5 Times It's OK to Back out of a Position You Already Accepted (and How to Do It)

Woman in job interview


AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
So, you got a job interview. You went; you conquered. And in the end, you accepted the job offer. You went home feeling good about your performance — and then it sank in. You don't actually want the job...
Maybe you took the interview for practice or because you're not one to say no to any opportunity. Many times, it's worth entertaining the conversation, at the very least, because you never know what can come of it. But perhaps you really started thinking about what it'd be like to work that job only after you left the office, when the pressure was off. And you realized that it's actually quite far from your home, and you don't want to make the commute every day. Or perhaps you're not really as comfortable as you said you were with the salary, but you were too anxious to negotiate on the spot. 
Whatever the case, can you back out of a job offer after you've already accepted it?
FGB'er Ali K. asked the FGB Community this very question.
"Last week I was offered and accepted a new role that I wanted very much," she writes. "I was excited as could be and the company seems great.  On Monday, I very unexpectedly got another offer from a second company that I had interviewed with, as well.  I would prefer to go to work for the second company as the offer is much better, and the role is quite similar. So now I'm left in the position of withdrawing from the first company.  I'm an absolute NERVOUS WRECK about doing it. Any tips? Advice?"
Of course, FGB'ers came chiming in as a collective sounding board for Ali. Here's what they had to say about the times it is indeed okay to back out of a job offer you've already accepted.

1. Back out when you know in your gut that it's not right.

"This happens more often than you might think — my husband once received three good offers within a week, and he felt like he had to stick with the first one because he had given his acceptance," an anonymous FGB'er shared. "Fast forward a few weeks, and it was clear this job was not a good fit. He ended up calling company two to ask if they had filled the role; they had not, so he went to work there. In his gut, he knew job two was better, but he felt this obligation because he has accepted the first."
As a hiring manager, herself, this user says that she has seen candidates back out after accepting an offer for a variety of reasons, and she tries not to hold it against them just because she felt they were a good fit and wanted to hire them.

2. Back out if you feeling like you'd be doing wrong by yourself if you don't.

"Now you get to choose, which is amazing, and also, potentially, scary as hell," said FGB community member Keri Wilson. "Sometimes we're nervous about doing something because we know how we would feel if it happened to us. But they aren't you. They are HR departments, and you're not the first person who ever turned down an offer — I assure you."
Wilson said that, sometimes, we are nervous because we have "limiting belief systems" that tell us that "it's rude to accept and then go back on our acceptance."
"Sure it is —  or not," she said. "You do you! Women (especially) are not brought up to 'do you.'  We're brought up to please. And, if you're a pleaser (like me), it may feel excruciating to even consider letting someone down.  Do it.  It won't kill you —I promise! And, if the first company is at all professional, they'll understand and maybe even hire you one day for a bigger, better position if you stay in touch with them. You never know."

3. Back out so long as there are no legal repercussions.

"If you've already signed a contract, make sure there are no legal penalties for changing your mind," said LadyPele, another FGB'er. "Then don't postpone. The sooner you let the hiring manager know, the sooner the employer can re-start the process. I would probably decline in person or with a call and then follow up with a very polite letter thanking everyone for their time and explaining that you will be accepting a position at another company that you think will be a better fit. A polite apology for any inconvenience the decision may cause probably wouldn't go amiss."

4. Back out if you don't think it's the right fit.

"I work in recruitment and... recruiters and hiring managers are never happy with reneges," said FGB'er Kam. "But you what's even worse? A poor hiring fit that leaves the team in the lurch six to 12 months down the line."
Backing out of an accepted offer is never comfortable, she says, but going about it the right way can go a long way in minimizing the reputational impact.
"We're all human and, at the end of the day, we recognize that people will do what is best for themselves," she went on. "But when that is done with minimal or, in some cases no communication at all, it leaves a lasting negative impression."

5. Back out if the first place isn't willing to or cannot change their offer (and you still want that job).

"Give the first place a chance to change their offer," advised FGB'er Christie Ko. "If the only reason you’re accepting the other offer is because the pay and benefit are better, then you should tell them that. They may say no, but you should give them the option. Just do it very politely and humbly. They’re human beings. They will understand it. And either they can match it or they can’t. No harm done!"

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.