Race to the Top: Got the job, but don’t want it. What should I do?

Q: Got an offer, but don’t want it. How do I gracefully change the direction of our conversations?

A: So, this is a twist on the subject we tackled last week; unwinding an interview before you receive an offer. In some ways, it’s less complicated because you can say “no” to a job after based on some aspect of the offer. But, that does not make it easy. At this point, you have been through an interviewing process and have beat out the competition. The company representatives also assume that you have been doing your research and really want the job. They have also worked to put together a package that they think you will be excited about and, ultimately, accept, so this will be a tough conversation.

I would suggest calling the HR representative. He or she typically owns the offer stage of hiring; doing all the paperwork and making sure that you are getting an offer that is consistent with company policies and guidelines. My view, you need to begin this conversation with a thank you and, like we said last week, you need to be straight forward, and don’t expect it will be easy. You have gone all the way through the process, so the folks at the company are already thinking about when you will start and what you can take on in terms of work. I would say follow these steps: write some things down, be sure to be gracious and thankful and try and signal that the company is better off with someone in the position who wants the position. Keep in mind, this is still odd if you are the company representative because they believe no one would get this far in the process without having a solid handle on what a job is and is not. And, this same representative has just spent a fair amount of time finding you – and now he or she has to start from scratch.

So, what exactly do you say? Something like this: “Mr. Brown, thank you for taking my call. I’d like to talk to you about my offer letter, and I think I should say up front, that I am not calling to negotiate. I have decided not to take the job.” Then, be prepared to say why. Maybe it has a different long-term career path than you expected. Maybe it requires more training and your other commitments would prevent it. And, maybe you got a better offer, which really is a fair thing to say to an HR representative. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s legitimate.

I have talked to lots of people over the years about how to best handle this conversation and why they all agree that there are different ways to get this conversation right, there is one way guaranteed to get it wrong: by basically conveying to the company that you were never sure about the job to begin with – that’s how you burn a bridge. All of this might bring us back to an earlier article about job searching and knowing what you want in a job: it all starts there. What you chose to pursue and why is your first sign to any employer that you are taking yourself and your career seriously.

Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com <mailto:Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com> , rttcareers@gmail.com or through your favorite connection to the Houston Forward Times.