, she said her decision finally came to this: “If they don’t respect me as a candidate, why would they respect me as an employee?”

Another woman I’m close to decided a few months ago that she was ready for a new challenge. Her job search proved fruitful almost immediately: she was interviewing at a bank for a role as an assistant director, and they made their interest clear. They were accommodating with her schedule and moved her through the process quickly.

When they made her an offer, it was significantly lower than she expected — and below the market rate. We worked together on her negotiation strategy and she made a strong case, but still they wouldn’t budge.

Ultimately she realized the role wasn’t what she wanted, and it wasn’t only because of the money.

“I knew I was a good fit for them, they just weren't the right fit for me,” she reflected. “I felt bad that I was rejecting the offer when they so clearly needed to hire someone. Basically, I felt like lying to somehow alleviate the disappointment they may have felt.”

To be clear, she didn’t lie about her reasons for not taking the job, even though she felt some internal pressure to do so.

If you need to turn down a job offer, here are 2 things to consider before making the final call:

1. Give a courtesy heads-up to whoever recommended you.

If someone went out of their way to put in a good word for you, make sure to let them know — in advance — that you’re going to decline. This person put their name on the line for you, so make sure to show them gratitude and respect, even though it didn’t work out. It’s ok to be honest about what didn’t work for you, but remember that you don’t need to unload your frustrations on them.

2. Remember that it’s a small world and you might encounter these people again.

This is particularly relevant if you work in an industry that has frequent turnover. You might want to work at this company down the road, or you might wind up working with your interviewer in a future job. Again, honesty is a good policy when giving your reasons for not taking the job, but that doesn’t mean you have to be fully transparent. You can go with something straightforward like, “After careful consideration, I’ve decided this role isn’t the right fit for me.”

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.



Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.