We’re encouraged to seize the opportunities that come. What about saying no to an opportunity? On the surface, it may seem crazy to walk away from an interview or an offer from a company, however there are some situations when walking away may be the right thing to do.
It’s better to pass up an opportunity that doesn’t seem right as opposed to taking it in the hope things will get better. Ideally, you want to avoid a situation where you leave a job you’ve outgrown to take one you dislike. You will inevitably find yourself in a new job search a few months later. You not only have to explain your reason for leaving the first job, but in addition you will now have to maneuver why you’re leaving a job you just started.
I’ve talked about being selective in your job search in the past and the importance of going after the right opportunities. Sometimes a little patience and strength of character is needed to say no to the wrong opportunities and hold out for a better one.
1. No connection with the hiring manager
If you’re in the interview and you have a bad feeling about the hiring manager, this might be a valid reason to withdraw your candidacy from the hiring process. Why? Because your manager has the possibility to make or break your future with the company.
Your manager is someone who helps you to grow, who gives fair feedback, who will give you projects to broaden your skill set and who lobbies for you if you merit a large raise or a promotion. If your manager dislikes you, all this is in jeopardy.
Think about someone who you aren’t a fan of. Is it easier for you to see their flaws or their positive traits? It’s much easier to see their flaws. The same is true for a manager, no matter how objective or professional they may seem on the surface.
2. Unprofessionalism during the recruitment process
Life isn’t perfect and neither are companies. You might be stuck waiting in the reception area while the hiring manager is dealing with an issue. Little things happen. If however you notice a pattern of unprofessionalism throughout the recruitment process, this could be a symptom of a larger problem.
What you ideally see in the interview process is the company at its best. If it’s unprofessional from the get-go, chances are that you’ll experience this unprofessionalism as an employee. This is something to consider seriously.
Look out for red flags. A few weeks ago, I wrote about illegal interview questions and this could definitely be one of the signs. It could also be that none of your questions get answered, or that you get conflicting information. Perhaps you keep getting called back for interview after interview with no indication of when the process will end. It could be any number of things.
Company culture changes very slowly. If unprofessionalism is apparent in the hiring process, chances are that these lapses exist in other areas that could end up affecting you directly, such as unreasonable overtime hours, unreliable performance reviews or lack of employee development.
3. Low-balling your starting salary
I always give the same advice: negotiate unless they offer you more than what you asked for. If the company starts off too low, this could hinder the overall outcome of your negotiation.
Remember to do your part: do your research and know the salary range you are comfortable with beforehand. If you didn’t ask for enough, this is your responsibility and you’re in the position to control it next time. I suggest reading my article A sane and simple guide to salary negotiation.
What I am referring to more specifically is when a company offers you a starting salary below the range you asked for and gives an excuse like there will be a review in 6 months. If they can afford to offer you more in 6 months, they can afford it today and you should receive the full amount on your offer letter.
The employment offer is only time you will single-handedly have an impact on your salary. Once you are an employee, it becomes harder because there are more constraints. Companies are tightening the screws on salary increases outside of the performance review period, and even at your performance review, there is no guarantee that your manager will get approval to give more than a cost of living increase.
How to withdraw your candidacy
Let’s say you’ve made the decision to withdraw your candidacy. How you go about doing this is important. Remember that the world is small and you never know who knows who. You want to avoid creating problems for yourself down the line, especially if you work in a tightly-knit industry.
It’s better to withdraw your candidacy sooner rather than later. The best way to communicate this is by phone, the second best is by email. Phone is best because it gives the employer a chance to discuss your concerns, and it’s the most telling: how they react may further confirm that you made the right decision. But if you’re not a phone person, it’s better to send an email than not communicate your decision at all.
What you decide to say depends on you. If you prefer to keep things high level, simply say that this isn’t the right opportunity for you or you don’t feel that this position isn’t in alignment with your career goals. If you choose to elaborate further, stay diplomatic and professional. Never insult someone specific or the organization.
A final word: do not sign an offer if you think you may withdraw. I have unfortunately been in situations where we’re all set for a new hire and the person changes their mind. The result is never good. To give a couple of examples, one person got blacklisted from the recruitment agency they were working with and in another situation, the hiring manager had a lot of pull in the industry and companies refused to touch the person after the incident.
You’re better off calling and having an open and honest conversation about your concerns with the HR representative or the hiring manager or asking for more time to consider the offer. Once you sign, all other candidates who were in running get declined. Not only does the company now have to restart a new recruitment process, but someone who really wanted the job and came in second place lost out on an opportunity.
The takeaway is this: trust your gut. Your dream job can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re caught in a bad situation that you could have avoided. We spend a third of our lives at work, and while it won’t always be rainbows, it doesn’t have to be a grind either. You deserve to be happy at work and to excel in your career. Sometimes that fulfillment lies in waiting for your yes.