Second thoughts: Can you change your mind after accepting a job offer?

By Robert Half on 19 April 2021

Have you ever accepted a new job only to realise soon after that the position, the location or even the company, wasn’t the right fit? Or perhaps you received a better offer from another company, or rethought whether this was something you were truly passionate about?

If you have second thoughts after putting yourself forward for a position, this might be your instincts telling you to reconsider.

If you’re currently second-guessing accepting a job offer, there are some things you can do to exit the deal without having to face any serious repercussions:

Evaluate the position before accepting a job offer

Receiving an offer from a company is exciting and sometimes it is easy to miss or overlook important factors that would otherwise put you off. So it’s important to take time and consider if the position is a good cultural fit for you before accepting a job offer.

Take advantage of the interview process to ask questions of the employer to make sure you understand the role and address any concerns. As you enter the final stages of the hiring process, make note of the pros and cons of the position and your remuneration and benefit expectations so that the excitement of receiving an offer doesn't cloud your underlying needs.

Once offered a role, you do not have to accept immediately. If you are not ready to accept on the spot, thank the employer, express your interest, and request more time to consider the opportunity. This allows you time to evaluate the job offer thoroughly, or liaise with other job opportunities on your prospects. 

If you spend time digesting all of the information to fully understand what the position entails, you are able to make an informed decision to accept or decline.

Already accepted a job offer? Read your contract carefully

If you have already signed a contract for the role, you need to read through the entire document with care. Look for any stipulations about rescinding your acceptance or giving a specified amount of notice should you change your mind.

Most contracts won’t have any specific clauses about this sort of thing and generally focus on salary levels, confidentiality clauses and responsibilities. However, while it is likely there won’t be any legal repercussions if you change your mind, it might be pertinent to get some advice from a lawyer or expert before accepting a job offer.

Tell the recruiter/employer as soon as possible

If you decide to decline a job offer, you need to be 100 per cent sure about your decision. If your hesitation is tied to aspects of the contract, give your employer the opportunity to address the concerns before turning down the position.

Otherwise, it’s imperative that you let the recruiter(s) and/or company representatives know straightaway.

If only a few days have passed since you accepted the job, you may think you needn’t bother, but it’s definitely common courtesy to do so, as the employer has already invested time and money into trying to help you. This will also help them find a new employee to fill the vacant role faster.

Be polite at all times

The best way to come out of an awkward situation is to make sure all your interactions with the hiring manager and/or recruiter are polite. Call them to communicate your decision and apologise personally, rather than sending them an email, a text message or a social media update.

Don’t use any reasons for the second thoughts that could come across as reflecting negatively on the recruiter or the company involved. Stick to concise – but honest – explanations, such as no longer being able to make a move due to family commitments, or receiving an unexpected, higher-level position elsewhere that you feel obliged to take.

Show gratitude and communicate the positive factors of the position and the company, and mention your appreciation for the people you have met during the selection process. You never know when you might come in contact with them again.

It’s not the end of the world 

While having to go back on your acceptance of a job offer is never going to be the preferred choice, it’s unlikely to affect your career negatively over the long term, especially if you don’t make a habit of doing it. You do not have to accept every role that comes to you and it is important to only accept a position that excites you. 

Keep in mind that employers don’t want new hires who would rather be somewhere else.

If you need further information on how to decide if a job offer is suitable for you, it’s a good idea to contact us today to talk about your options.

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