When to Turn Down a Job Offer: 11 Red Flags
Finally, after months of searching, you’ve got a job offer. Whether you were suddenly laid off or furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic or have simply been looking for a new position, any job offer is something to celebrate. After a pat on the back for a job well done, now’s the time to dig in and evaluate the offer.
It seems like a great opportunity, but is it really? When you’re anxious to leave your current job or you’ve been unemployed for longer than you want, it’s easy to get sucked in and think you have to take the job. After all, who knows how much longer it’ll be until the next one comes along?
However, accepting a job offer just because it’s an offer may not be the best professional move. No matter what your current employment situation is, there are times when you should consider turning down the job offer.
1. The Salary Isn’t Right
Obviously, you need to make ends meet and, ideally, you’d like to do more than barely cover your bills each month. But if the salary isn’t enough to cover your basic expenses and you’ve tried to negotiate a higher salary without any luck, it’s probably a good idea to walk away.
The exceptions might be if you’re changing careers in mid-life and are starting over at entry-level, or if you’re looking at the job as a temporary bridge until the market stabilizes post-pandemic. If the salary is enough to cover expenses until you can get back on your feet, it may be worth the lower pay. However, if the salary offer is so low that your time is better spent looking for more desirable positions, continue your search. That said, carefully consider the latter option and your status with other job applications before turning down an offer. For example, have you been getting interviews? Is this your first offer? Has your interview process been positive and have you made it through to multiple second or third interviews? Assess how the market is responding to your candidacy.
2. It Takes Forever to Get Benefits
The company offers a fantastic 401(k) plan and a generous amount of vacation days, and they cover the full amount of your health insurance. The problem is that you won’t be eligible to contribute to the 401(k) until after 12 months and it’ll take another six years until you’re fully vested. Make sure you know when you’ll get access to all the benefits.
3. It Doesn’t Offer What You Want
Everyone has different “must-haves” on their job list. It might be the ability to work remotely a few times a week (permanently), or maybe you want flexible hours so you can help your kids with e-learning. Whatever it is, if that “must-have” is not in the job offer, you might want to turn it down.
That doesn’t mean a job offer will, or should, be perfect. Weigh and measure the must-haves with the trade-offs.
Also, remember to not only consider what the job offers right now, but what conditions will be like weeks and months down the road. Perhaps two of your “must-haves” are remote work and flexible hours, and this position does offer those… for now. But what about a year from now when the office is fully opened and traditional business hours return? Will you be okay with the commute and a regular 9-to-5 schedule?
With so much uncertainty for employers and employees these days, getting as much information as possible up front about what “normal” business operations will eventually look like can give you some clear indications on if the job is a good long-term fit for you.
4. There’s No Clear Path
Before accepting the offer, think about how this job will help your career.
If you can see that you start in position X and that after a few years, you could move to position Y, and then Z, that’s great. A clear career path can help you plan out the next few years of your life and helps you understand where your career can lead. Even if you don’t want to follow that route, at least you have a solid idea of what the job and the company can do for your career.
And while no job lasts forever and you may not stay at that company for your whole career, the job you’re considering should help advance your career no matter where you work. Figure out what you will learn in the role and how you can use those skills in your next job, no matter where or what it is.
However, if after looking at the role and the company, you see no long-term professional gain or benefit from the job, you may want to pass.
5. The Job Duties Are Mysterious
Sometimes job posts aren’t well written (trust us, it happens). You apply anyway, figuring that the interviewer would explain the job, but that’s not how it turned out. Now you’ve got an offer, but you have no idea what the job is or what you will do!
A job title will tell you some things, but not everything, about the job. If you’ve gone through the entire interview process and still don’t know what the job entails, you should either find out more information or pass on the job.
It’s not wise to take on a “mystery” job. For starters, there’s a chance that what you thought you would do and what you actually do are so different that you don’t gain anything from the job. Or you end up unhappy and bored because the job is so different from your expectations.
Worse, if you accept a job without understanding the role, you may be asked to do things you aren’t comfortable with or aren’t qualified for. But because you accepted the job “as is,” you may not have a choice and will have to perform those duties as assigned.
6. There’s a Revolving Door
During the interview, you asked how the company was doing. “Fantastic!” the interviewer said. Only, it seems like people are leaving left and right. If the company is so fantastic, why doesn’t anyone want to stay there?
Turnover happens in every job and every industry. The average turnover rate (the rate at which employees leave jobs for whatever reason) is 3.5%. Some industries have a higher rate (like the arts at 6.1%), and some industries are lower (like education, which has a 1.3% turnover rate).
While you can ask about the turnover rate during the interview, they probably don’t know specifics. Instead, ask the interviewer why the position is open. Was the person promoted within the company? Or, did they leave for greener pastures somewhere else? There’s a chance that this is a new role, too.
It may be worth it to turn to review sites and social media to see if you can get the inside scoop on turnover, longevity, and why people are leaving the company. If it seems that there’s a high rate of turnover (or many current employees are actively searching for new jobs), take this into consideration before you accept the job.
7. You Don’t Like the Mission
Before you applied for the job, you looked at the job description and probably did a little bit of research into the company. Everything seemed legit, so you went for it. However, after learning more about the company and what it does, it doesn’t line up with your values, beliefs, or interests.
It’s perfectly acceptable to turn down a job if you don’t like the mission, the solutions, and the company values. You’re better off being true to yourself and being happy.
8. The Hiring Process Was Subpar
Yes, there are scatterbrained people in the world, and employers make mistakes. However, if it seems that everyone you come into contact with at the company is disorganized or doesn’t care about filling the position (or communicating with you), what makes you think things will be any different when you’re an employee?
The hiring process is, in some respects, your introduction to life at that company. While it’s not a typical day in the job, it is a good introduction to what it will be like to work at that company.
That said, keep in mind, though, that many companies were thrown into stressful, chaotic situations during the pandemic crisis that required a lot of shifting of business practices and processes. If the application process seemed merely disorganized—but not disrespectful—it could be indicative of current times, and not a red flag.
9. The Offer Doesn’t Match
The job description said that you would only have to travel “sporadically,” the job pays $50,000 a year, and you would be doing account management and client relationships, no sales. And you confirmed this information during the interview.
But, the written offer says that you have to travel “frequently,” the job pays $45,000.
No matter how much the offer varies from what you expected, ask about the differences and get written confirmation that what you discussed in the interview is what your job will be. Once you sign the offer, you’ll be expected to abide by that job description, salary, and whatever other details are in it. It doesn’t matter what you discussed during the interview or what was in the job posting. Before you sign off on a job offer, make sure the written offer matches what you and the interviewer talked about.
10. They’ve Got a Bad Reputation
No company is perfect. There will always be at least one former employee who says that the company “sucks, hates its employees, and will destroy your soul if you work there.”
However, if multiple former employees say the company isn’t great, you should pay attention. It could be that there are problems in one department with one manager. Or those complaints could indicate that there is a larger problem at the company.
Don’t, however, rely strictly on internet searches and social media. Reach out to your network and see if they’ve heard anything about the company. Are there rumors that you haven’t heard about, but they have?
Rumors are hearsay, so research them. Read up on the company in trade publications. Do things seem to be going poorly for the company? Have their prospects dimmed? Is the CEO described in glowing terms or more negative ones?
11. Your Gut Is Telling You to Think Twice
During your interview, did you get a bad feeling? Did everyone at the company seem happy and content, or did you get negative vibes? If you had a remote interview, does it seem like the company is leaving out key details or hiding something?
Always trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling or something seems “off,” you’re probably right and should turn down the job offer. Even if it turns out there’s nothing wrong with the company, your gut may be telling you that this isn’t the place for you. Now more than ever with so much that’s unsettled in the world, it’s important to tune into yourself to discover what you truly want and deserve.
Finding the Right Job Offer
Sometimes, we get so excited by the prospect of a new job that we forget to consider all the details. Salary and benefits are one thing, but culture, fit, and being respected are just as important (if not more so) in a job. It’s not always easy, but after the initial excitement of getting the offer passes, take some time and figure out if this job is right for you or if it’s something you should pass on.
While you’re debating whether or not to accept the offer, read up on how to evaluate a job offer, how to negotiate the job offer, and, if you’re lucky enough, how to decide between multiple job offers. And if you’re continuing your job search, consider joining FlexJobs.
Members get full access to our database of flexible and remote jobs. Not a member? Take the tour and learn more about how FlexJobs works.
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