Getting cold feet? You’re not alone. Increasingly, job seekers are having the luxury of choosing between multiple offers, reneging on job offers after interviewing with an employer or even after initially accepting the job.
An Office Team survey from this past May found that 28 percent of candidates have backed out of offers they had previously accepted.
Last summer, Theresa Potter sought a career change from her role as the director of development for a national nonprofit. After sending out 15 resumes and subsequent applications and interviews, the Setauket, LI., resident landed two job offers. They were similar to her development role, yet neither sparked enthusiasm. “I didn’t feel that excited. I couldn’t put my finger on why,” she says.
As Potter wrestled with her decision, she received a third offer. Even though it initially paid less than the other two, she focused on how she felt during the interviews. “I loved the company’s vibe the moment I stepped through the door. It felt lively and fun and collaborative. I was struck by how happy everyone seemed.”
Potter negotiated a comparable package and is now the director of franchise partnerships at Lendio, an online marketplace for small business loans, in Woodbury, LI. She remembered the clincher for her decision: “I recall being asked, ‘Tell us about you and what makes you tick.’ It was a refreshing change. Between that and the casual dress code, I was sold. For me, company culture is just as important as any other benefit.”
Her evaluation process is precisely what Gina Curtis, executive recruiting manager at JMJ Phillip Group, a Midtown executive search firm, says candidates should do.
“Interviews are as much about companies selecting candidates as they are candidates selecting the right company,” she says. “Things to be considered include the company, manager, industry, location, pay, benefits, schedule, flexibility, work-life balance and career path.”
The selection process may include red flags that may not have appeared earlier in the courting process. David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing and consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn., says that “many finer details about a new job offer often don’t emerge until the end. You may learn that benefits afforded to you overall are not compelling or competitive. You may find yourself with an offer equal to what you are making today, and with no real reason to think you’ll have a brighter future there versus where you are. Finally, a counteroffer to stay where you are could eliminate your interest in leaving.”
Sometimes issues emerge that may steer you into a new path. Aliz Koletas landed what she thought was her dream role as a freelance video journalist with NY1. She then calculated that her after-tax hourly rate would be $10 per hour.
She promptly declined the offer, ditching her dream of pursuing a broadcast communications/journalism career due to the “risky, low pay and uncertain hours.”
Koletas, who was working in a public relations role for cookie retailer Eleni’s in Gramercy Park, turned down the station via e-mail and is now the director of opportunities and engagement at Eleni’s.
“It was the best decision I made,” she says. “Although I did shed a few tears leaving my TV career [dream] behind.”
Steven Schwartz from the East Village turned down an offer with Accenture in Singapore after interning there last summer. Instead, he launched technology consulting company Varfaj Partners in Midtown, while attending Stern School of Business at NYU part time.
“Working at a major company offers little mobility,” says Schwartz. “Working at a smaller one, or creating your own, offers a much better learning opportunity.”
Schwartz says his current role is “dynamic and interesting. I am living the dream. I declined the offer explaining that I wanted to return to NYU to continue my education. Although disappointed, they understood my reasoning and said that if I were to change my mind at any point in the future, the position would still be available.”
Paul Phillips, global head of talent acquisition for Avanade, a technology consulting firm in the Flatiron District, said, “The right talent is scarce, so assuming that a withdrawal is handled in a professional and timely way, there’s no reason candidates can’t come back to that firm in the future. Return candidates are also already somewhat immersed in the company culture and values, so the path to alignment is shorter.”
While deciding which job to reject is important, so is the way you communicate the rebuff. Experts advise expressing gratitude and keeping your tone appreciative.
Adrian Gostick, co-author of “Leading With Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results” (Harper Business, out next March), advises candidates to “Pick up the phone. In other words, don’t text or e-mail. Express sincere gratitude for the offer and then quickly explain why you can’t accept — that you are going to join another company or you are going to stay with your current organization. Keep the call short and sweet and very positive.”
The same etiquette rules ring true if you’ve accepted the role and then changed your mind, or received a counteroffer from your current employer. Phillips says that “if you have a change of heart, it’s best to say so now, rather than start the role and end up in the same spot a few months down the line.”
Don’t worry about hurting the company’s feelings, either.
“Employers turn down people as part of the process, so it is understandable for candidates to turn us down, too,” said Phillips.
Maintaining an upbeat conversation is key, because you may end up working there someday.
“It is always important to avoid burning any bridges when turning down a potential job offer,” says Curtis. “You may cross paths with the hiring manager again.”
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