Does It Look Bad to Turn Down a Job Offer?

by Ruth Mayhew

Some job seekers can't imagine turning down a job offer, regardless of how much it pays or how little it might pay, or the working conditions, especially when the job search has been a long and arduous one. Although turning down a job offer may not be the worst decision you could make during your professional career, it certainly has some consequences and ramifications.


Consideration is an important factor when you're contemplating whether to accept a job offer. If you don't respond in a timely fashion, you could cause a wrinkle in the potential employer's selection process. Taking too much time to make a decision or responding in an untimely manner to a well-intended job offer could tarnish your professional reputation, especially if you're in a close-knit field or community. In this case, it doesn't look bad to turn down an offer, but it does look bad if your response isn't within the specified time frame.


Consistently turning down job offers simply because they don't pay enough or the compensation doesn't meet your standards suggests that you're not concerned about professional development or the organization's goals. Also, being solely focused on money suggests that your priorities are incongruent with the values associated with your profession or that you're not as committed to being a consummate professional as you are to being the highest-paid professional. If you want to negotiate a higher salary, flatly turning down the offer by saying, "I'm sorry, but this job doesn't pay well enough for me to be interested," is a crude and unprofessional way to suggest that you're open to negotiation.

Reneging on Acceptance

It's surely bad form to renege on a job offer that you've already accepted. Although you have the prerogative to change your mind, it's fine when it's something relatively insignificant like selecting another entree at dinner or choosing another shirt to wear. But when it involves your livelihood, professional reputation and staffing challenges for the organization, the implications are widespread and affect more people than just you. Bailing on your commitments doesn't bode well for you or for others around you.

Unsuitable Choice

If the job doesn't jive with your professional goals, or if you truly believe that the company won't utilize your skill set, it doesn't look bad to turn down that offer. But give the offer serious consideration so that you don't make a snap judgment about the job's potential. Looking for a job that enables career advancement -- if that's what you want -- takes serious consideration. Sometimes, a job seeker does turn down offers just because the job doesn't fuel his passion or fit into his career plan.

Legal Implications

If you're one of the millions of people receiving unemployment benefits, your entitlement to weekly benefits depends on an earnest search for employment and your ultimate acceptance of a job offer. It looks bad if you're turning down a job so you can continue receiving benefits. And if you turn down a job offer, you could be violating the terms and conditions of receiving unemployment benefits, regardless of how much your previous earned wages contributed to the unemployment coffers.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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