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Should I accept an offer for a job I don’t like?

Student Career Placement Consultant

When you’re out of work and searching for a job, it may seem that you have to accept a job offer, even if it turns out that the job isn’t really what you expected it to be or what you’re interested in. While it’s important to accept financial responsibility and pay your own way, it’s also important that you carefully consider every job offer and make sure it’s a good fit for you.

First of all, don’t just apply for every job that seems like it might work out. Read job descriptions carefully and do your research about every prospective employer. By learning as much as you can ahead of time,  you lessen the possibility that you will apply for jobs you wouldn’t want to accept.

As you go through the application process, watch for signs that this isn’t going to be the right match for you, and drop out of the process if you see that you’re not going to want to accept an offer. Save yourself (and the organization) the investment of time and energy and allow yourself to focus on finding other, more suitable,  positions to apply for.

If you’ve made it all the way through the process and are now faced with a job offer you’re hesitant to accept, here are some things to think about before you say “yes” to that questionable offer.

How did they treat you in the interview?

An interview should be a two-way conversation, with opportunities for you to ask your questions as well as provide answers to theirs. You should also be treated with respect. If they don’t allow time for your questions (or don’t answer your questions), or if they belittle you or your experience and credentials in any way, it’s a signal that they will probably continue to treat you badly as an employee.

Who did you meet during the interview process?

If your interview did not involve the manager/supervisor to whom you would actually report, you may not be able to get complete answers to all your questions about the position. Recruiters and human resources personnel should be able to provide you with information about the organization and, when appropriate, benefits, but unless you talk to your prospective manager, you may be missing out on crucial information. An interview that includes not only a manager but also others who you might be asked to work with can give you helpful insights into the real nature of the job.

How did they respond when you asked for some time to think about their offer?

It is not unusual for a hiring process to take six weeks (and in some fields, it can take much longer), and it is reasonable for you to ask for a week to think about your response to an offer. If they seem to be in a big hurry, and especially if there wasn’t much time between your application and the offer, it could be a red flag that they’re more interested in filling the position than in hiring you, specifically.

How clear are the job responsibilities and requirements?

You will often interview with more than one person, and you need to be sure that they are all talking about reasonable expectations for a single position! It can happen that different people in an organization have different needs, and they may all be thinking you can be the person to meet those needs. You need to be sure that you have a consistent, clear idea of what the job will actually entail before you accept an offer.

Do you know everything about salary, raises, bonuses, and benefits?

While you would never ask about these topics during the interview stage, once an offer has been made, you need to be sure you understand exactly what they will be paying you, what opportunities there are for advancement, and what benefits are included. Ideally, you can ask for and be given an employee handbook or orientation materials that will explain everything very clearly. If you’re told that the company is going through some changes and those things haven’t been determined yet, it may be a risk to accept an offer.

Are the salary and benefits competitive?

There are quite a few tools that you can use to determine an appropriate salary, and I outlined them in a previous post in this blog (see “How do I determine a reasonable salary?”). You should also be able to use similar tools to determine what comparable organizations are offering in terms of benefits. If the salary and benefits are significantly less than what’s customary at other organizations in the same region, it may mean that the organization is in financial trouble or that they will skimp on resources down the road.

How likely is it that another job offer is likely to come along?

If you’re getting really desperate, you may have to accept an offer you don’t want, but don’t stop looking for something better! Most young people today change jobs every two or three years, and employers have learned to understand that it’s the rare occasion when an employee stays with one organization for their whole career. If you’re in a job you don’t like, that gives you an opportunity to think more carefully about what you want from a future employer and may help you make more selective applications.

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