Gracefully Declining That Job That Ain’t For You

Earlier today, I was staring at the 10 day weather forecast in NYC (rain, rain, rain and some more rain with a side of 35 MPH winds) and my mind started to wander to “good problems to have.” (Yes, I’m serious- hear me out.) I was like, “Well, we got very little rain this summer so it’s probably good for us, AND that means I’ll actually stay inside and finish that underwater basket weaving project I’ve been working on.”)

And then I thought about ‘good problems’ my clients have. The biggest? She gets a job offer she doesn’t actually want. And then I realized this has happened to 4 clients in the last week or two, and then I realized I had to write a blog post about it to share some tips/spread the love.

So what’s, so what’s the scenario, you ask? Maybe someone did you a solid by getting you the interview and you don’t want to ruffle feathers. Maybe you got a bad vibe from the whole process (that happens soooo much, you wouldn’t believe! Or maybe you would- in any event, listen to your gut in those cases.) So how do you gracefully say no?

1.  Phone- No Snapchat! I don’t even really know what Snapchat does for me, since I basically belong in the year 1870 minus the lack of women’s rights thing, so my point here is no.email.period. Pick up the phone and call the person who offered you the position. I always recommend calling once or twice and not leaving a message if they don’t pick up, but on the 3rd time, it’s ok to leave a short, gracious message. Something like, “I was so hoping to talk to you and thank you over the phone for the gracious offer. I’ve decided not to accept it, and wanted you to know. I thank you for your time.” (And no, this doesn’t supplant a handwritten or emailed thank you.) And you never have to accept or decline an offer on the spot, by the way. If anyone tries to get you to do that, that’s an electric red colored flag.

2. Grievances, Schmievances. Maybe their interview process is whack and left you cold. Maybe they handled it all weirdly. For example, a client went in to interview recently for one job and was offered a completely different job after the interview concluded. Whatever the case may be, there’s no need for a point by point rendering of your ‘issues’ with their protocol, process or people. Calling them out may take you completely off their radar for another position and will do nothing but burn bridges. The only exception is if you are, in the rare case, asked for interview process feedback. (Maybe they’re trying to improve actively and your thoughts will help them.)

3. You Can Say Why, Though. I’m not saying lie or anything. At all. On the contrary, if it’s not aligned with your career goals, say that. If you do not feel there is the growth potential you value, say that. If you’ve discussed your values in the interview (either obliquely or in a straightforward way) it’ll be easy to refer back to that part of the conversation. If they try to ply you with more dinero and it REALLY is about the career growth or job, then it’ll be easy to still turn it down. If it’s about the money and you’ve negotiated the ish out of the original offer but no more wiggle room is offered, you can speak to that. If they really want you, something tells me they’ll find the extra $5k. And if they don’t, there’s another offer out there for you.

4. Know Your Story. Above all else, know your vision. This work obviously comes before you even enter the job search process. You want to know what you value for your career, what your short and long term vision is and what impact you want to have. If you have that and your personal story down pat, then it’ll be easy to decline (politely) a position that doesn’t scream “YES!”

It’s not easy to turn down an offer. Two of my clients recently offered a position not aligned with their career growth and they used their emergency “lifeline” calls I provide to talk through their concerns. It’s hard to walk about from sure money, especially when things are miserable where you’re at. Remind yourself that if it’s not the right thing and you take it to plug some holes in the interim, you’ll find yourself in job searching mode sooner than you can say, “Hakuna Matata.”

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