Given the current state of the economy, it might seem ridiculous to even consider turning down a job offer, if you are lucky enough to get one at all. Indeed, most of the experts we contacted said they have become very reluctant to advise anyone to turn down a job these days. According to CNN, it now takes an average of more than 30 weeks to find a job, the highest ever since the Department of Labor began tracking this data in 1948. This makes it very tempting to jump at the first thing that comes along. However, even in today's job climate, there are still some reasons to consider declining that offer.
In Pictures: 7 Interview Don'ts
1. The company may be financially shaky.
If anything is worse than not having a job, it's landing a job and then finding out a few weeks later that the company is going belly up.
"A candidate should know about the financial stability of the firm," says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of The LaSalle Network, a professional staffing and recruiting company in Chicago.
"If it's public, do your research. If it's private, ask that question in the interview. If the firm is struggling, the hiring team is not being forthcoming about information and there is no plan in place, perhaps you might want to keep looking."
2. The interview process is extremely long or disorganized.
Often, the interview process can be a good indicator of how the company operates in general.
"If it takes more than a couple of weeks and three or four interviews for the employer to make an offer, that could be a sign of faulty decision making on the employer's part," says Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D., president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing in New York City.
"If they can't make a decision about you, or if it feels like every employee in the company is being given a say in the hiring process, how will they be able to make effective business decisions? It's usually a sign that they don't have their act together." (Find out how to ace an interview in 7 Things You Should Say In An Interview.)
3. You have a bad "gut feeling".
"Job candidates should listen to their gut when considering any job offer and turn it down if something doesn't feel right, whether it's the environment, the people, the culture, or the setting," says Donna Cardillo, RN, author of "The Ultimate Career Guide for Nurses" (2008).
Cardillo says most people who ignore their instincts and take a job anyway usually end up regretting it later. Cardillo says red flags may include getting negative feelings from the interviewer, noticing a high stress level among current staff, office chatter about "all the upheaval" in the department or reports of a high turnover rate.
4. The money is below your absolute minimum.
Sure, it's unrealistic today to expect the generous salaries that were common just a few years ago - but you still need to earn enough to pay your bills. Frances Cole Jones, author of "The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today's Business World" (2010), says prior to the interview, you should have a "walk-away number" in your head. This is the absolute rock-bottom figure you can accept. Jones says this figure must be based on facts – such as the amount you need to pay for rent, groceries and other expenses – and not based on emotional factors, such as what you feel you "deserve."
"Figuring things out in this way ensures candidates remain factual during their salary negotiation," Jones says. "Plus, if they can say, 'I've done the math and I simply can't support myself/my family on that number,' it helps them make their case for a higher offer." (Discover some jobs that pay well even in a bad economy in 5 Sectors With Recession-Proof Pay.)
5. It goes against your principles, moral values or lifestyle choices.
Even in tough financial times, it's not worth selling your soul for a paycheck, says Laurent Duperval, president of Duperval Consulting in Montreal, Canada. Duperval advises job seekers to stay away from positions or employers that conflict with their core values. "If you're a vegetarian, don't go work for a meat packer. Period."
The Bottom Line
Times are tough, and it is impractical (not to mention very risky) to hold out for the perfect job at the perfect company. But that doesn't mean you should accept any job offer you get, no matter what. Set some basic ground rules and use common sense, and you should have an easier time deciding whether to accept an offer or keep looking.