Should You Ever Decline a Job Offer?

You’ve been offered a position, but you’re not sure if you want to accept it.  While part of you thinks that you should happily take any job, deep down you know that this position is not right for you.  So what do you do?  Do you turn down a perfectly reasonable job offer, or do you accept a job that you know won’t make you happy?  While you should never decline any job offer without serious thought and deliberation, in some situations it is the best decision.  Here are five good reasons to pass on a job: 

The commute is ridiculous.  You would have to wake up at four in the morning, take a subway and three buses, and two and a half hours later you would be at work.  Be honest with yourself; will you be able to sustain this much traveling time every day?  If it is a short term situation, or if it is an amazing opportunity for which you are willing to make the sacrifice, then good luck to you.  Otherwise, do a few practice runs of the commute and think carefully before you put yourself in this position.  

It just doesn’t feel right.  You’re not even remotely excited about taking this job.  You haven’t started working and the job is already dragging you down.  You don’t see a future for yourself at the company and it doesn’t feel like you will fit in with the organizational culture.  You know deep down that you won’t be happy there.    

You have received another offer that is a better fit.  If you’ve received a better offer, then there is no question, you have to decline the job.  Wait until you get the better offer in writing, and let the employer know that you won’t be accepting the job.  There can be a temptation to string the employer along a bit just in case the other position falls through, but that isn’t a fair or professional way to act.  

The salary is too low.   If you aren’t happy with the salary that they are offering, ask them if there is room for negotiation.  It may just be their first offer, which they are fully expecting you to negotiate.  If the salary is fixed, and it is unacceptable to you, do a little bit of research before you make any decisions.  Look at salary surveys, job advertisements, and talk to people in your network to make sure that your expectations are reasonable within today’s labour market conditions.  If the salary is below industry norms, then you should decline the position and wait for an offer that is fair.   

The work is not in line with your skills, experience, and interests. You may be offered a position that is different from what you’ve done in the past and what you want to do in the future.  You are afraid that accepting this position will hinder your long term career growth.  This decision is a personal one that will depend on your particular situation.  There are many reasons that your career could get side tracked; perhaps you have been out of the workforce for a while, you may be a newcomer with no Canadian experience, or a new graduate with no experience at all.  You could accept position outside of your field to gain experience, to get references and make networking contacts, or simply to support yourself.  If you do take this step, make sure that you have a long term plan to get your career back on track.  However, if you decide that you want to stick to your field, then hold out for a related position as long as possible.

With so many people out of work, turning down a job offer can be terrifying, but in some cases you don’t really have a choice.  Make a decision based on the information that you have in front of you, and don’t look back.

(Photo from stuartmiles/


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