The Job Offer: To Accept or Not to Accept


Hopefully at some point in your job hunt you will be given the great news that you have a job offer for a new position. You get caught up in the excitement, the honor at being chosen and the chance for a new start. But then, perhaps, doubt starts to creep in. You don’t know whether you should accept or not. What do you do?

There are a number of things to think about when deciding to accept or not accept a job:

What are your life circumstances?

A number of years ago, I was unemployed and getting to a point where I had a decision to make. I couldn’t make my payments for both rent and my medical insurance and so I was looking at the very real need to return home to Michigan, and live with my parents. While I wasn’t against moving back home, at that time (mid 2000s), Michigan’s economy was already faltering and I knew my chances of finding a job there were scarcer than in DC. So, a great job offer came through from Deloitte. While it was not my preferred industry (I am not one who likes to work to make a profit), the job did offer the chance to pay off my debts (including graduate school), pay my bills, and still have money to set aside for future savings and investments. I took the job because I needed to. No one was helping me financially and sometimes you need to work to pay the bills. This is an honest reality for many people, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. A job is a job. And if working in a different field for a few years can offer you more security in life later on, that is a serious reason to consider a job.

What are the unspoken things you noticed during the job interview? 

I’ve found that regardless of any type of organization, they often all say the same thing. They are a fun place to work, with smart people, flexible schedules and great benefits. So how do you know if you would really enjoy working at an organization? Pay attention to the details. I had one boss tell about a time when they were interviewing and meeting with the executive to whom they would report. In the middle of the interview, the boss had to leave and left the interviewee in her office for a number of minutes, with no indication when they’d be back. My boss said this told them that the new boss was very busy, and would have little time to spare.

A few years ago, I called a boss to get more information about a project I was being asked to serve on. The manager seemed incredibly annoyed that I called and while was courteous, I got the sense that I had irked him. Needless to say, I ended up not taking on that project as I didn’t want a manager who got irritated if I wanted to better understand his expectations. On the flip side, I’ve had and been a part of interviews (on both sides of the desk) where the conversation has been so natural and so relaxed that you just know that this is the place for you. These observations, and gut feelings, are real things to pay attention to when you are interviewing.

Think about the job you want have after this one. Will accepting the job offer help you gain skills/experience desired to get future jobs?

One of my bosses told me this advice just recently as I have been job hunting. It seems so simple – but it rocked the whole way I was looking at a few jobs that I was considering. Long term I want to get into academia and higher ed administration. I want to research and work with students to help them identify their own potential for academic studies or careers. So, the question for me is how do the jobs I am looking at help me build a network and skills necessary to get that next job in academia. A lower paying job in a new industry may be worth it to get your foot in the door; or a job that gives you a lot of transferable skills could also be a good path to take, even if it is not in the industry you prefer. But think about this, and work it into your job search and interview questions. A good employer helps you to be better at your job. But the best employers help you prepare to leave the organization for better things.

Does the place you could be working for help you build your resume?

This may seem petty – but it is a real thing. If you are considering working for an organization that is highly respected and valued, it is worth considering the job. The network of an organization’s alumni (where do people go after the organization) can be incredibly valuable in finding new work. Even if you only take the job for a few years, it can give you a foot-in-the-door at your next job.

A reputable organization also can offer development opportunities that help you further strengthen what you can offer employers. If an organization has development opportunities and can help you obtain the experience you need for future jobs, then I say go for it.


Does this organization, and more importantly your future boss, share your values? Are you a workaholic who loves to be a go-getter? If so does the organization value that work ethic and reward it? Or, is work just not your number one priority right now? Can you find a place that lets you come in and do meaningful work, but still lets you have a life? Do the people you would be working with have lives outside of work? Is it a work hard, play hard culture? Is it a non-profit? A for-profit? What is the mission? Or more importantly, the organization’s values? The variations are endless, but think about your own values and lines-in-the-sand you have and make sure your employer agrees with you on those.

In D.C., especially, you also need to be aware of an organization’s political leanings. Unless your heart’s desire is to be a lobbyist for a particular political party, many well-respected, but politically leaning organizations can unfairly paint you into a corner. I wouldn’t turn down partisan jobs per se, but you should have a plan in place to illustrate how the job gives you the skills you need to get a job anywhere (i.e. political savvy!).

Don’t be afraid to ask for the things you need in the interview

Related to values, many people find it hard to get to the culture side of an organization in a few short interviews. Don’t be afraid to ask your potential employer blunt questions. I’ve been very direct in my needs as a working mom, and how my family will always take priority over work. I’ve been turned down for a few positions that in every other way would be great matches. Yet, I have to believe that in the long run, finding a place that respects me and my needs will be worth it. And what is more, I’ve had countless people comment on how much they appreciate my honesty and forthrightness when I’ve been answering their interview questions. Honesty goes a long way to helping you find a great job fit.

Beth Schill is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Michael Steinberg

Beth! Really enjoyed the post, and your advice is spot on! You were a great mentor at the Partnership so I could definitely see you as a great professor. Good Luck and looking forward to the rest of your posts!

Beth Schill

Thanks, Mike! I appreciate the vote of confidence – and you were an awesome person to work with, as well. Keep up the great writing!

Mark Hammer

The decision to accept or not is sometimes (and most typically for younger people) hinging on the sense of risk. If I accept THIS job, what happens if I end up getting an offer for THAT job (that I want more)? Will I be burning important bridges? Will I be able to accept that other job?

One of the things I had to explain to my kids is that many of the jobs they would get as recent graduates (or merely as summer students) are jobs that presume minimal training is required. The hiring manager is generally accustomed to having people leave. And while it is not their *preferred* outcome, it is one they have experienced in past and know they will survive if it happens again.

So unless the circumstances are truly unusual, or the job hideously unpalatable, take the job and don’t worry about what to do if another offer comes along. Take that subsequent offer if it is right for you, and do a good job AT your job until it’s time to go. They likely won’t take kindly to employees using working hours to hunt for another job, but a decent supervisor/employer will understand if another preferred employer was a little slow out of the gate in getting back to you.

Beth Schill

I think this is such an important point. Many people are looking for the “perfect” job – and I am not sure that such a thing exists. Rather, do as my mother said, “Whatever job you have, be it a big executive job, being a janitor, or flipping burgers. Do the best you can and it will serve you well.” I’ve always found that having good references from jobs go a long way to getting a job that is a better fit in the long run. Thanks for commenting!

C Schachtner

Great post-and very true. You should be honest in your interviews with what you need from a position, and keeping an open attitude towards your intake of what they are saying. That way you usually can pick up on their needs and what they see as a fit for you in their organization. Honesty is always the best way to interview.

Colleen O'Toole

Beth, these are very good points for anyone to consider, whether at the beginning, middle, or later stages of a career. It’s easy to overlook clues during the interview process when you might feel desperate to accept a position because of financial pressure. And, your last point about not being afraid to ask for the things you need is excellent advice and can prevent misunderstanding later.