Why You Should Turn Down That Job Offer

It's always exciting to receive a job offer from a prospective employer, especially if you've been looking for months. But don't let your excitement cloud your better judgment; not all job offers are created equal, and some should definitely give you pause. In today's employment market, IT professionals skilled in the hottest specialties have leverage, and a more appropriate offer may be on the horizon. Except in extreme circumstances, steer clear of an employment offer if any of the following is true.

You will be the fifth person to have held the job in the past three years. Before moving forward with a new position, take a moment to look back by researching the history of the role you're about to fill. Have those who held the job typically been promoted, or did the majority of them resign? Avoid any position that could be a black hole. To find out, ask the hiring manager the following questions:

  • Why is this job vacant?
  • Is the turnover rate high for this position?
  • What's typically the next career step for those with this job?
The hiring manager is not likely to admit that there are problems with the position, so you may have to read between the lines when evaluating his answers.

You will clash with the corporate culture. If you're a jeans-and-T-shirt person, a suit-and-tie environment may feel stifling. Similarly, if you prefer the stability of a large, well-established firm, you probably won't enjoy working for a start-up that's barely off the ground. So, when evaluating a job offer, pay particular attention to the firm's corporate culture and how well you align with it. If the atmosphere is not comfortable, chances are the position won't be right for you.

Adapting to the corporate culture also means relating well to future co-workers and supervisors. While you don't have to be best friends with the people you work with, you should respect them and enjoy the time you spend with them in the office. Think back to the people with whom you interviewed. Were you able to establish rapport? Did anyone seem standoffish? If you took part in a group interview, how well did the interviewers interact with one another? Would you be happy spending 40 hours, or more, per week with these people?

Ask the hiring manager to describe a typical day at the firm and what the work environment is like. If you haven't done so already, try to meet with your prospective manager and members of his team. You also may gain insight from people in your network, who could have firsthand feedback to share.

You will be bored -- or overwhelmed -- in the role. Remaining challenged by your work yet able to accomplish the tasks you are assigned is key to your job satisfaction. If you get the sense that a new position will be too easy -- or too difficult -- consider whether you will be happy in it.

For example, if you have years of experience as a programmer but will be working primarily on simple bug fixes, chances are you'll quickly grow bored. On the other hand, being asked to revamp a proprietary application that has never worked properly, despite two previous updates, may set you up for failure. Make sure you have a clear idea of the projects you'll be working on and have received from the hiring manager a written job description outlining your typical duties.

You will not be able to move forward. Your goal with every position should be to advance your career, so be wary of offers that feel like a step backward or appear to have limited opportunities for professional growth. This doesn't mean you should not accept positions that are similar to your previous ones. Just be sure that there is a compelling reason to change. Perhaps you'll have a faster path to promotion, a better commute or a more interesting set of duties.

When evaluating an employment offer, not every red flag is cause for serious concern. Consider the following situations, which, contrary to first blush, may not be reason enough to turn down a job.

You will earn less than you did before. While no one wants to see his paycheck shrink, making less than you did before isn't reason enough to automatically dismiss an employment offer. If the work environment, challenge of the position or possibility for future advancement is better than at your previous employer, compromising now in salary may be worth it in the long run. In addition, other aspects of the offer -- such as the benefits package, number of vacation days, flexible scheduling options or bonus programs -- could make up for less cash.

You can research salaries for professionals with your skills and experience by consulting Web sites and industry publications, such as the just-released "Robert Half Technology 2007 Salary Guide." If the salary offer is considerably lower than what others with similar skills in your area are making, you should negotiate higher compensation.

You will be in the car for two hours each day. With rising gas prices, it's not surprising that a long commute may hold limited appeal. Before rejecting a job that promises a considerable drive, ask the hiring manager about telecommuting options; working from home even a few days a month may alleviate some of your concern about a long commute. Also explore flexible scheduling, in which you might be able to head to the office a little later in the morning to avoid rush hour.

You will receive a “demotion” in title. Keep in mind that job titles can vary greatly from one organization to the next, especially if the companies differ in size. For instance, a vice president at a small regional firm may be equivalent to a director or senior manager at a large multinational. Far more important than what you'll be called is what you'll be doing on the job. As long as the responsibilities are in line with your career goals, don't immediately decline an offer based on title alone.

Receiving an offer is welcome news for any job seeker, but don't let your emotions make the decision for you. Take the time for a proper evaluation to ensure that your hard work pays off in the form of a job you enjoy.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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