You should not back out of a job offer you already accepted (known as reneging).
Choosing which graduate or entry-level job offer to accept is a big decision and employers understand this. It’s in everyone’s interests that you think carefully about an offer before accepting it so that you’ll thrive in your new role.
The answers to the following questions often overlap (for example, the advice on asking for time to consider a job offer also applies if you have multiple job offers or are waiting to hear back from another company). The most important thing in all these situations is to be open, honest and polite: explain your circumstances to the recruiter and emphasise your enthusiasm for the role. It’s always best to maintain a good rapport with recruiters even if you ultimately decide the job isn’t for you.
In this article, we consider:
- accepting a job offer and then declining
- how to ask for time to think about a job offer
- questions to ask before accepting a job
- how to handle multiple job offers
- how to tell a potential employer you have another job offer
- how to stall a job offer while waiting for another.
You should not back out of a job offer you have already accepted (known as reneging). By rescinding an accepted job offer you are technically in breach of contract; an employer can sue you for this or make you work out your contracted period of notice. This is extremely unlikely to happen, but do you really want to risk it? See our article on employment contracts for more information about the legal side of accepting a job offer.
It can also damage your professional reputation with the recruiter. You have essentially wasted their time and caused them extra work as they will probably have to reopen the hiring process. You may apply again to that employer in the future or that recruiter may move to another organisation that you want to join.
It’s true that people do sometimes renege on job offer acceptance if, for example, they later get a better job offer. But it’s always best to make an informed decision about a job before accepting it. If you are weighing up multiple job offers, waiting for an interview with another employer or unsure about a job offer, explain the situation to a recruiter and request some more time if you need it. Recruiters would much rather you did this before accepting than changed your mind afterwards.
Job offers are usually made over the phone rather than via email, but you don’t have to accept a job offer right away. Recruiters know that you might have other offers, be overwhelmed with information or want to discuss the offer with family and friends. They will probably suggest that you take time to think about it if you don’t immediately say yes or they can hear hesitation in your voice. But if they don’t, you can request some time. Start by thanking them for the offer and reiterating your enthusiasm about the employer – avoid saying ‘I don’t know if I want the job’ or stating what you don’t like about the role.
For example, you might say, ‘Thank you so much for the offer; is it possible to get a summary via email? I’d like to take a day or two to think about it if that’s OK?’ You should also mention at this point if you have (or are waiting for) an offer from another employer or if you’d like to speak to someone at the organisation to discuss any concerns you have. How long you can take to respond depends on the employer but will typically be up to a few days. The exception would be if you are waiting for another interview or assessment centre (more on this below).
Establishing when you’re likely to respond shows maturity and it is helpful for the recruiters to know when they can expect to hear from you. They won’t pressure you to make a decision within that time but may call you regularly to check if you have any queries. Once you have made a decision, the onus is on you to call the recruiter back (or email them if you prefer) and let them know either way, rather than leaving them to chase you up. See our article on how to accept or decline a job offer for more advice on what to say.
Once you have negotiated some time to think about the job offer, focus your thoughts on whether the job would suit you and how it would affect your life. Gather as much information as you can from each company that has made you a job offer to help the decision-making process. As well as answering any questions you have when they first offer you the job, a good employer will put you in touch with a graduate or your prospective line manager to informally talk through any concerns and give you more details.
You may be wondering if you can negotiate the salary at this stage, particularly if you have multiple job offers. See our salary negotiation article for advice on this.
Some potential questions to ask at job offer stage include:
- The role and your responsibilities. Is there anything you don’t yet understand about what your day-to-day duties would involve?
- Your long-term progression. Think beyond the graduate programme – what opportunities are there for personal development with the company? Would you have a permanent contract from your first day?
- The location. Where is the job based and would you need to relocate? If so, would you be comfortable with the cost of living on the salary offered? Would the employer be able to provide a relocation allowance or any support with finding accommodation?
- Travelling to work. Think carefully about the length of the journey, the method of transport you would use and how you would adapt to that change in lifestyle.
- Working from home arrangements. Alternatively, the company may still be working remotely due to Covid-19 or your role may be based remotely (at least part of the time) in the longer term. Would this suit you? Also check what equipment and other support the employer would provide.
- Hidden costs. A seemingly well-paid position may have hidden costs in the form of increased travel expenses, a new wardrobe and ready-made food costs (you might not be able to resist the temptation to pick up a takeaway if you're working long hours, for instance).
Getting multiple job offers is a nice problem to have, but you can only accept one. You should also remove yourself from the selection processes of other employers once you have accepted an offer.
If all the offers are in and on the table then you can weigh up which would suit you best. Don’t base it on a quick win, such as taking the one with the highest salary or biggest brand name. Review the questions listed in ‘Should I accept a job offer?’ for a starting point on choosing between offers.
It’s a good idea to let a company know you have another offer if you’re not yet sure which one to accept and need a few more days to consider your options. Graduates normally apply for multiple jobs at the same time so recruiters won’t be surprised if you have more than one offer. They understand that finding a job is about choosing a company that’s right for you as well as you being right for the company, and they are not going to hold it against you or withdraw the offer they have made just because you have another.
Again, when a recruiter phones you with a job offer remember to be polite and enthusiastic about the job and thank the recruiter for offering it to you. Then you might say, for example: ‘I’ve got another offer from… Could I have a few days to think about this?’ You should do this for each of the employers that has made you an offer. As explained above, they should then give you the opportunity to ask any questions you have to choose between them.
You may receive an offer while waiting to hear back from another company or when you have other interviews lined up. Unless you are certain that the first job offer is your preferred choice (in which case you can accept it and remove yourself from the other selection processes), you should explain the situation to the recruiter who has made you the first offer. Don’t simply ignore the first offer until you hear back from the rest.
Recruiters would prefer to know up front if, for example, you have been invited to an assessment centre at a different employer the following week. They may then allow you to wait until after that to confirm and will try to be as flexible as possible. However, this may not be possible if the other assessment centre is very close to their start date or, say, two weeks into the future. This is because if you wait that long and then decline the offer, the recruiter will want to offer it to another candidate they have on reserve and it’s not fair to make that other candidate wait so long. In this case, you will need to weigh up whether you want to accept this offer or take a chance on the next employer.