How To Turn Down A Job OfferBy Jacquelyn Smith
Here's something most people didn't have to worry about for the last half-decade: turning down a job offer.
But now, after years of layoffs and hiring freezes, plenty of corporations are starting to increase staffing levels again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 163,000 jobs added on public and private payrolls last month, which was the biggest gain in five months. Chances are at least some of those newly employed people were offered more than one position and had to decline an offer.
I think most would agree that this isn't necessarily a bad problem to have-but it can be a difficult and uncomfortable thing to deal with, nonetheless.
"There are many reasons why a job candidate might have to turn down a job offer-but it can usually be boiled down to three key areas: the money, the work itself, or the people at the company," says Andy Teach, a corporate veteran and author of From Graduation to Corporation: The Practical Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder One Rung at a Time.
Perhaps you learned some unfavorable things about the company's financials from a reputable source, and you are now hesitating to leave your current situation for an uncertain future, adds Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers and author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.
Marjie Terry, a workplace communication trainer and consultant at Great on the Job, says that you might want to turn down an offer because you received another one at the same time, because you discovered things you didn't like about the organization or its management as you went through the interview process, or you realized the company isn't a good cultural fit.
Whatever your reason is for having to turn down an offer, it can be quite uncomfortable, as you are letting down people you've presumably been trying to impress throughout the interview process, Terry says. "All along you're giving the impression that you'd love the opportunity to work at their company and then, when the offer comes through, you sing a different tune," she says. "This can be very awkward."
To avoid the awkwardness, you should be as transparent as possible in the interview process about what you really need to make the position acceptable to you. Then, if the offer does not meet your stated requirements, it won't be a surprise to the potential employer when you decline.
Salpeter agrees. If the organization went out of their way or incurred a lot of expenses in interviewing you, it may be uncomfortable for some people to say no to the job. "If the organization offered everything you asked for, it may be difficult to turn it down. However, it's important to keep in mind, the interview process is an opportunity for each party to evaluate the other - they wouldn't feel guilty if they didn't hire you, so recognize that it is not unreasonable for you to decide the company or job is not right for you."
It is also up to you to do your research in advance, she says. "For example, if a flexible work schedule is a deal breaker for you, and you wouldn't take a job unless you could have flexible terms, it is up to you to see if the company's culture supports that before you interview, if possible," she adds. "Gauge your needs as early as possible. This helps alleviate some potentially uncomfortable situations."
Teach believes that the degree of awkwardness in turning down a job offer really depends on how tough of a decision it will be for you. "If you know that the job is not for you for many reasons, turning down their offer probably won't be too difficult for you," he says. "If it's a tough decision for you, and you've gone back and forth in your head before making a final decision, the level of discomfort may increase a few notches because you may doubt your own decision about turning down the job." One main reason for feeling uncomfortable is your fear of how the hiring manager will react. "There could a hostile reaction and that's not something anyone is looking forward to," he says.
So if you determine turning down a job is the right decision, the key is to do it tactfully, respectfully, sincerely, and professionally. Put yourself in their shoes, Teach says. What would you want to hear from a candidate who just turned you down and in what tone? "You never know when you may apply for a job with that company again or interview with the same hiring manager, perhaps at another company in the future, so keep this in mind."
Here are some things you should and shouldn't do when turning down a job offer.
Things you should do:
1. Always show appreciation.
Express sincere thanks for anything the people you interviewed with or organization did for you, Salpeter says.
When declining their offer, always tell them how much you appreciate the fact that they chose you over several other job candidates, Teach adds. "Thank them for their offer and then respectfully tell them why you are turning down their offer."
2. Once you've made the decision to turn down the job, let the company know as soon as possible.
"If you wait too long, they may miss out on another candidate whom they're considering and if this is the case, you've just burned your bridges with that company," Teach says. Furthermore, if they rejected you, wouldn't you want to know as soon as possible so you can move on?
3. Tell them about your decision with a phone call, if possible.
How you communicate your decision says a lot about you. Speaking with them over the phone shows professionalism and class while emailing your decision may give the impression that you're afraid to speak with them directly and chose the easy way out. "I think the hiring manager will respect you more if you have the guts to talk to them, even though it may be an uncomfortable situation for you," Teach says. "You can also follow up with a typed letter after your phone call, if you like."
Terry agrees. "Take the initiative to pick up the phone or decline the offer in person to the person who made you the offer." Do not email or leave a voicemail stating you're not accepting. Depending on how much time you spent with various people throughout the interview process, you should consider calling, not emailing, them as well. If you did not spend a tremendous amount of time with various interviewers, emailing a thank you for their time and information is sufficient, she says.
4. Follow up with everyone you came in contact with at the company.
In many cases, you've already interviewed with HR and with one or two hiring managers from the department with the job opening. Speak to all of them. While they will be disappointed with your decision, they will appreciate the personal contact, Teach says.
5. Let them know what you liked about their company.
Mention specific positives about the interviewing experience and the employer, Terry says.
"You obviously liked something about the company and the job or you wouldn't have applied in the first place," Teach says. Speaking positively about their company will let them know that you truly had an interest in working there and that they didn't waste their valuable time interviewing you, he adds.
6. Leave the door open.
If you liked the company but this particular job wasn't a good fit, "keep the door open for the future by saying something such as, 'I hope there may be opportunities for us to work together in the future,'" Salpeter says.
Terry agrees. "If you think this is a company (or there are specific individuals) you'd like to work with in the future, indicate that you'd like to stay in touch." If you think the company might be a good fit for you at another point in your career and it feels appropriate, share that sentiment and indicate your interest in keeping in touch for future opportunities, she says.
7. Recommend someone else for the job.
If you know of anyone else who would be a great fit for the job, mention that person to the hiring manager and give them that person's contact information, Teach suggests. "If the person you recommended turns out to be a great hire, the company will forget about any disappointment they may have had when you turned them down."
8. Be honest about your reason for turning down the job and other offers.
"Share the technical and logistical reasons you decided not to accept the offer," Terry says. If you are interested in the position, but got another offer with better salary or benefits, for example, you should share that information, as companies often revise offers to be competitive and get a candidate they really want.
"I'm sure there are people who will advise you to say as little as possible to the hiring manager about why you're turning them down or not to be too honest with them," Teach says. "However, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. Wouldn't you want to know the real reason why a job candidate just declined your offer? I think you should be as honest as possible without being too critical." Your feedback is important as your honesty may even help that company make some changes.
Things you shouldn't do:
1. Don't accept multiple offers.
If you do, you will absolutely burn your bridges with at least one company and in the long run, that can damage your reputation, Teach says. "Keep in mind that whatever industry you are working in, it's a small world and competitors talk. Assume that if you do accept multiple offers, those companies will find out about it."
2. Don't be brutally honest.
Earlier I wrote you should be honest about your reasons for turning down the job, but if, for example, you interviewed with someone you didn't like, don't tell the company that you didn't like that person or thought that they were incompetent. "Just tell them diplomatically that you don't think you could achieve your potential working under that person's management style, while another candidate would probably thrive under that particular management style. Make it more about you than them," Teach says.
Salpeter concurs. "There's no need to be blunt about your reasons. If you thought the potential boss was an arrogant jerk, keep it to yourself."
3. Don't bad mouth the company or anyone you met in the interviewing process.
"Unless something egregious like sexual harassment occurred, no good is likely to come of disparaging anyone or the company," Terry says.
4. Don't ignore the offer.
"Absolutely inform them of your decision," Teach says. If you think they may be upset when you turn them down, imagine how upset they will be if you don't give them a decision at all.
5. Don't expect them to make you an offer more than once.
"I was told the story of a recent college graduate who turned down an internship from one company because the salary was too low. He accepted an offer at another company but that company rescinded the offer shortly after. The job candidate went back to the original company to see if the offer still stood, but it did not," Teach says.
6. Don't lead the company on if you've already made a decision not to accept their offer.
"Once you've made that decision, let them know and move on," Teach says.
7. Do not negotiate unless you think there's a real possibility that you'll change your mind and accept the position with a revised offer.
Remember, you are forming an impression that will follow you if or when you join the firm or interact with the firm again, Terry says.
8. Don't turn down an offer because you think you'll be getting a better offer from another company.
Unless you have that second offer made to you over the phone or in writing, don't count on it. "What if you reject a job offer from one company because you think you're getting an offer from another company but that offer never comes. Now what? Unless you absolutely have that offer or you're told you will have the offer very shortly, don't gamble with your first offer," Teach suggests.
"The main thing you have to think about when deciding on whether or not to accept a job offer is your happiness," Teach says. "There is no perfect job so you need to weigh the positives and negatives and even weigh each factor depending on importance. If the salary isn't great but you'll be working with a great group of people or if the salary is great but you'll have a two-hour commute, you have to figure out what is most important to you." You also have to be concerned about the impact your decision will have on that company. You know that they won't be too happy with your decision to reject their offer but if you handle it in a positive way and explain your decision in a manner that is understandable to the hiring manager, you'll maintain a strong reputation with them, he concludes.More From Forbes:
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