What to do when you’ve accepted the wrong job offer

So, you get a job offer and you’re really excited.  At last your future looks clearer and you can tell your family and friends what you’re going to be doing.  The role looked great when you were applying and so you accept.  Job done – or is it?  Sometimes doubts start to creep in and you begin to wonder if you’ve accepted the wrong job offer.  You might have other applications pending or start to remember things about the job that you weren’t so sure about in the first place and now you think you’ve made a mistake – so what should you do?

Panicking could cloud your judgement

The first thing to say is that it’s important to try not to panic.  Stress and overthinking things can cloud your good judgment – so take a step back, pause and think about the situation as calmly as possible.

It can be helpful to start to capture your thoughts somewhere – what are the positives about the role you’ve been offered and what are the negatives?  If you’ve made other applications, do the same for those roles to give you an overall picture of how the job offer compares to other possibilities.  Try to be clear about what’s making you doubt it.  Is it facts or is it perceptions?  Are friends or family influencing how you feel about the job offer?  They may have had other ideas for you, but it’s important that you stay true to what feels right for you.  On the other hand if this job offer pays less than some of the other employers and salary is important to you/a necessity, then it’s right to stop and consider if you’ve made the right decision or not.

What can help you decide?

  • Talking to others can help – with the caveat that being true to how you see your own future is important.  Friends and family know you well, so they may shed some interesting light on your current doubts.
  • Talking to a careers professional can be very useful, as they are impartial and familiar with the job market, so can guide you through your thinking about the job you’ve accepted.
  • Find out more about the things that are worrying you – revisit the vacancy details and the employer’s website to check your facts.  But don’t ignore your gut instinct – if something doesn’t feel right – it needs to be bottomed out.

What are your options?

You could take the job and see if you can make it work, or you could let the employer know that you’ve changed your mind.  Be careful about assuming that the grass is greener somewhere else, particularly if you’re turning down an actual job offer for a possible future job offer.

How should you talk to the employer?

Employers will appreciate your honesty and integrity

It’s important to act with integrity and promptly if you are going to let the employer know that you’ve changed your mind.  They may have other applicants that they would want to appoint, and so the sooner you let them know, the better.  This should be a telephone call, rather than an email, so that you can let them know the reasons for your decision.  Whilst this will be uncomfortable, it is professional and honest, which the employer will appreciate.  Every year some students will change their minds, so employers are used to this, but how you engage with them can help to maintain your reputation.  Remember that employers talk to each other, so if you’re applying to other roles in the same sector you want to avoid word getting out that you’re an unreliable candidate.

Technically there are also some legal implications, as accepting a job offer is legally binding.  In reality, no legal action is likely to be taken, as employers can usually fill the post and not suffer any financial losses as a result of your withdrawal.  Nevertheless you should acknowledge the seriousness of withdrawing your acceptance and the difficulties this may cause the employer.

Going forwards

Once you’ve let the employer know that you’ve changed your mind, stay focussed on what matters to you in a job, and try to ensure that you don’t find yourself in the same position again.  If possible, take some time to consider the decision before accepting the next offer (even when the employer may be pushing you for a quick response!)