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3 Reasons to Quit a Job Before It Even Starts

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Congratulations! You’re at the end of your job search and have either accepted or are close to accepting a job offer. But wait! Your gut is telling you to back away. Do you listen?

“You don’t want to make a habit of rescinding job acceptances, but there are some very rare instances in which it’s the best move to make,” says Craig Patterson, Managing Director of The HT Group’s Professional Division. Before diving into those good reasons, though, Patterson points out a common yet surprisingly bad reason to back away from a new job: a counteroffer.

Research shows that about half of employees who resign for a job with better pay will be counteroffered by their current employer. But there are also statistics out there that show taking that offer can be a very bad idea. Nine out of 10 candidates who accept a counteroffer from a current employer either still quit or are terminated within the same year.

“Many candidates are surprised to find themselves terminated from their jobs soon after successfully winning counteroffers, but it makes sense,” Patterson explains. “Asking for a counteroffer is a sign that your loyalty is wavering. Many times, then, the raise is just a way for your current employer to ‘buy time’ to find your replacement before another opportunity distracts you again.”

With 25 years in the recruiting business, Patterson says he’s seen it all, including a select few good reasons to back away from a new job. Topping that brief list:

    1. Inappropriate requests: These can start happening before the interview process is even over and should be taken as very serious red flags. You may be asked to upload your contacts, clients, and prospects to check against the company’s database or hand over other proprietary information from past employers. You may be asked to start attending networking events or meetings on behalf of the employer before your official employment date. These are all signs the employer may have a culture built on overstepping boundaries.


    1. Big surprises: Patterson recalls several instances in which a candidate accepted a job offer only to find out a huge surprise that dramatically affected the terms. These include the employer hiring for a full-time job (with benefits) and suddenly turning it into a contract position, the employer moving to a location too far away to commute to soon after the job was accepted, and the employer not disclosing that the company was being acquired by another company.


  1. Confusion and disorganization: Employers, just like candidates, put their best foot forward during the interview process. Sometimes it can become clear very quickly after a job is accepted, though, that the reality of the position is very different. Look for these warning signs during the interview process. If you’ve accepted or even started the job and are surprised by major oversights with onboarding (like not having you sign the correct employment forms), changes in your agreed schedule or paycheck, or a lack of congruency with what you thought you’d be doing or what you thought the company does, take pause.


If you’re working with a recruiter, tell them about your concerns immediately before changing your mind about the job. Your recruiter can serve as a great mediator when it comes to raising uncomfortable questions about your expectations versus the reality of your new job. Chances are the problems can be worked out or, if they can’t, your recruiter can advise you and help you communicate your decision respectfully and professionally.


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