Receiving an offer for that dream job is an exciting time for all involved (including recruiters!). It’s a very easy decision to say “yes” when the role seems to meet all your expectations. But what about when an offer doesn’t excite you? Or when you get some sixth sense the role is not really what you’re looking for?
When do you say ‘no’ to a job offer?
Lauren was recently asked this question by a friend and it generated much discussion in our office. The friend was offered a more senior role at another organisation and saw it a great opportunity career-wise, but had concerns about accepting. Her friend didn’t feel comfortable with the senior manager, nor did she get a good feeling about the team culture. She asked Lauren whether she should just take it for the experience on her CV but keep looking for another position.
Do you accept a job offer?
While obviously a personal decision, we would generally advise that if the role does not align with your expectations it is best not to accept. The red lights are flashing when you are not excited by an offer, or you want to accept but remain open to other opportunities.
In our discussion over coffee, the Trak Search team discussed a number of examples, from personal and professional experience, of people facing this dilemma. The examples included moves to other organisations and counter offers from current employers.
If you have not been in this situation before you may think it would be a straightforward issue to navigate. But we regularly hear stories of the struggle people face in weighing up an offer, particularly where they have not given enough thought to what they are looking for in their next role; have not communicated this effectively throughout the process; or have continued in a recruitment process for the wrong reasons.
Amy Gallo wrote an article for Harvard Business Review titled “Accept the Job Offer or Walk Away?”, which has some great pointers for people in this position. Based on this article and our experience, there are a few things that people can do.
Reflect on your reasons for exploring new opportunities and what you are looking for in your next role
Sometimes the reason for looking for a new role can be obvious. People can be relocating or returning to the workforce after a period of extended leave. It may not always be so clear cut. Both Lauren and Penny commented on the number of candidates they have spoken to throughout their HR careers who had difficulty articulating their reasons for looking for new opportunities. It is common to be genuinely told “I have been here for X amount of time so I just think it’s time to move on”.
Be clear with yourself on why you are looking for something new, as this will help to shape your ideas on what your next move should be. Is it time for you to take on greater responsibility? Do you need a new role to utilise your recent study? Are you looking to escape an uncomfortable work setting? Is it because there was an exciting project you missed? Did you miss an opportunity you expected? While there are some aspects that you won’t want to share with others, make sure YOU understand your reasons for moving and how these impact upon the selection criteria you’ll develop in assessing potential roles.
Too often people are so busy ‘escaping from‘ that they omit to plan the ‘where to‘. Where you have identified you are ready for something new, it is vital that you take the time to assess your selection criteria before commencing your search.
Clearly understanding your reasons for looking can also be helpful when weighing up a counter offer from your current employer. Perhaps you too have seen the dilemma a person faces when their manager offers more money or a new work opportunity in an attempt to retain them. In our experience, accepting a counter offer tends to be the beginning of the end. Most of the time the counter offer does not address the reasons that a candidate was looking to leave in the first place. It also tends to be a signal of a poor working relationship when it takes your resignation for the company to consider your situation. If you are considering a counter offer, go back to your reasons for commencing your job search. Make sure you address these reasons. What can seem like the easy option in staying is typically just delaying the inevitable.
Be clear and open throughout any process about the things that are most important to you
Once you have identified what it is you are looking for in your next role, wherever possible be open and honest with the HR/recruiter and potential employers. This will help ensure you are being considered for the right opportunities. Being honest in your responses to their questions helps ensure the best fit possible. You really do want their process to work!
This includes being up front about remuneration package expectations and required job conditions. This is particularly dear to our heart as we always try to limit any eleventh hour surprises. Unfortunately, we’ve seen it happen where people wait until an offer is made to discuss changes they would need made to the offer. Quite often a client cannot meet these new requirements, which is obviously disappointing for all involved.
Weigh up each opportunity against your personal criteria and seek as much information as you need to make a considered assessment
Discuss the details of the role as you move through the process. The purpose of any recruitment process is for a future employer to get to know you and for you to get to know them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that are important to you. Their answers and your research allow you to assess the opportunity against your values and career aspirations. Ensure you have enough information to decide (as best you can) whether it would be the right next step for you should it get to offer stage.
It says much about a person who, upon receiving an offer, says that they’ll now need to think about it for a few days. Haven’t they given thought already? The organisation quickly deduces that either (a) they’re being stalled for another role; or (b) the person is showing a lack of judgement or naivety. Whichever, it does not reflect well upon the person.
If the role involves relocation and you have a family, discuss it with them in the early stages. We’re not suggesting you start checking out homes on the day you apply, however don’t leave it until an offer is imminent before having a family round-table. One of our regional clients speaks of “recruiting a family” and the family should be included sooner rather than later.
If you don’t believe a role is what you’re looking for, withdraw or decline the offer politely and professionally.
Don’t accept a role ‘just for now’ with the idea that you will keep looking. There are many reasons why a role doesn’t work out, but you need to think through the potential damage to your reputation by hopping around roles while deciding what you want. Take the time to consider your next step carefully and don’t accept any job offer lightly.
A good recruitment process should allow you to express what is important to you so that we can all avoid the ‘last minute surprise’. The process is about both parties investigating the potential fit. This can mean that right up to and including offer stage, a candidate may withdraw. People get anxious about expressing any possible doubt in case this prematurely takes them out of a process. However being open and honest throughout the process about your expectations and possible concerns is the best option. It also means a potential employer is more likely to accept and understand a withdrawal. Your withdrawal should not come as a complete surprise to others.
If you are looking for an offer different to the one on the table, make sure you’ve been clear along the way. Where you are progressing in another process, let your recruiter know (although no need to go into specific details).
Once you decide that you would not accept an offer, you should withdraw.
Remember, your professionalism is on display throughout the entire process. This final stage is no exception. If you do wish to withdraw or turn down an offer, give those who have invested time in this process the courtesy of a clear answer. Yvonne had some examples to share of people who had just stopped returning calls or emails part way through the process, which only left her to assume they no longer wished to continue with the role.
If you’re going to start a new role make sure it is worth the effort. Consider what you really want and what you would be willing to accept before you start looking, and only consider roles that meet your criteria. Don’t take something you’re not interested in for the sake of it, as you may find yourself back on the hunt sooner than you should be. Don’t be afraid to walk away from something that’s not right, no matter how much time has been invested. Finally, make sure you are professional in your conduct from start to finish.
Read related Trak Search article ‘Your interview questions when preparing for a new role‘