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Earlier today, I was offered a position which I accepted. It is supposed to start in about a month.

I feel like I've made a huge mistake. Can I do anything about it without coming off as unappreciative to the company? Is it considered rude or inappropriate to change your mind when you've already accepted a job offer?

Edit: Thank you for the answers - you all helped me deal with my panic. As a result I'd called the HR and apologized explaining my reasons. She wasn't angry at all and proposed to send information about another position in their company with similar skills requirements. And it's a happy ending I suppose = )

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    You may be interested in this question: Changing Employers the Right Way -- the community can vote whether your question is a duplicate. – jcmeloni Jul 18 '12 at 12:57
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    jcmeloni, thank you for the link, but I don't think the questions are exactly the same. It's easier when you already worked for the employer for some time and gave him some profit doing your job. And I've been nothing but a time waste for the company in question yet – Least Jul 18 '12 at 13:12
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From the perspective of a hiring manager: I've faced this kind of situation a number of times, and no, I don't consider it rude. If you're going to feel miserable and be unproductive, I prefer you not join the company in the first place. Considering that you believe you've made a huge mistake and will eventually leave, and it would be better to do so sooner rather than later, right?

There is one disclaimer however: don't lie. I feel perfectly OK when you say you don't like the salary, you have heard bad things about the company, or, on second thought, you think it's a poor match. But I don't want to hear that you can't leave your current company just to learn a month later on LinkedIn that you actually have done that, only that you've joined another employer. In that case, I wouldn't talk with you about any job in the future. I don't like to work with liars.

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How about just admitting you've made a huge mistake? Apologize, withdraw acceptance of their offer, and move on. Better that than make a bad career decision based on fear of being impolite. It's your life. They'll find someone else, and ultimately forget all about you. Also, it doesn't even go on your résumé.

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Assuming that the company hasn't done something new to precipitate your change of mind, then I would consider it rude to back out after accepting an offer. The company may well have already waved off other candidates, and finding another candidate is just that much more annoying than if you'd declined their offer.

HOWEVER, if you really don't want to work there, then it may in fact be the best thing for everyone to back out before you start, rather than get in there, be miserable, and quickly leave or be let go for not doing your job.

If the company has done something to change your mind (somehow changing the deal after you'd accepted, for instance), then I think it's not unreasonable for you to back out.

Just remember, if you back out, the company or the relevant managers might remember this fact and your prospects of ever being employed there in the future go down.

  • The company did nothing wrong otherwise I wouldn't worry at all. Their employees were very nice at the interviews and I'm so reluctant to disappoint them. And it will probably severely harm my professional reputation = ( – Least Jul 18 '12 at 13:08
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    Assuming that they had interviewed multiple candidates, they should be able to make an offer to their "#2 choice." If they (unlikely) had stopped interviewing after one candidate, they aren't really out much time and effort to interview again. Personally, being on both the hiring and being hired side, I'd rather not have a situation where I train somebody up and then they leave - that's much more expensive. – Wonko the Sane Jul 18 '12 at 17:37
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    @WonkotheSane - I'd sure rather have a guy bail before showing up than 3 weeks in! I was thinking that if they already waved off the other candidates (Sorry, we've already got someone), then they might have trouble getting them back. But hey, it's still lots better than bringing in a short-timer who won't be happy. – Michael Kohne Jul 18 '12 at 18:09
  • @MichaelKohne: I agree with everything you say above (+1), save for the part about considering it rude, if only for the reason we both seem to agree on. Maybe its more semantics than anything. – Wonko the Sane Jul 18 '12 at 18:15
  • The key ingredient is that it's still the same day he accepted the position. The odds that they already signed off the other candidates are low. In IT, I've only been told two or three times in my career that someone else was chosen, and I've had probably 100 interviews in 20+ years. – David Navarre Jul 18 '12 at 21:05
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From the view of the employer, let them know quickly. When they decided to make you an offer, they put others on hold. Once you accepted the offer they started to let the other finalists know that they selected somebody else. The longer you wait the more likely they have notified them, and they may have even lost one or two.

This assumes they haven't spent any money one you. The closer you get to the start date the more likely they are to setup accounts and office space. Some will only do the drug test after you have accepted. You may have an obligation to pay them back if they paid relocation expenses, which seems unlikely if you are changing your mind the same day you accepted.

Be honest with them, you probably haven't destroyed your future chances, but waiting to tell them or lying about it will only make it worse.

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You apologize profusely and explain that you had something of a first-choice dream job that was a perfect fit for you which you'd been miscommunicated to about and they just informed you they'd actually like to hire you. And yes, you should do it promptly, via phone if you can and ASAP. What really matters is that you get to them promptly so they don't lose other potential candidates in the meantime. The idea is to avoid causing problems for the other party. That's what will make a name stick in the ugly place of the brain. Regardless, burn the bridge if you have to, if you think you'll be unhappy there.

As the likely top-answer points out, They don't want you being all miserable at their parade either. I of course disagree with that answer on the subject of lying/exaggerating thing. He might not be offended by the truth but a surprising number of people are when you don't demonstrate adequate jubilation for a position. I can only imagine how they'd feel to be snubbed at the last second unless a miracle dropped out of the sky for you. Be prepared to answer what you like better about the "dream" job. They might ask.

Regardless, that bridge should burn if it needs to. There's no point in taking a job you know you don't REALLY want when you have other options. Been there, made that mistake.

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Rudeness is at least partly in the eye of the beholder, so no one can really answer that. What we can answer is: what are the likely/predictable consequences of declining the position?

The most likely consequence is that you're unlikely to be offered another position by the same manager. That's not a guarantee, and it is independent of whether or not the manager feels you've been rude. To a slightly lesser extent you're unlikely to be offered a position at the same company.

But that's not the question you should be asking. The question you should be asking, is do you feel you'll be better off taking the job or declining it? Keeping in mind that better off doesn't mean making more money.

This isn't a question we can answer. You might just be having cold feet, you might be recognizing a significant problem.

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