Should you take the job? Here are five instances when the answer should be “no.”

Unless you are in very dire straits, the purpose of a job interview is not merely to get any job; rather, it's to land a job where you can thrive. While it can be tempting to accept the first offer you get, there are times when it is best to turn it down.


1) You will be worse off financially than you are now if you take it.

Sure, this may not be a factor if you're not working at all, but if you are considering leaving your job for a new one, make sure the payoff is worth it. Besides base compensation, you should be looking at vacation packages, flex time, benefits cost to you as well as the actual benefits offerings. It's a good idea to make up a total compensation matrix so that you know all the information.  You may still decide to take a financial hit to get into a new career, but at least you will be making an educated decision.

2) You will be compromising your personal life more than is acceptable to you.

There is almost always a greater investment at the start of a new job than there is in a current one. You will be instantly entering 'prove yourself' zone, when currently you have already proven yourself. So count on equal or greater hours and intensity at the new job. If you can, find out what the 'real' expectations will be of you. Try to informally talk to people who already work there to get a sense of what they think of it. Glassdoor or LinkedIn are treasure-troves of information. Also take the new commute into account. Make sure the extra investment will work for you and your family at this point in your life before taking the job.


3) The culture is toxic.

You can learn a lot about the culture by picking up on cues in the interview. If the interviewer(s) ask a lot of questions about your ability to 'fix' a culture, take the hint. Look at the stated mission and vision and see how it aligns with your values. If you get an opportunity to use the restroom, or witness the break room, see how clean and well kept they are. Also, do your potential co-workers look happy?

4) You will work with incompatible people.

Before you accept a job, make sure you have at least interviewed with the person for whom you will be working. As in the previous points, use LinkedIn and Glassdoor to get a sense of your potential co-workers. You will be spending a lot of time with these people so if you don't hit it off, you will likely be miserable.

5) You will be acting illegally or unethically to take the job.

This would be the case if you have a valid non-compete (rare but they are out there) or if you are planning on working for a competitor while keeping your original job. There is actually a law requiring employees to work in good faith and not intentionally engage in behaviors that could harm the employer.

So as you see, there are definitely times when turning down the job offer is the best policy. When that is the case, make sure to do so with grace and dignity. A simple “Thank you, I've decided to pursue another opportunity” is both true and avoids burning bridges.

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