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When to Say No to a Job


Originally posted on US News & World Report: On Careers – When to Say No to a Job

Interviews aren’t solely for the sake of the company—they’re intended to help the job seeker figure out whether the company is a match for them, too. And while most of us can’t afford to be too picky in this economy, if you interview for an opportunity that doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut.

Here are a few tell-tale warning signs about a potential job, ones that might set off that gut reaction:

1. The position has been filled multiple times and nobody has lasted more than 18 months. High turnover is a sign of multiple issues. It could be poor compensation, a negative work environment, little opportunity for growth, or often times, a bad manager. If you’re spending eight or more hours a day at work, you need to like most of the people you work with.

[See 21 Secrets to Getting the Job.]

2. You’re treated poorly in the interview. Were the interviewers prepared for the meeting? Were you left waiting for an unreasonable amount of time? Were you in asked to go in for day-long interviews and never given a restroom break or offered a drink or lunch? How a company behaves in the interview process is a clear sign of what it’s probably like to work there.

3. You’re asked by the interviewer to give confidential information about other companies or people. An interviewer may come right out and ask you to divulge information that you know you shouldn’t share. Don’t be tempted by such requests. Prepare for how you will deal with these situations in advance and you should be able to handle it gracefully. Acknowledge the request and the confidentiality of the information and back it up with something you can share because it’s public information. A reasonable person should understand and respect your reluctance to share proprietary information. If the interviewer continues to push, you’re probably dealing with someone who doesn’t adhere to ethical business practices.

4. You’re given a project that could be used for the company’s benefit—even if you didn’t get the job. Unfortunately, this happens too often. A writing test, a portfolio sample, a request for references, a walk-through of previous marketing/staffing/sales/etc. plans, even a mock assignment are normal requests to evaluate your skills for the job. Depending on the company, you may be asked to take a personality test and submit information for a formal background check. But a request to develop original, ready-to-use content for the company is not acceptable. Keep those ideas to yourself and spend your time looking for something more solid and with a company who will respect you and your ideas.

[See When to Ask for a Raise.]

5. The hiring manager has unreasonable expectations. Check the job description, twice. If this is a new role, it’s important to ask questions about the expectations. If the duties seem like something only a team of six could handle, you’ll need to bring it up. The company could be clueless about how much one person can realistically handle.

6. Salary doesn’t match the skills required. Your decision to take a position shouldn’t be only about the money, but you should receive a fair wage for the work performed. You have to consider the long-term benefits and not just short-term gain. However, a company offering a salary way off the mark is a sign of how they value their workforce. If they are cheap now, they are probably stingy on promotions and raises.

It can be difficult to be picky when the economy isn’t offering many jobs to choose from, but in certain situations, it may be smarter to pass on a job and wait for the right opportunity.


When You Need Time to Consider a Job Offer

You always want to start off on the right foot with your new employer. How the offer process is handled will impact how the relationship starts – or ends. That’s what I talked about for my post on US News and World Report’s On Careers blog this week. Here’s an excerpt:

You’ve gotten a job offer, and now it’s time to evaluate it. You should congratulate yourself for getting this far in the process.

But remember, a company needs to know you’re just as excited about them as they are about you. You need to manage the relationship with your possible next employer correctly to solidify the relationship and for everyone to feel like this is the right decision.

When you’re at the point of getting an offer from a company, most hiring managers will assume a few things:

  • You’ve discussed the opportunity with your family
  • You’ve given the job serious consideration without knowing the exact package or contractual arrangement
  • You want to work there

If fact, they assume this when you provide your references, even before they extend an offer. That’s your cue to ask any pending questions about the job or the company. While your reference checks are in progress, that’s when you should to start considering the opportunity like you have an offer in hand.

Read the rest and the tips about how to ask for more time if you need it: When You Need Time to Consider a Job Offer

Photo credit: Robbert van der Steeg

Candidate question: Balancing multiple offers

I don't know where

Photo Credit: Matias Dutto

District 13 film Q:

When I'm balancing more than one offer at a time, how upfront should I be with the companies?  An ultimatum seems too pushy in certain circumstances. I have one offer in hand, but a better one that may take another week or two to finalize. Some people accept jobs only to later decline if they get another, more desirable offer which seems like an integrity compromise to me.


If you are an active job seeker, it's appropriate to be up front with both companies about where you are in the interview processes. An active job seeker usually evaluates more than one company. By letting the hiring managers or the recruiters know where you stand with other offers will help with timing. Being upfront doesn't necessarily mean the timing will work out in your favor, but it will at least give the other company an opportunity to make a move and you won't be stuck at the last minute appearing to give ultimatums.

By delaying giving an answer to Company A in hopes of evaluating a potentially better offer by Company B is risky. Company A may not be willing to wait it out and will probably feel its offer is being shopped around for something better. Company B may or may not come through with an offer and by waiting you run the risk of losing the offer from Company A.

Your best bet is to evaluate Company A's offer based on what you are looking for in an opportunity and make a decision based on that. If you can't decide if Company A is the right move, then it probably isn't and you should kindly decline the offer or tell the company you need a bit more time and you understand if they are continuing in their search. Be ready to lose it.

The best case scenario is if you don't have an offer in hand by Company A. If the company is ready to present an offer, you could let the hiring manager know you are extremely interested in the opportunity, but you are far along in some other interview processes that will wrap up within two weeks. You would like to see out the rest of the process so you can evaluate your options equally before you receive a written offer. The hiring manager should be much more understanding and will appreciate your honesty and integrity.

It is best to not ask for an offer from a company unless you are ready to make a decision. Companies usually expect an answer within 48 hours of the offer extension. Letting a company sit for two weeks for a decision with an offer in hand usually puts doubts in the hiring managers mind about the candidate's interest and enthusiasm in the position being offered.

Once you accept an offer with one company, you should be prepared to let the other companies move on. Accepting a job to only later decline for Company B is just plain wrong (in most situations). Candidates who choose this compromise their integrity and burn bridges with everyone involved in the process and cost the hiring company a lot of money. The chances are you will run into the people involved in the hiring process in your career at some point. That hiring manager could be the head of communications at your agency's biggest pitch of the decade a few years down the road. People don't forget these situations, so it's important to handle it with care.

This is part of a new column I will be featuring here on my blog. If you have a question and think the rest of the community would benefit from the answer, please ask me here and I'll do my best to feature it (or at least respond individually). Your name will be kept in strict confidence.


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