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Should you ever refuse a job offer?

Searching for a job is hard work – especially now in the current economic situation. You’re excited — or at least relieved — when your efforts eventually result in an employment offer. You may see the depressing headlines about the jobs market, but does this mean you should accept any job offer?

True, a pressing need for a paycheque may outweigh any potential drawbacks to a new role. But if you are in a position to be selective, you must consider every angle before rushing to accept a prospective employer’s offer. After all, a new full-time job is usually meant to last longer than a short-term affair. Following are some guidelines to help you determine whether to accept a job offer or wait for a better opportunity:

Take a closer look at the job description

Carefully reviewing the job requirements, key tasks and responsibilities, as well as whom you will report to, may be the single most important step in assessing an offer from a potential employer. Ask yourself these questions:
– Will I enjoy the day-to-day duties of the position?
– Will I be challenged?
– Is the level of responsibility appropriate considering my experience?
– Am I willing to make any required lifestyle changes (e.g., travel, longer commute, rigid work hours) that may affect your quality of life?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no,’ accepting the position might not be in your best interest. While some negative factors can be overlooked — a slightly lower starting salary than you prefer, for instance — fundamental problems with the job itself are a definite deal-breaker.

Evaluate the company

The work environment affects how you feel on a daily basis, so make sure it’s one in which you feel comfortable. If, for example, you strongly prefer a conservative corporate culture with set hours and established processes, you probably won’t be happy in an informal atmosphere.

Also consider the work styles of your future boss and co-workers. If you sense that you and your potential colleagues have conflicting styles or personalities, tread carefully. While differences in character and opinion can result in better group dynamics, frequent disagreements often lead to unproductive and unhappy work teams.

Review the compensation package

How does the salary compare to what you made in your last position or what others in your specialty and with the same skills earn? Take a look at the benefits package, too. How generous are the perks? Keep in mind that attractive benefits can sometimes outweigh sub-par compensation.

Or perhaps you’re offered a job that requires you to work long hours but offers the option to telecommute. Being able to work from home several days a week may give you the time you need to attend to personal obligations and compensate for the rigid work schedule.

Additionally, if an offer meets most of your requirements but doesn’t include a benefit that’s important to you — such as tuition reimbursement for a professional certification you seek — it doesn’t hurt to ask if that perk can be included in your employment agreement.

Ask about opportunities for growth

There’s nothing worse for your career than getting stuck in a dead-end job. While a so-so role may be fine in the short term, holding a position that does not allow for advancement for an extended period of time can take a toll on your health and happiness.

Try to get a realistic idea of the growth opportunities available within the company. For example, have people who held the job before you moved up with the firm? Where did your prospective manager start out? If the answers to such questions don’t seem to support a policy of promoting from within, you may want to continue your job search.

Careful consideration of the issues discussed above will help you decide whether to accept, reject or negotiate a better offer. If, after evaluating each of these points, you are still unsure which way to swing, go with your gut. If your intuition tells you that something is a little off, conduct some additional research or ask more questions of the hiring manager before making your decision. Moving into a new role is a big step, and you want to enter the arrangement knowing all the facts. With a thoughtful analysis of the pros and cons, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your career.

Robert Half  is the world’s first and largest recruitment consultancy, specialising in the placement of accounting and finance professionals on a temporary and permanent basis. With more than 360 locations throughout North and South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, the company provides a complete financial and banking recruitment service at all levels – from clerical and trainee accountants to Finance Director. 

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  1. Drew | Apr 13, 2012 | Reply

    All sound advice.

    I took a job out of sheer desperation and regretted it.

    Times are tough and money hard to come by.
    Finding a role and a culture that supports career development and crucially fits in with your personality, will help maintain your life style and your sanity.

    But such great jobs are rare and I have to say it, they are rarely found via recruitment agencies or internet job boards.
    If the vacancy was that good, the company would have filled it internally.
    If they have to “sell the job” on the open market, it’s going to be a case of filtering aplicants and all the indignity involved with that.
    People applying out of desperation tend to clog up the recruitment process,
    either a need to “get out of dodge” in their current job or, just need to find work.

    A lot of jobs on the job boards tend to be either technically difficult to fulfil due to a lack of suitibly qualified people or, nobody else wants the grief internally so they go out to the open market to find the right person.
    This is the fayre of most of the internet job boards at the moment sadly.
    It’s tough for the recruiters, the employers and the candidates.
    Great jobs are rare, even in good times.
    After all, if you had a great job before, you wouldn’t be looking now would you?

    Just remember, all the best jobs don’t need to be advertised. The best you can hope for if you go for an advertised vacancy, is that you can move up to a better one when it becomes available, once you get in the door.

    That’s got to be the question if all else fails.

  2. T.WOOD | Apr 13, 2012 | Reply

    “There’s nothing worse for your career than getting stuck in a dead-end job. While a so-so role may be fine in the short term, holding a position that does not allow for advancement for an extended period of time can take a toll on your health and happiness.”



  3. Jane Beresford | Apr 13, 2012 | Reply

    Dear career builder

    Thank you for the best piece of advice I have had for a very long time.

    I have been getting many interview invitations but often end up wondering why I applied for the job in the first place. I have cancelled some and gone to others and after that wonder if I made the right choices.

    Thhere are a lot of jobs available however

  4. Jane Beresford | Apr 13, 2012 | Reply

    There are a lot of jobs available however and one does feel pressured into accepting the first offer simply to get oneself off the benefit roll , but I know deep down that I am capable of more and deserve better. I am a fifty year old single woman, therefore I need to ask myself the question am I really doimg myself a favour for turning down jobs and interviews or am I just giving myself a bad reputation as a time wastet? regards

  5. Laurence Coates | Apr 15, 2012 | Reply

    “if you are in a position to be selective…”.
    It is nice when you have the choice. If you have been unemployed for a certain length of time it may affect your benefits if you do not accept a job offer.

    If you haven’t determined whether or not it is a dead-end job by the time your being offered the job it’s too late!

  6. Sonja Cameron | Apr 20, 2012 | Reply

    It’s also wrong for companies to miss-sell their positions.

    I’ve just left a job I wasn’t qualified for, as it was mis-described. DWP people admit I shouldn’t have been sent for the job, as it was.

    Staying would have destroyed me, being back on benefits is hard enough, but I cancelled 2 interviews on the basis on the job that was promised, and also did not take up an earlier job offer as the hours were not guaranteed… which bit do I start taking the blame for?

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