6 questions to ask before turning down an unsatisfying job offer


I had high hopes when I started my job search in February. Despite what I’d heard about the job market, I’d remained employed throughout the worst of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the company that hired me in 2022 overhired and laid me off.

I’ve been selective about the positions for which I’ve applied and employers I’d want to work for. But it’s getting harder as my bank balance dwindles. I thought the wait was over when I received an email from an employer with a good reputation offering me a job. The email said, “We liked your interview and want to make you an offer.” I danced around my home office, but then opened the accompanying offer letter. They didn’t offer me the position for which I applied, but another, lesser job.

If I accept this position, I’ll be going backward in my career. Still, I need a job. Advice, please?


Although it’s hard to turn down a legitimate job offer, you may want to. If you take a job you don’t want, you won’t work with full engagement. That’s not fair to the employer that hired you, nor to you.

When it’s best to turn down a job offer.

Before you say no or yes to any job offer, ask yourself these questions.

“Will I be satisfied for at least six months with this salary?”


“How do I feel about these job responsibilities?”

“Does this employer offer the opportunity to learn new skills or chances for advancement?”

“How do I feel about the manager I’ll be working with? Will we be able to communicate effectively?”

“Does this company have a good future?”

“Am I a good fit for this company and its culture?”

If any of these six questions provide worrisome answers, further investigate the job offer before saying yes. As one example, if you value a high degree of flexibility, and the employer seems highly structured, you may feel stifled. If so, you’ll be searching for a new job within a few months with a resume compromised by a short-term position.

When you need to accept a less-than-satisfactory job offer.

Here’s why you may need to accept the offer you’ve received: You’re running out of money. Hiring has slowed due to an uncertain economic forecast, and your past career success may have given you unrealistic expectations concerning your marketability. Additionally, remaining unemployed hurts your chances of getting hired. The job site Indeed reports that “being out of work is the main reason unemployed people aren’t getting hired.”

Next, if this employer has a solid reputation, provides employees with training and promotes from within, you might gain the position you long for within six months to a year.

Action steps to take.

Confirm the details of the offer — salary, benefits, work schedule, job responsibilities, workweek hours. Ask for two to three days to think things over.

Ask if you can talk with the manager you’ll work under. Get a sense if the two of you click. Ask what you’ll need to do to excel in this position. Learn whether this employer promotes from within. Ask for a chance to speak to potential coworkers, and ask them neutral questions such as “How would you describe this manager’s managerial style?”

Make a list of pros and cons. Make very sure you don’t want this job before you decline the offer. If you’d accept the position if they increase the pay or responsibilities, see if you can negotiate a counteroffer.

If you decline this offer.

If you decline this job offer, be polite, professional and grateful. Thank them for taking the time to interview and for sharing information about their company. Add that you consider them an impressive employer but feel the job wouldn’t use your skills or doesn’t offer the level of salary you seek.

You can tell them “this was a difficult decision.” Because it was. And if you turn this offer down, allow yourself to feel positive about your search — because you got close to getting the offer you want from a good employer.

Lynne Curry | Alaska Workplace

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Navigating Conflict,” “Managing for Accountability,” “Beating the Workplace Bully" and “Solutions,” and Submit questions at or follow her on, or @lynnecurry10 on X/Twitter.