Guidelines for Rejecting an Offer

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

Knowing when to accept or reject a job offer is often a heady experience – scary, confusing, exhilarating all at the same time.  You want the job, as you (emotionally, psychologically, or financially) need to go back to work – but it doesn’t feel right for any number of reasons.

What to do?

First, do you know what you are looking for in a job?  Make a list of the ideal job, duties, boss, and culture.

Next, make a list of what you like best/least about the role offered to you, as well as the company and culture.

Thumbs DownNow, evaluate the offer in light of your short-term and long-term career interests, needs, and promotional opportunities.  If after comparing your lists, this opportunity is way off the mark—STOP.  Before you reject the offer, I recommend that you have a conversation about your perceptions and concerns with your potential boss.  You may have misconceptions about the opportunity, company, and people.  If after this conversation you are still convinced that this role does not represent a good fit for you, then you may move forward to reject the offer.

Always, Always, Always reject an offer either in person or by phone – not just by email.  Communicate your appreciation and indicate that you feel it is not a good match.  Offer specific reasons why you are not accepting the role.  Be polite; graciousness is essential.  Why?  Factors that caused you to previously reject an offer might have changed.  Additionally, if handled well, this person could become a network partner.  You never know when you might need or want to call on him or her again.

Never reject a company’s offer with the hope that you can negotiate a better deal with them.  It’s a flawed strategy; if you want the job, say so, and negotiate.  Reject an offer only if you are fully prepared to walk away from the opportunity with no strings attached.

Congratulate yourself on the courage it took to decide to reject an offer. . . and move on.  Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up over this decision.  Second guessing creates more anxiety than it does wisdom.

Now go out and find the job and company that’s right for you.


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