No Thank You: Turning Down a Job Offer Can Be A Tough Call

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CareerRecently, renowned Selma director Ava DuVernay was offered the job to direct comic book super hero flick Black Panther, but she turned down the job. The reason? The working style of the film arm of Marvel Comics was not compatible to hers. Marvel is known to be very hands-on in the making of its films, some even say overbearing. And in subsequent interviews, DuVernay explained she didn’t think she would be able to make the film she wanted to make. This was a high-profile, much-buzzed about directing gig, but DuVernay chose to walk away instead of compromise on her vision.

Sometimes you have to turn down job offers even if they appear to be career-changing. But how do you know when to say no? “Trust your instincts. If your future co-workers don’t give off the productive, pleased-to-be-there vibe you’d expect from a satisfied workforce, that’s one red flag,” notes HR professional Lynda Spiegel, founder of Rising Star Resumes, a career coaching and resume writing service. “Does HR seem inflexible about policies such as vacation time or telecommuting? Does the job offer you the opportunity to grow professionally?”

Still, turning down a job offer can be extremely difficult if you have been unemployed. “It’s difficult to walk away from any offer if you’ve been unemployed for some time, but you need to balance how critical your finances are with how miserable you may be at this company,” says Spiegel. “Being broke is a legitimate fear, but the right job for you is out there, and there are short-term jobs you can take to earn some income. Bottom line: don’t settle. We spend most of our waking hours at work; they should be productive and challenging.”

Besides your not feeling right about the job, there are many other reasons to turn down a position. “You should turn down a role if you uncover that the employer has lied during the interview. Some employers, to trap the best applicants, will say, well anything, to encourage you to take the role. This is a disaster trap; if the employer lies, stay well away,” says interview coach Chris Delaney, author of The 73 Rules for Influencing the Interview.

If you are unsure about the position, try to delay a decision.  “Of course, any fear an applicant has is legitimate but the fear that word will get out is not something that should force someone to take a position just because it was offered. All offers of employment are confidential and there is legal recourse should personal information or details be spread throughout an industry,” Andrea Berkman-Donlon, founder of The Constant Professional, points out. “Regarding another offer coming, this is a concern shared by many applicants. The key is to recognize the difference between a new offer coming and the time frame in which another offer may come. Everyone’s personal threshold for this window is different. Therefore, always ask for an extended amount of time to consider the offer to think over what is before you.”