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How to Determine If You Should Accept or Decline a Job Offer

A woman wondering "should I decline a job offer?"

Getting a job offer is a huge cause for celebration! 🎉

But what if you aren’t exactly sure if you should take the job or not? Maybe some part of you feels excited, but another part of you feels apprehensive.

If you got a job offer and feel torn about what to do (or you’re a career coach helping someone in this situation), you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’ll go over some actionable tips to help you find clarity on your next steps. 

Negotiate Your Offer

First things first, if you haven’t already, set up a negotiation conversation!

There is almost never any harm in negotiating. But there is plenty of upside. You might be able to negotiate higher pay, more sick days, or a more flexible schedule.

And if nothing else, it’s a great practice in communication and self-confidence.

With that said, let’s help you get clear on if you should say yes or no to your offer.

Go Through a Decision-Making Process

Before you accept or decline, it can help to go through a process to determine what the right path forward is.

Here are a few considerations to help you make a thoughtful decision.

Consider how bad your current situation is

A good place to start is assessing how, well, desperate you are.

Do you feel horribly burnt out at your current job?

Do you experience a strong, weekly case of the “Sunday Scaries?”

Or have you been looking for a job for way too long and feel unsure how much more you can take?

If your situation feels dire, your top priority might be taking what you can get. Any relevant role could be a step in the right direction. 

If you are taking a job from a place of desperation, it’s important to recognize that you might not be able to tolerate this role forever. And it could be wise to continue your job search once you settle into the new role.

On the other hand, if your current job situation pays well enough and isn’t toxic, then perhaps you can afford to be a little pickier in finding a better option.

Action Step: On a scale of 1-10, how bad do you need to get out of your current situation? (1=I could comfortably work here for years. 10=I get a near panic attack getting ready for work/job-hunting each morning).

If you answered a 6-10, then that might be extra motivation to take the new offer.

And if you’re not totally sure if you want to get out of your current role, then check out these 7 signs it’s time to leave your job.

Ask yourself how exciting the job offer feels

This job offer doesn’t have to be your perfect dream job for it to be worth saying yes to. 

The simple feeling of excitement can be a good barometer of whether or not to take an opportunity.

Action Step: Picture yourself working in this new job a few months down the line. Imagine your day-to-day, the skills you’d pick up, and the people you meet.

Does this image make you feel excited? 

If the answer is yes, then that’s a good sign.

If the answer is no, this could indicate that it’s not the right direction to move into.

Clarify the top values you’re optimizing for

If you can clarify what values you care about most for your work (and life) right now, it can reveal the best decision.

To do so, write out the top 5 values you want to optimize for in this decision.

A few possibilities might be:

  • Career development

  • Growth and mentorship

  • Learning new skills

  • Expanding your network

  • Boosting your income

  • Work-life balance

  • Flexibility

  • Meaningful work

  • Fun!

According to surveys, the top three reasons people say yes to job offers are payment & compensation, professional development, and work/life balance.

Here is a longer list of core values if you’d like more inspiration.

Once you have your top five, ask yourself how this job opportunity fits with each of those values and if it’d be an overall improvement from the status-quo.

Be aware of the allure of prestige

There are always going to be different motivations at play when making a decision.

As we explored in the last section, you might want to take a role because it pays well, or because it looks fun, or because you’ll meet inspiring new people.

But when making career decisions, there is one motivation that it’s best to be very cautious with.

That motivation is the desire for prestige. Or in other words, the desire to seem impressive.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting prestige. On some level, almost all of us want it.

But, let’s heed the wisdom of Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, on the topic:

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn't worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don't even know?...

Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you'd like to like…

That's what leads people to try to write novels, for example...They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it.

If you admire two kinds of work equally, but one is more prestigious, you should probably choose the other. Your opinions about what's admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if the two seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.

There’s nothing wrong with taking an admired role or picking a job that’ll boost your résumé. But just be aware if chasing prestige becomes too big of a factor in your calculation.

Action Step: Consider these questions:

  • How big of a factor is seeking prestige in this decision?

  • If the new role were no more prestigious than your current role, how would that affect your decision?

What are your dealbreakers?

It can be helpful to take a step back from your situation and think about what conditions would cause you to turn down a job.

Admittedly, this is helpful to do before you have an offer in hand, but take a moment and consider the following:

  • Is there a max number of hours you’re willing to work per week?

  • Is working remotely or hybrid a necessity for you?

  • Do you need a certain amount of vacation days?

  • Do you need the work to light you up?

Some of the top reasons that people tend to turn down jobs are low wages, inconvenient hours, and long commutes.

It’s okay if you’re not 100% certain

Rarely are we ever 100% certain of any decision.

But the good news is, you don’t need to be 100% certain to make a decision!

One strategy is to pick a level of certainty you’d like to have before making your decision. Then once you hit that level of certainty, it’s time to act.

For example, would you like to be 70% confident in your choice before moving forward? 80%? Or is 60% enough?

This can be a helpful activity to stave off the need to make the perfect choice, and instead lean toward decisiveness.

Action Step: From 0-100%, how certain do you want to be about this decision?

Once you reach that number, then no need to contemplate any further! You are ready to decide 🙂

Assess if you need more information

If you’ve thought through your situation and still can’t find enough confidence to make a decision, it’s possible you need more information.

Here are two great options to learn more about what to expect.

1. Talk to someone in that role

Ask your point of contact if you can speak to someone who’s in the role you’re applying for.

This is one of the best ways to get an honest look at the job, the day-to-day, and the social environment.

2. Scour the internet

Look up the company on Glassdoor. Sleuth out employees on Linkedin and Twitter. 

Try going to and searching: “Find all negative comments about (insert company name).”

You'd be amazed at what you'll find (especially in the bowels of Reddit).

You can’t make a wrong choice

Keep this in mind to take the pressure off a little.

If you say “yes” to the job offer, and then realize that was a mistake, you can always leave the job later.

And if you say “no,” but regret it, well, tough luck. But the good news is, there are tons of other job opportunities out there, and you’ll find something else.

It’s true that sometimes in life, big opportunities emerge, and we need to take hold of them.

But in most cases, no one decision is as important as it might feel.

Your life is a flow of millions of tiny decisions, thousands of big decisions, and a handful of really big decisions.  

And as long as you continue to learn and evolve, your decision-making will improve, and you’ll find yourself in life circumstances that fit who you are.

So just to reiterate, this decision won’t make or break your life. And there’s no right or wrong choice here. 

As the late philosopher Alan Watts once said, “Even if you do something that seems to be totally disastrous, it’ll all come out in the wash somehow or other.”

With that said, let’s make sure there aren’t any warning signs to avoid.

Does the New Company Have Any of the Following Red Flags?

The last thing you want to do is take a new job only to realize that you’ve stepped into a toxic work culture that starts to eat you alive.

When you reflect back on your interview process, did you sniff out any possible red flags?  

  • Did you pick up on a workaholic culture? 

  • Did you sense that the company might not value transparency and integrity? 

  • Did it feel like there wasn’t much room to grow?

  • Did sense you might not get along with your would-be manager?

When we’re excited about an opportunity, it can be easy to overlook the drawbacks. So the more honest you can be with yourself here, the better!

Below are a few other cues to pay attention to that might suggest difficult work environments.

The compensation package isn’t right

If the pay and perks seem way too low compared to what else is on the market, then this employer might undervalue their employees in other ways too.

Not to mention it just makes life harder to get underpaid for your work.

The job duties are ambiguous

If you’ve gone through the whole interview process and still aren’t totally sure what your day-to-day will look like or what your responsibilities will be, this could be a sign that the expectations for your role will remain unclear.

This could spell out endless frustration, miscommunications, and the often radical change in your job duties once you start.

The written offer doesn’t match the verbal offer

The written offer is legally binding. If it doesn’t match what you were verbally promised, this might suggest a lack of transparency or trust.

It also could be an honest mistake. And in this case, it might not be a red flag, but just cause for an eyebrow raise.

The rapport felt off

Looking back on your conversations, did you get along reasonably well with the interviewers, or did you feel like you were struggling to connect?

Sometimes, it’s hard to put your finger on why, but the vibe just feels off. Maybe it was a value misalignment or a difference in communication style.

In many cases, you can build rapport over time. But if it really felt like you were speaking different languages, you might be better off finding a stronger cultural fit.

Interviews ran significantly over time or felt poorly organized

Did it feel like they had no clear process for running interviews? Or like the wires kept getting crossed between different interviewers? Or did interviews consistently start late and end later?

Any of these snafus could signal a chaotic and disorganized work culture where the trains don’t run on time and the systems are a mess.

How to Decline a Job Offer

If you’ve come to believe that this job offer isn’t the right fit, here’s a bonus tip on how to turn down the offer in a way that’s respectful and keeps bridges intact.

This works as an email or an in-person conversation.

  1. Start by sharing appreciation. EG “I really appreciated how thoughtful you were in this interview process.”

  2. Say no clearly and provide a brief reason. EG “Though I’ve decided not to take this job because I realized I want to move my career in a different direction.”

  3. Offer to stay in touch. EG “I’ve loved getting to know you and the team, and would love to stay in touch if you ever feel inspired to reach out for any reason.”

  4. Close with appreciation. EG “Thanks again. You all have built an awesome company, and I wish you nothing but the best.”

If you’d like even more tips on the matter, here’s a full article on how to respectfully turn down a job offer.

Seek Support from a Career Coach

As a reminder, here are some contemplations to run through to help you make this decision:

  • How bad is your current situation? How desperate are you to get out? 

  • Does this new role make you feel excited when you think about it?

  • What are the top values that you're optimizing for in this choice? 

  • Be aware of the allure of prestige. It’s an easy trap to prioritize looking impressive over genuine interests.

  • What are your dealbreakers? Be honest if this role crosses one of them.

  • It's okay if you're not 100% certain. You can still make a fully committed decision without absolute clarity.

  • Do you need more information? If so, ask to speak with someone who works in the role you’re applying for.

  • You can't make a wrong choice. No decision is permanent or life-defining!

And if you’re still unsure if you should decline a job offer or not, it can be helpful to consult with a career coach.

Career coaches can offer you professional guidance to help you clarify what you want out of your career, and they can teach you the tools to get there.

If you’re curious if a career coach might benefit you, check out the International Association of Career Coaches directory for some professional guidance.

Good luck!

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