Just Say No: When to Turn Down a Job Opportunity

By Chai Fook Tien

Turning down a job offer can seem risky and reckless. No matter how long you've been on the hunt, saying no just seems wrong. You may not be sure about accepting an offer, but can anyone actually be certain about anything until they actually try it out? Such thinking will do more harm than you expect, hindering your career and doing long term harm to your career progression.

Listed below are several reasons why turning down a job offer might actually be your best course of action:

Opportunity Cost

Know that while you’re saying yes to an offer, you’re also saying no to other upcoming offers. Just jumping onto the first thing that comes your way might actually be a costly mistake, especially considering that something better could be waiting around the corner. Also, you’ll be sorely mistaken if you think you can just accept an offer and then leave after a while. Potential hirers will notice that you’ve only spent a short amount of time in a position, which may lead to them passing you up.

Misplaced Enthusiasm

When you receive a job offer, you’ll have to ask yourself the tough questions: Are you actually happy to receive that particular job offer or are you just happy you got AN offer? If the answer is the latter, then perhaps you shouldn’t accept the position. You may be excited now, but this excitement will only wane shortly into your new job.


Remember that a job isn’t just about what’s before you now, it is also about what comes after. If you are offered something that might not provide you with a satisfying advancement of your career, then you should consider other options. Make sure you understand the advancement, training, and development opportunities your prospective employer will provide.


Don't let a generous offer blind you to any misgivings you might have. Perhaps you felt awkward or uneasy during your visits to the office. Or maybe the job scope you’re given seems way beyond your current ability. If you have any hesitations, then stop to think if the job is really for you. It’s important to step out of your comfort zone, but it’ll be unwise to drag yourself too far out.


With that said, it’s important to not remain too comfortable either. If the next job offer is one that will result in you doing the exact same thing again, then don’t expect to remain engaged for long. Find something that will challenge yourself, otherwise you’d just wind up bored and itching for a change in jobs again. After considering all these factors, you should have all the information you need to make a well-informed decision. If you have any doubts, don’t be afraid to address your concerns with the hiring manager or HR representative. Turning down an offer is never easy, but remember that saying no now will be much easier than quitting when you’re already a few months into your new position.

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