When to Turn Down a Job Offer

Two businessmen in suits discussing a job offer letter while sitting in chairs in a glassed in walkway.
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Sometimes your best course of action is to turn down a job offer. Even if you're desperately seeking employment—if you know the job isn't going to be a good fit—it can make sense to decline the offer.

It's better not to take the job in the first place than it is to have a job that doesn't work out a short time later. However, there are some circumstances, especially when you're in a difficult financial situation, where it may make sense to accept a position you don't want.

When To Turn Down a Job Offer

There are many good reasons to decline an offer. The job may not pay enough money, the job responsibilities might not be what you're looking for, there may not be room to move up the career ladder, or you might not feel there is a good fit between you and your future boss, co-workers, or the company.

You might have another offer that's much better. The job offer may be conditional, and you may not be willing or able to meet the requirements.

Evaluate the Offer

Even though receiving a job offer is the goal of every job search, it is important to carefully evaluate any offer to make sure the job is right for you. If you're not sure about the position, or if your gut is telling you that this isn't the job for you, ask for more time to make a decision.

When should you consider turning down a job offer? If you have a chance to meet your future boss, your perception of the character and management style of your prospective supervisor will be an important consideration.

If you have serious doubts that this individual would be a positive and supportive boss, proceed with caution. Ask for the opportunity to meet with other staff who report to your prospective supervisor and ask some neutral sounding questions:

  • How would you describe her management style?
  • What do you like most about her as a manager?
  • What type of mentoring have you received?

Since most workers change jobs frequently in the modern economy, it will be important to evaluate what and how much you will learn in a new job. Will accepting this new job help you to make a strong case for future jobs, or might you stagnate in your development? Does the organization have a solid training program in place for junior employees?

Money Matters

The financial standing and market position of your prospective employer will be another critical issue to evaluate. Is the company expanding? Is the company financially stable? Are their products and services well known and respected? Organizations that are floundering will often need to cut budgets and lay off staff.

Opportunity to Advance

For entry-level or junior positions, you will want to determine if the company frequently promotes individuals from the job you have been offered.

Jobs with a clear and realistic career path will have greater value as you launch your career. If the employer can't demonstrate a clear growth pattern within a reasonable time frame, then you might consider turning down that offer. Likewise, if you discover that the employer has a poor record of retaining new employees, you should be cautious.

Compensation and Benefits

Of course, compensation and benefits are a reason that many offers are turned down. Make sure that you are aware of salary standards for the job and industry. Review online salary sites for survey data for similar jobs in your location.

However, don't give the initial salary too much weight as a factor in deciding on an offer, particularly if there is a definite pattern for salary increases over time and you will develop valuable skills in the job.

Accepting the Offer

If you decide to accept the job offer, it's important to be sure that you are clear on the details including compensation (salary and benefits), work schedule, time off from work, and your job responsibilities. You don't want to be like the job seeker who discovered the normal hours for the job he had already accepted were 50 hours a week, rather than the 40 he expected.

If you have any questions, the time to ask them is prior to accepting a job.

Declining the Offer

If you do decide to turn down an offer, it will be important to do so in the right way and at the right time. Typically, it is best to take some time to consider an offer even if you are leaning towards turning it down. Write a polite letter expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to explore the job. If you found that the job didn't tap critical skills or interests, but the employer was impressive, you might inquire about other more suitable positions.

Similarly, there are times during an interview when it becomes clear that the job isn't right for you. If the company is appealing, but the job isn't, you could politely share your interest in other positions more in line with your strengths at the conclusion of your interview.


Common courtesy means being polite, even if you know you don't want the job.

Plus, there may be other opportunities at the company which are a better fit. If you decline tactfully, you may have the opportunity to be considered for a different role.

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