Joseph Grenny is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.
Dear Crucial Skills,
Some time ago, I rejected a perfectly good job offer. I now realize that I made the biggest mistake of my life. The line manager actually personally called me after the interview process to reassure me that he was very eager for me to join his team. Is it a good idea to call him back to inquire about possible opportunities?
Provided I am granted a face-to-face meeting, how do I ask to join his team after I rejected a previous offer?
Overcoming My Biggest Mistake
By all means, make the call! Now! You have nothing to lose. It’s possible that the hiring manager will only feel flattered that you reconsidered. Of course, he may have found another candidate already. Or he may have felt hurt if you gave some indication that you would accept and then didn’t. Or if you just went silent and never actually shared your decision to decline, he may feel insulted or have a negative view of your emotional maturity.
Here are two possible scenarios as well as tips for handing each conversation.
Scenario 1: You clearly and respectfully declined the offer. You need to do three things in your conversation:
- Reaffirm your original feelings about the offer.
- Help him make sense of your change of heart.
- Make it easy for him to let you know the position was filled.
This might sound like, “I know it’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve spoken, and I fully understand that you may have extended another offer for the position. If it is still open, I want you to know I have changed my mind about staying where I am. I realize now that I let a fear of the unknown keep me back from something that would be truly exciting to me. This job would give me a chance to use the full range of skills I’ve been trained for. I’m ready to jump in if the job is available. And if it’s not, I want you to know I would like to talk about other options in the future.”
Scenario 2: You didn’t handle it well. If you expressed enthusiasm then changed your mind, or if you waited too long to let him know you wouldn’t be coming, or if you offended him in some other way, start there.
For example, you might say, “I want you to know I’ve changed my mind about your offer, and I’d like to explain why. But I also want you to know I’ve been feeling some guilt over how I may have offended or inconvenienced you when we discussed the position earlier. I was embarrassed to let you know I had changed my mind so I waited two days to call you. In retrospect, I think I may have caused you to waste time in filling the position. I am sorry if that is the case . . .”
Let him respond by either acknowledging that this was an issue or bringing up any other concerns you might have created. Give him permission to factor these concerns into his decision about reconsidering you. Then move on to explain why you’ve changed your mind.
I wish you the best in this decision. I know making such a leap can be scary. I hope it works out well for you and the organization you’ll join.
4 thoughts on “Changing Your Mind about a Job Offer”
The job market is a two-way street. Of course this person has the right to decline and change his or her mind. There is a chance that the person who made the offer feels rejected or mad. If that is true, you do not want to work for such an insecure person.
I think the main thing the person must explain is why he or she changed their mind. A person might think the person is flighty or unable to make up his or hermind.
Great advice Joseph! I can confirm that it’s worth any fear in not doing it. I had a very similar experience with an emerging company. I was new to the area and very late to the interview. It was 90 degrees. I now longer looked fresh. I was frazzled. It was end of the month..it was a sales job. The manager had looming deadlines. The environment was ripe for potential disaster. We both went through the interview with stoic attitudes. I got home and called the recruiter to say I’d like another shot. They weren’t willing to risk for me so with their support I called to express my disappointment. I found out later that the call was a difference maker for the manager. It was the beginning of a very successful 14 year career that included being selected to represent the company in a presentation to the then president of the United States.
Make the call. It will be worth it. At a minimum, it end any regret one might experience for not making the call.
Many years ago I had the enviable option of three employers. Before my second interview for job #1 I agonized over the choices, even to the point of sitting in a nearby parking lot counting pros and cons. Choosing in favor of the one that seemed to be the best fit for my young family, I walked into the interview and declined the position. The board was surprised; I was clearly their first choice.
After seven years in what proved to be a very difficult work-place, I finally began seeking other employment. Two weeks into my search job #1 advertised the same position I had previously declined. I applied, and found to my surprise that they still had my file and remembered me. I was ultimately hired and spent 10 great years with the organization.
What I learned: 1. Always leave the door open when you exit a job or an interview, treating everyone with respect and integrity. 2. You learn as much about your craft with a difficult employer as a great employer, sometimes even more. 3. Keep your files on promising employees who leave or turn you down, they may be back and be better employees for it. 4. Never “beat yourself up” about a poor decision–move on and use the experience wisely. 5. Take your “Crucial Conversations” course early in your career!
was a recruiter for 10 years for Polaroid; Definately call him back. I would want to know a little more as to what has changed. And I would need to feel your reasoning makes sense. You need to rexamine your decision and also be open to see if you have a “weakness” you need to work on that may have contributed to the problem. You also want to be very confident you will be a top performer in this new job because your credibility has been a little damaged