4 reasons to reject or accept a job offer

4 reasons to reject or accept a job offer


The last two times I accepted a job I soon regretted it. In both cases I was happy with the money, I liked the manager, and the job seemed a fit. But that’s clearly not enough. You must have some rules of thumb about the decision to reject or accept a job offer. What are they?

Nick’s Reply

accept a jobIt would help to know what happened at those two jobs that led to regret. If the reasons were the same, then you may have the problem right there. But even if that’s the case, I’m more concerned about your criteria for accepting a job. They’re not sufficient.

Insufficient reasons to accept a job

The compensation matters, of course. Anyone that suggests money is not a prime consideration is lying, is a fool, or is trying to distract you from a low offer. And just because you like someone doesn’t mean you will like working for them (or having them work for you, if you’re the manager).

Then we have your third criterion: “job fit.” This is perhaps the biggest misconception job seekers have. You might check off every box on the job description, but that doesn’t mean you’re a fit.

How can that be? Well, virtually everyone I’ve ever polled laughs when I ask them whether, six months into a new job, the work they’re doing is what they were told when they were hired. The work almost always changes and evolves, sometimes so extremely that the new hire is doing something entirely different from what they expected. (Of course, this could be a good thing or a bad thing!)

So, what can you hang your hat on when deciding whether a job is right for you?

Necessary reasons to accept a job

As you have undoubtedly experienced, most employers take their time filling a job. Most job seekers, on the other hand, are rushed. They don’t consider enough criteria when making a decision to accept a job.

I’ll grant you the three criteria you’ve mentioned are meaningful. But all three are characteristics of a job opportunity that you will instantly feel in your gut. It takes no real effort to consider them.

  • I feel okay about the salary,
  • The manager and I hit it off,
  • The work described is right for me,

That may all be necessary to justify accepting a job, but it’s not sufficient. I think there’s more, but it requires some effort and patience.

4 criteria to accept a job offer

There are four other criteria you should apply to every job opportunity you encounter: the company’s (1) people, (2) products and technology, (3) finances, and (4) prospects. I believe if any one of these criteria is not met, you should walk away from the deal.

1. The people

The boss is just one part of the team, or the company, you’re joining. It’s likely that several other employees and managers will have a greater impact on your success (and satisfaction) at the job.

If the job is in Engineering, for example, it matters who is running Manufacturing and who is running Sales. If these latter managers are not competent, what the Engineering team designs may not be fully realized as viable products, and Sales may not be able to sell them. So you need to assess people at the company beyond just your boss before you decide to yoke your career to theirs.

Before making your decision to join up, ask to meet two or three managers whose departments are relevant to your own success. Also ask to meet two or three members of the team you’d be working on.

Accept the job only if the people in the company are competent, if not exceptional. It’s up to you to figure this out.

2. The products (and perhaps the technology)

Sure, you could do the job, but will you be working on products (or services) that are among the best in the business? Are the products competitive in the company’s market? Or is the company’s product line middling, if not low quality? Do customers rave positively about these products, or do they complain?

Does the company’s technology stack up well, or is it outdated? Will you be using tools at your job that enable you to work efficiently and to do your very best work? Or will you need to use bubblegum and baling wire to keep the machine working?

If the product line is not a shining light in the industry, and the company’s technology is obsolete, the company’s prospects probably aren’t good. Your prospects won’t be good, either.

Examine how the company’s products, services and technology compare to the competition’s. Unless you’re taking the job just for a paycheck, think twice before mounting a lame horse.

3. The company’s finances

I’d never take a job without meeting a finance manager or two at a company, or at least talking with someone that understands the company’s financial condition. This might seem irrelevant if you’re a machinist, or a programmer, or a production-line worker. But if the company has financial troubles, it may not be able to meet payroll. It may need to lay off workers before long. It may be unable to improve its technology, or afford to hire great sales people, and to compete effectively in its market.

If you’re considering a management job at a smaller company, ask for a brief meeting with the CFO. Ask about cash flow, debt and sources of funding for future growth. Even if you don’t know what these things are, the reaction you get will be telling.

At the very least, do an online search about the company’s sales and profits (if it’s publicly held). A simple search for any news articles could provide valuable insights.

4. The company’s pipeline and prospects

Invest the time to learn what new products, technologies, and business deals the company has in the pipeline. Does it have an edge over its competitors? Is it attracting new customers?

This is actually an amalgamation of the previous three criteria because we’re interested in the company’s plans for the future: What kinds of employees and managers is the company trying to attract, what new products and customers are in its pipeline, and how will it ensure its financial viability? What does the near- and long-term future look like?

If you want your future at a company to be good, you need to know how good the company’s prospects are.

Is this overkill?

In today’s fast-moving economy, when workers are more likely to jump jobs more often and employers are more likely to hire and lay off quickly, these suggestions might seem like overkill. Why do all that homework, ask for extra meetings and spend time thinking about all these factors — when you don’t plan to stick around a company very long anyway?

My answer is simple: You might get some big bumps in pay by changing jobs frequently among questionable companies. But there’s a lot to be said for working with high quality people that are producing exciting, desirable products that generate healthy profits — because that’s the path to a satisfying future for you and your employer.

A good salary, a boss you like, and work that matches your skills may be necessary for a job to work out well for you, but they’re not sufficient. Without meeting the four criteria I’ve described, I think you’re likely to be seeking another job again soon.

Accept the right job offer

What I’m really saying is, you should put a lot more into judging the place where you’re considering investing most of your waking hours. I find that the #1 reason people go job hunting is because they took the wrong job to begin with. Too often, they jump at what comes along — especially money! — rather than carefully choose the jobs and companies they pursue. The people, the products, the financial condition and the future prospects of a company will have a lot to do with your personal success.

I have no quarrel with you if you just need a job as quickly as possible so you can put food on the table and pay the rent. Take any job you must. But if you want a job with a future where you will be happy, successful and well-paid, it’s worth taking the trouble to figure all this out before you accept a job offer — so that you don’t have to go job hunting again any time soon.

What criteria do you consider important when deciding to reject or accept a job offer? Which of the four we discussed is most important to you? What criteria would you add?

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Don’t squander a good personal referral when looking for a job

Don’t squander a good personal referral when looking for a job


My husband and I were both downsized. Each of us has a good personal referral to a “hot” networking contact to whom we plan to send e-mails along with our resumes, but what do we say? My old company retained a big outplacement firm to help me, and they provided some sample letters. In these, the job seeker named the mutual acquaintance who provided the referral’s name, gave background and accomplishments as bullet points, and then either asked for the names of organizations which might be hiring or, in the case where the employer was known to be hiring, for a meeting to discuss qualifications.

Is this an adequate format for an introductory note, or do we need to do more research on the target company’s problems and how we can add value? I have been intrigued by your approach to job hunting. However, I don’t know how to apply this approach to a networking contact. Please give us some suggestions for writing our networking letters.

Nick’s Reply

personal referralI’m not going to discuss what makes a company want to hire you. That’s something we address frequently in this column. You already have the idea: solve the company’s problems and challenges. But you can’t really do that with the person who might introduce you to your next employer. What I want to focus on is how not to squander a personal referral. If you follow the generic advice you’ve been given, you risk wasting that valuable contact. It’s like you’re burning money.

There is no cookie-cutter personal referral

Big outplacement firms have a business model. Their objective is not to help you land a good job. The goal is to sell multi-million dollar counseling contracts to big employers that are downsizing.

If your employer really wanted to help you, they’d arrange personal introductions to managers who need you. Outplacement firms don’t do that because it won’t win them a new gig. To win big contracts, these outplacement firms have to define a cookie-cutter process for handling thousands of newly unemployed people. (For example, Ford Motor Company is laying off 3,000 workers and will provide “significant help for the workers to find new jobs.”) And that’s what you’ve discovered in that sample cover letter. As you already realize, one size does not fit all.

Make a personal referral even more personal

The last thing you need is a canned approach to job hunting. You need to make it personal. And that takes time, careful thought and diligence. Every situation is unique, and these packaged methods you’ve been given aren’t likely to work well.

What will work? A customized approach that shows you are laser-focused on one job and one employer. Make a personal referral even more personal. Let me give you an example.

Establish your value

I wanted to meet the publisher of a big-name magazine. I needed a personal referral. So, first I sent a casual e-mail to one of his writers, with a carefully distilled, pithy comment about an article she wrote. I closed with an intelligent question that required her opinion about the subject. This resulted in several e-mails going back and forth between us in which I established my credibility.

I then asked her a smart question about something the publisher himself had written, and tied it to my own work. I did not reveal all the research I had done. It was implicit in the quality of my comments and question. I clearly knew what I was talking about, and I offered some thoughts that were valuable. That’s the real purpose of research: it enables you to add value, not to show off.

A few more exchanges, and she was confident that her boss would enjoy hearing from me (and she might score a few points with him). So she gave me his e-mail address and suggested I tell him about my ideas. (Please note: I never asked for the publisher’s address.)

Create a dialogue

I sent the publisher an e-mail. Subject=From Nick Corcodilos via [writer’s name]. He wrote back within an hour. We have corresponded a few times. I’ve given him information he can use in his work with no expectation of any return. I did not hint at what he might do for me. But he won’t be surprised if I pitch him an idea soon — or if I ask him for advice, for his business, or for other professional introductions. (That goes ditto for the writer!) The channel is open.

The sample networking letters you’ve been given are one-shot requests for help. By that I mean once you send the letter, the rest is up to the recipient, yet the only benefit is to you. Your polite request for job leads does not imply a dialogue. It’s one transaction.

But my e-mail to the publisher triggered a work-related dialogue that, right off the bat, offered potentially useful information to the recipient (and sort of put him in my debt). That publisher expects to talk shop with me again.

There is no canned note I could have sent him to accomplish that.

Make it a two-way street

It need not take long to cultivate this kind of contact. But such a valuable exchange cannot be stimulated with resumes or cover letters, which are asynchronous requests for a job. What I did is have a two-way, peer-to-peer exchange with the writer, and then with her boss. In both cases we talked about their work. People love to talk about their work. That’s where some of the very best offers to work together come from.

Stop thinking in terms of networking letters. Conventional networking is a selfish, one-sided practice that seeks a favor, a one-sided payout. The profit in the approach that I’ve described is in the two-way quality of communication, and in the pleasure of making a new friend. Everything else stems naturally from that, if anything happens at all.

Don’t squander a good personal referral

The truth is, a real job contact, a real personal referral, can arise from anywhere. You can go ahead and mail out those canned letters; one of them might pan out. But do you really want to squander a good contact because you didn’t cultivate it carefully, personally, and intelligently? Don’t burn money.

Before they turn to job postings and databases, managers hire people they know, like, and respect — even if they met only recently. Resumes and cover letters have absolutely nothing to do with engendering that kind of relationship. What I’ve described is how people make friends — and how you can cultivate a personal referral — in a professional context. Please try it.

If you have a “hot” networking contact, don’t waste it with a letter. Go talk shop, share your value, make a friend. Friends introduce friends to jobs.

How do you cultivate and use a personal referral to open doors and get you an audience with a hiring manager? Do you make it personal, or does that seem too awkward? Are there “magic words” you use? How does my approach differ from other “lead generation” methods you know of?

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Liberal arts degree: Asset or albatross?

Liberal arts degree: Asset or albatross?


In your experience, is a broad liberal arts background an asset or an albatross? (I know, I know, I’m grossly glossing over differences in markets, technologies, regional employment issues, etc.) For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that our guinea pig has a liberal arts degree from a solid institution. Is the pig gonna succeed in business?

Nick’s Reply

liberal artsAbout 3 out of 4 employers say they want job candidates with strong writing skills. Far too many people in America, especially in the worlds of business and technology, can’t write to save their lives. And that’s because they spent most of their time in school studying one subject so they could become very smart specialists. But a liberal arts education almost always teaches people how to think critically, communicate effectively and how to write well.

And guess what? There’s no such thing any more as a single career. You need to be able to grasp all sorts of knowledge and thinking styles to tackle the rapidly changing kinds of work that need to be done. That’s why the traditional job is dying. And that’s why a liberal arts degree can be a very valuable asset today.

Liberal arts and business jobs

It’s not my intent to start a “jobs war” between liberal arts folks and other professionals like scientists, engineers, lawyers or anyone else. My intent is to help people with liberal arts backgrounds see they have options.

I think liberal arts types are among the most valuable workers in business. They tend to have well-honed critical skills and a flexible perspective that can accommodate just about any business discipline. They need time to master a new domain, and that can require a serious investment! But people with technical, finance or specialist degrees face a complementary challenge if they lack the breadth of knowledge one typically acquires in the liberal arts.

Liberal arts grads often often allow their degree to turn into an albatross. If they can stop torpedoing themselves, their broad skills can make them successful almost anywhere. Lots of liberal arts-ers (L.A.’s) seem to disdain the business world. I’ve never been able to figure that out. It’s a hurdle to overcome. Everything is a business, even non-profit organizations that nuke whales, save oil and grow eco-friendly pomegranates. L.A.’s need to realize — even while they’re in college — that having a job will likely mean working in business.

The disdain often manifests itself as defensiveness. You know the attitude: “I don’t really want to be in business. It’s beneath me. Business is for making money, not for satisfying my need to do something important. I come from the ivory tower of academe. And you guys in business scare the pants off me because… how do you do all that stuff you do?”

That attitude hurts a lot of talented people who need a foot in the door.

Liberal arts: Ability to change

But if L.A.’s suffer from naïve career preconceptions, they can be great learners — heck, I’m living proof. I spent my time in college taking courses in everything from Astronomy to Comparative Literature, Biology to Creative Writing, Art History to Economics, and from Psychology to Approaches to The Renaissance (Man, that was one killer double-credit course). I’m not so smart about anything in particular, but my L.A. background has made me fearless. It’s made me a fool for learning new stuff.

I didn’t study programming or coding, but I spent a couple of years designing and writing business software. I have no project management education, but I spent another year salvaging an inventory management project that went off the rails because programmers and sales people (at a major corporation) couldn’t understand one another.

Learning quickly on the job again and again gave me the confidence to believe I can learn to do anything well, because as an L.A. type in college, I jumped from subject to subject. That became a skill in itself. And I believe that skill makes any liberal arts-er a potentially fine business person. I got religion when I realized business is just the work someone does. It’s all business.

Liberal arts can be your asset

I believe that almost any L.A.-er who’s serious about it can land a good job — or change careers — by applying the ability to write and communicate effectively. That’s the sign of a trained and disciplined mind. That’s one of the first things I look for when I evaluate a business person. Having said that, I also expect a clear demonstration that the job candidate has applied their liberal arts training to learn about my business and the job I’m trying to fill!

There are lots of specialists out there that an L.A.-er could run circles around — just because L.A.-ers can speak and write well. The challenge to the L.A.-er is to study the business you want to work in, gain enough of a grasp to hold your own, and to show how you will apply your skills to it. In some fields, of course, you may need some serious additional education to compete with the specialists, but I think you will find the skills you already possess will often make you a uniquely qualified candidate for some surprising jobs.

So yes, our guinea pig can succeed. If you have a liberal arts degree and want to work in business, technology, finance or any other field, you’ve got to do more homework. Lucky you, that’s what you’re good at. Then choose your target and go tackle the world.

Is a liberal arts education useful in your line of work? Why or why not? If you work in a specialized field, have you encountered (or hired) people with liberal arts degrees? Are liberal arts credentials an asset or an albatross?

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I really want this job!

I really want this job!


How long should I wait before checking in on a late-stage interview process that’s gone silent? I’m interviewing for a top software engineering management role after being asked to apply by the CTO. I really want this job.

The role would report to the CTO, with whom I interviewed twice, and then once with the engineering team. That last interview was three weeks ago, and I haven’t heard anything since. They didn’t tell me what kind of timeline to expect. I really want this job, and I’m going crazy waiting to know what happens next. Will checking in to soothe my anxiety damage the relationship? Do I have to wait some more weeks in limbo? Thank you so much for your help.

Nick’s Reply

I really want this jobThis may be hard to hear, but the worst thing you can do is “really want this job.” The truth is, most interview processes go south. The only way to plan around that is to focus your next opportunity.

If you sit and wait for that CTO to make a decision while you’re on pins and needles, it’s going to hurt you. Get out – go date some other companies pronto!

Then, if this goes south, you’ll feel a lot better for having “live” options.

Keep this in mind: You have NO control over that employer and you will never have any idea what transpired if they don’t hire you. The only thing you control is what I refer to as “On to the next!”

If you really want this job, ask now

Having said all that, I’d send a very casual, very informal note to the CTO. There is no need to wait longer.

How to Say It

“How are we doing on that position? I’m still interested. Are you?”

Don’t get all formal and wordy. (Avoid saying you really want this job!) If he says yes, then ask for a timetable.

How to Say It

“I’m talking with other companies. You’re my first choice. I want to work with you. But I certainly understand if you haven’t made a decision. I hope you understand I have a timetable of my own, and I don’t want you to think I’ve lost interest. Can you tell me when you expect to make a decision?”

By the way, never use the exact words I suggest. Bend “how to say it,” shape it so it fits your style and makes you comfortable, and always use your own best judgment.

It is possible they’ve got other fish to fry. Sometimes it can take a long time. But after this much time a CTO owes you some information.

On to the next!

If he says there will be no offer, there’s little you can do. If he says he’s got no info for you, then you to focus on “On to the next!” and let this guy simmer on low. If he comes back, great. If not, make sure you have alternatives.

Three weeks is a long time. Has his silence “damaged the relationship?” Ask him what’s up as offhandedly as you can, with a friendly come-hither tone. Expect a useful answer, then get on with it.

I hope you get the job. Like I said, this could just be a matter of the company being occupied with other tasks. But by letting a candidate stew, they risk not being able to fill a key job. Letting them know you may be gone by the time they get their act together will relieve your stress and also maybe help you find the job where they really do want you.

Waiting on one lottery ticket to pay off never paid anyone’s mortgage. Get back in the game now!

This may help: I’m still waiting for the job offer. If you feel you need one-on-one help, check Talk to Nick.

How long do you wait to ask for a hiring decision? Have you ever put your job search on pause while waiting on a job you “really want,” only to realize you’re left empty-handed? How would you advise this reader?

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How to make a tough job or career choice

How to make a tough job or career choice


I really can’t decide between two good job offers that require a career choice. Each would take me deep into a career dramatically different from the other. I’ve done lists of pros and cons and still cannot figure this out! Got any suggestions?

(NOTE: This is an old question that I’ve never published because I didn’t have an answer for it — until now. Strap in, because some might think I’m going a bit “out there” on this! – Nick)

Nick’s Reply

career choiceSometimes you’ve got to make a choice between two job offers, or you’ve got to decide “Do I stay, or do I go?” Much of the time you can pretty easily judge the evidence supporting one choice or the other. But sometimes you can’t — because “I” gets in the way.

Does “I” cause confusion when making a career choice?

I is who talks to you when you stop living and start “paying attention.” Really, there is never a need to “pay attention.” We do that automatically. It’s how our senses and our brains work. As long as your eyes are open, when that swerving car comes toward you unexpectedly, your brain makes your body jump out of the way — you don’t need to “pay attention.”

Likewise, when you have job choices that seem confusing, it’s often illuminating to merely stop thinking about it. Stop I.

A lesson from the Buddha

A Buddhist friend suggests we don’t need I. In fact, I gets in the way of knowing all we need to know. And that includes knowing which choice in virtually any situation is the best choice for us.

Stopping I is hard. It’s why the Buddha spent years in contemplation — to stop his I. Well, not to stop it. Rather, to experience the knowledge that there is no I. Everything —  everything — is connected, is one, is Unity, so I is just an artifact of a brain that doesn’t know how to be still. There is no need for I when a person can sit quietly and see, hear, feel, smell and even taste what is before them.

This, the Buddha tells us, is knowing.

No, I’m not going religious on you. I’m not proselytizing or suggesting you give up your power of choice to a 2,500-year-old holy man. Many religions offer ways to know ourselves better. The point is to have a method to be still and know yourself; a way to turn off that distracting internal voice that can make your head spin with indecision.

One way to make a tough job or career choice

I’m telling you this because I’d like to help you make choices that seem daunting. We don’t encounter these all the time. Usually, we know exactly what to do. But when we don’t, I steps in and over-analyzes, over-rationalizes, argues too much and drives us into confusion.

So, how do we get rid of I so that we can just know what we really want?

A special edition of the Stanford alumni magazine is devoted to stories about chance and randomness. There’s interesting stuff throughout: some fun, provocative stories, as well as some college-magazine tripe.

But the best story in that edition is on the very last page. Perhaps an editor got loose from their I and saw the naked wisdom about what’s chance, what’s random, and how the chaotic universe will lead us to knowledge about ourselves without any need to think.

Make the choice you know is right

In Mary Poindexter McLaughlin’s “Keep the Change,” a seemingly random flip of a coin leads the author away from conscious thought — away from the I that talks to us — so she can see that she already knows the answer to her problem.

McLaughlin wasn’t choosing between two offers — but you might be. She had to choose between two careers. One career (as a university administrator) came with a job offer; the other (acting in theater) included no firm offer and required a big move.

With the flip of a coin, McLaughlin made a life-changing choice, but not because the outcome of the flip made the choice for her. The real outcome was that she easily and effortlessly made her own choice when the coin flip removed her I and revealed her knowledge of herself.

Flip off the switch and see the light

You cannot know what I’m talking about without reading McLaughlin’s very short article. Please check it out. If I didn’t think it worth your while, I wouldn’t recommend it. Maybe it’s a bit out there, but it set off bright lights for me. It made me realize sometimes I think too much and pay so much attention that I entirely miss what I already know.

Sometime, when you have a seemingly impossible choice to make, like a tough job or career choice, try what McLaughlin did —- flip a coin that flips the switch off on your I. I bet you’ll see better for just long enough to realize you don’t need to think to make a choice.

You just know.

I’m not suggesting you ignore your critical faculties. But, take a pause when you’re unsure — take a moment to know yourself.

(See also Don’t subcontract your job choices.)

Have I gone off my rocker? What is this Buddhism stuff? When faced with a tough decision, do you ever feel like you (“I”) are in your own way? How would you make a decision like this, if both options seem equally attractive? Do you find any wisdom in McLaughlin’s story?

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