Declining Job Offer

Can You Decline a Job Offer After Accepting It?

Yes. But should you? That’s the better question.

Let’s go through the potential pitfalls of doing that and analyse what risks you’re opening yourself up to. Once you know the risks, you can make an informed decision. It’s over to you at that point.

Legal risk?

I’m not a lawyer so any advice I give here is through my own experience only.

In most cases, there usually isn’t any risk of legal action against you. Have you broken a legal written contract if you signed it and then pulled out? Yes. What are the possible ramifications or damages, legally? Usually none.

I’ve never known a company to pursue a candidate for any sort of damages. If the contract was legally enforced then all it would really mean is that you’d have to start work with them, but nothing would stop you from immediately resigning. That’s still your right.

Most companies would prefer you not to start than to start and then pull out after the first day or two.

Would I be burning any bridges?

Almost definitely. I’ve never known a company to be ok with this.

If you’ve gone back on your word and pulled out after signing on the dotted line, then there will be bad blood between you and that employer. They may even mention it to their circle of industry friends etc. You certainly aren’t likely to be accepted for another position with that company in the future.

What’s the effect on me?

That’s only something you can answer.

If you’re someone who has a deep seated value that their word is their bond, then I’d imagine you’d have a hard time with your conscience.

I’ve had a number of candidates justify it over the years by saying that employers don’t always stick to their agreements and will withdraw an offer or make someone redundant as soon as business conditions change. They look after themselves, I need to look after myself.

Usually, the reason for decision reversal is due to getting a better offer with more money or better working conditions. If you can justify going back on your word and live with that decision, then I’m sure part of the thinking would be to balance the extra pay and conditions against the downsides of going against your word.

Will it affect future job prospects?

Possibly but probably not.

I live in Perth, Western Australia and it always feels like a pretty small market. Everyone seems to know everyone in the IT industry. That’s an exaggeration, but it sometimes feels that way.

If you do it once and then you stay in that new job for many years, then it is unlikely to affect your relationship with other potential employers. If you do it more than once and get a reputation for it, then sure, it probably will affect your job prospects going forward.

What if I got the role through a recruiter?

This is an easy one. They’ll be seriously annoyed.

I am operating an IT recruitment agency in Perth and it’s happened to me a few times and I hate it.

All the work is done, the match is made. It’s all agreed to by all parties. Hours and hours of work from sourcing, selecting, interviewing, presenting, reference checking and then presenting the offer. Only for it to be accepted (euphoria!) and then later rejected (heartbreaking!).

So the whole process has to be repeated with no guarantee of finding another well suited candidate and actually getting paid for the work. Does it mean I’ll never speak to them again? No, but I will be pissed off for a while. And I’ll have a degree of caution about the next time I consider working with you again.

In a candidate short market where there’s lots of opportunities around and employers are scrambling to put offers to candidates, the possibility of getting an exciting and more attractive offer, after you’ve already accepted one is a real possibility. Before making that decision, weigh up the potential cost to your conscience and reputation.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for an IT job in Western Australia at the moment and are looking for help in securing a well-suited IT position, you may reach out to us for assistance via our contact form here.

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