If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, you might be tempted to jump at the next job offer. you receive – even if it doesn’t sound like a great fit. Sure, you need a job. And, yes, a new job could help alleviate some financial fears. But does being unemployed mean that you should take a job offer, even if you have your doubts?
"Settling for a job or company that is not right for you could be a very big mistake and could make a negative change in your life with lasting repercussions," Recruiter.com CEO and co-founder Miles Jennings once said in an interview with Forbes.
While Jennings' statement was made when the country was still coming out of the recession, his advice remains sound. Sometimes, turning down a job offer when you are unemployed is not only acceptable, it’s the right thing to do.
Set Your Minimum Requirements – and Stick to Them
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but it sometimes pays to wait when it comes to accepting a job offer. The choice you make will depend on your personal circumstances.
When you're young, taking a job that is low-paying, has little growth opportunities, or no health benefits might be okay. However, for someone in their 40s with a mortgage, two car payments, college tuition and the need for a benefits package, that same job just won’t cut it. In most cases, you definitely need to think twice about taking any job offer than comes down the pike if it doesn't meet your life requirements.
When you begin looking for a job, take the time to set some parameters as to what you need and what the minimum is that you will accept. Consider the title you are seeking, the opportunity for growth, the health and retirement benefits you need, and the lowest salary you can live on.
Define these “must haves” right from the start, and don’t waiver. If a job doesn’t meet your minimum standards than it’s an offer that you must refuse.
Considering Cultural Fit Is Critical
Sometimes, even a job that looks great on paper just doesn’t feel right.
Corliss McGinty, life coach, leadership development and career management specialist, and president of Soft Solutions Consulting, reminds job seekers that the job search is a two-way street. You must be evaluating potential employers for whether the role and the culture are a good fit for you.
"Sometimes during interviewing, you may get a sense that the culture isn't a good match to your values," McGinty says, noting that some common red flags include poor work life balance, no growth opportunities, or having to take a step down the corporate ladder. Other reasons for turning down a job offer when unemployed might include the need to relocate when you don’t want to do so or being offered compensation that is too low.
One or all of these red flags could make you unhappy in the role, which could lead to you looking for a new job sooner than you would have if you had waited for the right role. Turnover like this wastes both your time and the company's. In other words, it’s best to wait it out until you have found something that meets your needs.
How to Pass Without Burning Bridges
Turning down a job offer when unemployed is never easy, even if the job is NOT for you. However, when it's necessary you much do so without damaging your reputation or closing the door on future opportunities.
To accomplish this, you must say more than, "No, thank you." Here are the steps you should take when taking a pass on an offer:
- Put your rejection in writing
- Personally address the person (or people) who interviewed you
- Supply a brief reason or reasons why you've decided to decline the job offer
- Show your appreciation throughout the letter
"'I really appreciate the opportunity you've offered me and after a lot of consideration, I do not feel this is a good match for my career goals at this time,'” McGinty suggests writing. She adds that you should add something like, “I hope we can stay in touch in case other opportunities become available that are a better fit."
The bottom line? Turning down a job offer when unemployed is perfectly acceptable if it isn’t the right fit. In fact, it will save you time and money down the line.
When done right, it can leave the door open for possible future opportunities and allow you to continue your search for the right job for you. Just keep sending out that resume and an effective cover letter, and for most, that opportunity DOES come.
"Often," McGinty says, "declining the wrong offer makes way for the right one."