To accept or not to accept, that is the question

Tips & Tricks
Julie Bennett
Business woman in front of two roads thinking

I recently heard a TED Talk on the topic of choice. This got me thinking about how we make decisions about our jobs. If you’ve been applying and interviewing for roles and have made it to a position where you need to choose between 2 or more options that are offered to you, how do you decide? Of course, this is a great position to be in, but what if you only have one offer on the table, and it doesn’t feel right? Are you crazy to turn it down?

That answer will often depend on how long you have been out of work and how difficult it is to get another interview (and job offer) within your profession. However, if it’s just down to finding the right fit for you, how do you make the call?

As you may be guessing right now – yes, I came across this dilemma in my career. I spent some time working as a contractor, which I quite enjoyed. It gave me the opportunity to work in different industries and in turn expand my knowledge. While my roles have always been in the area of Marketing; doing marketing within different companies who have different goals and purposes, means you have different opportunities and challenges. For me, it was a great way to see what I like most within the marketing profession as well as gain invaluable experience.

However, on the flip side, you are regularly going through the recruitment process. Just when you get settled and feel a strong connection with your team or work projects, you need to start applying for your next job. So I eventually decided a permanent role was where I wanted to be. As always, there were ups and downs in the process, and a big one for me was the decision of whether to accept a role I was offered, even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the proposal.

The company had everything going for it, it was a well-known and highly regarded brand, it was within the same industry I was contracting in and so I knew I could (to use a common overused phrase) hit the ground running. But something didn’t feel right. I had several indications that the company culture wasn’t what I was looking for, that management was not in a good place, that employees didn’t get the credit they deserve. I didn’t know this as fact, but it was a hunch.

To give you an example of my premonitions – since this company was within the same industry, I had inside knowledge that the line manager of this role was going to be leaving soon and was currently working out her notice period. However, this information was not shared with my recruiter nor myself in the interview. Why were they hiding this fact? Why had this role just been vacated, followed closely by the manager? These points, as well as a few others, put up some red flags.

I deliberated over this job offer for several days and had numerous conversations with my recruiter, who tried to get to the bottom of my concerns through discussions with the hiring manager. However, with no further clarity, I had to make a decision. Whilst some of my current colleagues were very encouraging and recommended I work at this company, something was holding me back. I didn’t want to get myself into a permanent role where I was unhappy, and I didn’t want to go in there for a couple months and then walk away. …I just couldn’t accept.

Later, a friend told me how proud she was that I didn’t give in to the pressure and declined a role that, to others, looked quite appealing. She said it gave her the courage to leave a role she was unhappy in and make sure she stayed true to her career aspirations. While it was all still pretty raw for me, as I still needed to find a job, this definitely gave me some encouragement.

How is this story helpful for you?

My advice is to be careful and not let the slog of the job hunt get you down. Don’t let it pressure you into taking a role you don’t really want, just because it’s offered to you, and you don’t know how long it will be until the next offer.

Go to all the meetings and interviews you can. This helps you get to know people and get a feel for the internal culture. I’ve learned that there are some companies and roles which you think you’re going to love, that don’t feel right; and others that you’re not initially interested in (and may not even feel inclined to meet with), but they turn out to be the perfect fit. Keep an open mind and know your priorities and criteria. Let your recruiter know your requirements and their order of importance. Disclose the ones that are a no-go for you.

How do you decide on a priority list?

If you’ve ever been in a job you love or even one you hate, you will surely have made a few discoveries of what you want in your next role and what you’re unwilling to accept. If you’re newer to the work force, below are some of the things I base my decisions on (aside from the role itself).

Criteria to consider:

  • Do the company values align with your own? For example, I wouldn’t want to take a role doing marketing for an alcohol company. (Not that I don’t enjoy the occasional wine, I just wouldn’t be comfortable with promoting drinking).
  • Does the company culture match what you’re looking for? E.g. do you want a place that is fairly social & participates in activities together; do you want a relaxed atmosphere or something more corporate?
  • Location – how far are you willing to commute?
  • Salary – what’s your minimum to accept a role?
  • Title – does it reflect your level of responsibility?
  • Responsibility – will you feel challenged?
  • Personal Development – do you want to work for a company that gives you the opportunity to train and up-skill?
  • Potential to advance – do you want the possibility to move up within the organisation?
  • Flexibility – will you require flexibility around start & finish times, or working remotely?
  • Work/Life balance – decide what this means for you, depending on your circumstances. Are you able to take a role that requires working late hours, weekends or travelling; or do you need something you know has more regular hours?
  • Are there any red flags after meeting the hiring managers in your interview? If so, discuss them with your recruiter or HR contact, they may have some further insight. The last thing you want to do is start a new role and have to go straight back into the job hunt because it’s not what you thought.


You may now be wondering – do I ever regret my decision? I do occasionally look back and think ‘I could be working for … that well-known brand’. But I remind myself why I was so concerned, I think about all the experience I’ve gained in my roles since and where I am now, and I trust that my past self made the right choice.