The Worst Job Offer You Can Accept
September 25, 2015

The Worst Job Offer You Can Accept

by Brian de Haaff

You just got the job offer you have been waiting for. A sense of relief floods over you that your long search may finally be over. No more uncertainty or sleepless nights.

After your initial excitement wears off, it’s time to seriously consider their offer. You would have to be crazy not to take it, right?

As you mull it over, though, reality sets in. Some of your earlier concerns about the company start to resurface. You remember that the interviewer changed the appointment twice, and seemed unprepared to respond to your questions about the position. No matter how hard you try, you cannot ignore your nagging doubts about the company and its future.

It’s important to pay attention to your instincts. They may be trying to tell you something.

You worry that it is counter-intuitive or even irresponsible to reject a job offer, especially if you have been looking for a job for a while. But when you recognize this one big flaw in your potential employer, turning down their offer and continuing your search may be your smartest move yet.

As CEO of Aha! I get to speak with lots of growing technology companies and their leaders. When you have enough of these conversations, you become fairly adept at recognizing the companies that have a purpose and are pursuing it with vigor.

So, what’s the one sign you should say no to a job offer?

When you realize that the company does not know where it’s headed. They do not have a meaningful strategy.

Your instincts were right: The company is simply making it up as they go along, and they may expect you to do the same. That is no way to run a successful, sustainable business. In my experience, the companies that stand the best chance at making it have a clear strategy in place that informs every decision they make.

It is in your best interest to recognize the danger ahead — in the form of an employer flying by the seat of their pants. Here are the signs you should look for. They are:

Lacking purpose You have an urgent decision to make. And you believe deeply that a job is about more than a steady paycheck. The company you join (and ultimately align yourself with) should have a backbone too. Having a higher purpose brings with it a sense of urgency. After all, if they take such a casual approach to hiring you, what other processes in the company are half-baked?

Competitor obsessed Do not settle for a company that is insecure. How can you tell? They spend more time talking about their competitors than they talk about themselves. Great companies lead with confidence. They are aware of their competitors, but are not obsessed with them.

Hoping you have answers They are rightly excited about hiring you. They expect that you will change the course of their efforts and help change their course. That is a tall order for anyone to fill, and alarm bells should go off in your head. Unless you are the new CEO or head of strategy, it is not your place to determine the strategy for their entire business.

Changing course on a whim There is a very big difference between being responsive and being reckless. Does the company have a reputation for suddenly abandoning one project to take on another? Leadership should make decisions that are aligned to strategy, not the latest and greatest idea.

When a job offer comes along, you are naturally inclined to say yes right away for fear another offer may not come for some time. Or, you may be desperate to leave a dysfunctional boss or sinking company. But carefully evaluate the new company right along with the offer.

You are better off holding out for a company that understands the value of strategy and knows where you will fit in the larger plan. Keep looking for the right opportunity that aligns with your own goals for your future.

Have you ever worked for a company with no purpose?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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