by: Perri Capell
A friend recently declined a job offer. She had felt pressured to make the decision because the company gave her only a day to decide. She now regrets turning it down. After you’ve declined an offer, is it ever OK to recontact an employer and say you changed your mind? If so, what approach should you use?
Every so often, my initial reaction to a reader question is way off base. This is one of them. My first thought was that saying no to a job offer probably closes the door to that employer. But I was wrong, according to a human-resources executive and a telecommunications manager I contacted.
Both say that, as long as the opening remains unfilled, they would seriously reconsider a front runner who originally declined an offer but then called back and asked to be reconsidered. The reason is that such candidates have the same skills and abilities that impressed the company originally, so there’s every reason to still want them.
“If they were a good candidate then, then they are one now,” says Phil Timm, director of engineering for Verizon Wireless in Branchburg, N.J. “I made them an offer once, so I would make it again.”
Craig E. Schneier, executive vice president of human resources for Biogen Idex, a Cambridge, Mass., pharmaceutical company, agrees. “If I had wanted to offer the person a job once and they came back, I would be an idiot to dismiss them out of hand,” he says. “That would be saying my first judgment was wrong.”
Whether to accept a job offer is a big decision and a very personal one. Many variables are involved. Some candidates who say no don’t have all the information they need to make the right choice. When they do more research, they realize they made a mistake.
Or, like your friend, they may feel pressured to decide too quickly. Just having more time to think is all they need. “You may have read something about the company and then say to yourself, ‘What was I thinking when I said no?’ Or you might get more data and realize the job was better for you than you thought,” Mr. Schneier says.
Candidates who change their minds should contact the employer as soon as possible. It’s best to be honest when you explain why you’re calling. “Candor has enormous appeal in the vast majority of situations,” says Mr. Schneier.
Mr. Timm says he would ask the candidate what prompted the change of heart, since his concern would be that the person may be indecisive. “I wouldn’t want someone working for me who changes their mind every five minutes,” he says.
When you’re asked why you changed your mind, you might say that you have since learned things about the company that make the opportunity more attractive. Or you could say that aspects of the offer are more important to you than you thought originally, says Mr. Schneier. It’s also acceptable to say you were considering other offers at the time, but now realize that this was the best one.
“I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to go back and say, ‘I learned something or I’m looking at things differently and would love for you to reconsider our conversation,” says Mr. Schneier. “If you are candid and sincere, the worst the company can say is no.”
He says that at a previous employer, a candidate once turned down a job offer and then called back to ask if discussions could be reopened. Mr. Schneier says the two talked again and eventually both agreed the job wasn’t a good fit.