accepted a job offer

How to Avoid Accepting a Job Offer You’ll Regret — Infographic

Have you ever accepted a job offer, started working, and found that it didn’t turn out the way you thought it would?

New Job Failure Rates

If that’s the case, join the crowd. 50% of new hires fail. Imagine the damaged careers and the cost to organizations.

I do not want that to happen to you. And, some savvy research and questioning on your part can protect you. Read on to learn more.

Written Job Descriptions Matter

First, make sure you’ve read the job description. Does it:

  1. Outline key deliverables?
  2. Describe timelines?
  3. Cover the full scope of your responsibilities?

If not, be sure to clarify those points and communicate them back in writing when you accept your job offer.

Written Job Offers Matter

Next, I don’t care how long it takes to get a written job offer, do not say yes until you have one. It should document:

  1. Your title.
  2. Your complete compensation agreement.
  3. Any other key points you have negotiated.

If your new employer doesn’t put your agreement in writing, you might be taking a leap of faith on empty promises. Don’t go there.

Questions to Ask Before the Job Offer

Before you get to the offer, find out about the history of the position:

  1. Ask why the job is available. New? Risky. Established? Less risky.
  2. Ask how long the previous incumbent held the job.
  3. If it’s not a new role, find out why the previous incumbent left.
  4. Go back 5 years to learn if and why this is a high-turnover role.

Ideally, you want to learn that this job provides a consistent path to promotions, not a revolving door out of the company.

Meet the People

Ask to meet your prospective manager’s direct reports. If you can’t, beware of:

  1. A non-collaborative manager.
  2. Secrets your manager doesn’t want you to know.

It’s reasonable to want to meet your future colleagues. If you can’t meet them, consider it a red flag.

When you meet your future colleagues, ask who makes the decisions that affect them. If it’s not the hiring manager, you need to meet the real decision-maker and ask them the same questions you asked the hiring manager.

Use LinkedIn to Research Your Future Colleagues

As you prepare for your interviews, review your future colleague’s LinkedIn profiles:

  1. Notice whether or not their profiles indicate job searches in process.
  2. Reach out to people you know in common.
Assess the Company’s Financial Condition

Unless you’re a turnaround pro, join a growing company because it will generate promotion opportunities for you.

If you’re interviewing with a public company, look at its most recent 10-K:

  1. Read the Business Description for background information.
  2. Check out Selected Financial Information for the company’s 5-year stock performance, revenue growth/decline, and earnings growth/decline.
  3. Read Management’s Discussion & Analysis for a more granular description of recent performance.

If you’re interviewing with a privately held company:

  1. Search for it on Google News to see what you can find.
  2. If the company has private equity investors, ask about their investment thesis. 
  3. Plus, know that it might flip to new owners sooner than later.

If you’re interviewing with a start-up, ask about:

  1. Its business model.
  2. How much cash it has on hand.
  3. Its burn rate.

The failure rate for start-ups might stun you. Bad business models and lack of cash put those companies out of business more than any other factor.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask prospective employers tough questions.

Explain that you find the people, company, and job exciting. Then say you need more information to decide if you want to invest your most valuable asset, your time, in their endeavor.

If they don’t honor the importance of your decision, don’t accept a job offer from them.

The Infographic

I’ve summarized everything discussed above in the handy infographic below. Don’t accept a job offer without getting the information to protect you from making a career-damaging mistake.

Non-Compete Agreements

Not included in the infographic, but critically important, find out if you will be asked to sign a non-compete agreement after you’ve accepted a job offer.

Companies often wait until new employees quit their old jobs before springing non-competes on them. Click the link to learn more.

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Featured on Career Sherpa & Lifehacker
Updated January 2021

© 2013 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 11

  1. Hello Donna,

    Just discovered your site via Mark Dyson (The Voice of Job Seekers). I’m glad I did. You’ve given us some good information in this post to help job seekers do their homework. Thanks for sharing, Donna!

    Drew Tewell

    Hi Drew, Thanks to Mark and to you. It’s nice to meet you here and on other social media sites today. Donna

  2. Great list – and here’s one more:

    Ask “What are some “hero stories” you tell here?”

    For example:

    “Tell me a story about a big win, or a great job you know about.”
    “What happened one time when someone made a big mistake?”
    “Talk to me about a time that someone really blew a client away. What happened?”

    This gives REAL insights into what the company actually values (as opposed to what they *claim* them value on their website.)

    Stories are culture. The stories they tell reveal the culture – which affects you every day at the office.

    A reverse behavior based interview. I like it! Thank you Tom. Donna

  3. Great post! I agree with the previous comment – great ways to learn the company culture and values. When people love/hate their jobs, it’s usually about values as much as (or more than) the actual work. For instance, I always had trouble with “face time” cultures.

    Your advice about meeting your boss’s direct reports is spot on. I once had a client who took a job without meeting a single person except his future boss. He met in a conference room so he didn’t even get to see the work areas. He wasn’t a newbie – he was a fairly senior manager. He called me a few weeks into the job to say, “This was a HUGE mistake!”

    Hi Cathy,

    Thank you. I know that some of these suggestions make people uncomfortable. The truth is, some parts of finding a good job are uncomfortable. I would far rather squirm a bit while asking these questions than squirm a lot while finding polite ways to talk about the rotten job I just left — which it what your client probably had to do.

    In addition, I always respect the candidates who can graciously ask some semi-tough questions in order to protect themselves.


  4. I can’t say that I completely agree with the interpretation of people that are on LinkedIn at a particular company. I have been on LinkedIn for over 8yrs and it’s not a “job board” that’s just one of many ways to use the site. Myself and the vast majority of people that I know on LinkedIn use it in many other ways where searching for a new opportunity is near the bottom of that list.

    A large amount of the LinkedIn subscribers are using it to connect to others that are in the same profession that they are and to keep up with industry trends especially where new technologies are concerned. Many people use LinkedIn to do their job better based on communicating with their network that has specific expertise in their specific field.

    Regarding having a number in the contact section, I have my work cell number listed because I am in business development and would like to be accessible to those that have need of the professional services that are provided by my company. It was stated that people might not be happy in their current employment if they are on LinkedIn however more and more employers are asking their employees to create profiles and to reach out to prospective clients or partners in that environment as well as increase their company’s professional visibility/digital footprint in the professional networking space.

    I just thought I’d add a bigger picture perspective on how a lot of LinkedIn subscribers are using the site.

    Kevin Dingle


    That’s very helpful additional perspective.

    Interestingly, I know many people who aren’t on LinkedIn. They say it’s because they’re happily employed. They probably don’t understand the opportunities for professional and business development, as you describe, afforded by LI groups.

    Thank you so much for your comment.


  5. The LinkedIn bit (the first part) is BAD advice! There is a whole myriad of reasons why people have profiles on there, some already mentioned by Kevin, that do NOT mean they are looking for a new job. Many people use it just to keep up with old friends, classmates, and former co-workers in a way that’s more “grown-up” than Facebook or Twitter. And on the flip-side, some people just don’t like it, or don’t like it as a job resource, and therefore do not use it even if they’re unhappy at their job.

    The second part of the LinkedIn advice though, about looking for connections and reaching out to people, can be helpful. But I would recommend sending a LinkedIn message to initiate contact instead of calling.

    Thank you Evelina. I’m enjoying learning more about LinkedIn through all these varied perspectives. Kind regards, Donna

  6. I loved this article. Thanks so much.

    The main thing I’d add is, ask to see the actual work space where your office will be located, and ask about the specific name of any software you’ll be using. Don’t assume the company will provide decent technology so you can actually do your job unless you asked and have it confirmed.

    Ask whether you’ll be supervising other people or if you’ll be expected to hire new people. If so, what’s the budget and timeframe for the hiring? If that’s unclear–are you being asked to do 3 people’s jobs?

    And lastly, I also disagree to some extent about LinkedIn. It depends on one’s profession. In my line of work–career coaching–I would not want to work in a place where the other career coaches aren’t on LinkedIn, because to me, that demonstrates they are simply not competent to be doing career coaching in this day and age. And if I worked in recruiting or sales, ditto. I would want to see all my colleagues on there, or I’d have reason to think the company and staff are not keeping up with modern methods of recruiting and sales.

    All helpful thoughts and ideas. Thank you Heather. Donna

  7. Hi All,

    Dave Farquhar wrote a terrific analysis of this post here: Questions to ask before taking a job | The Silicon Underground

    I particularly enjoyed his comment about LinkedIn:

    “Check Linkedin. I don’t think this necessarily indicates a company with everyone trying to flee; people use Linkedin for a variety of things. Too many people making it easy to contact them by phone sounds like a clever operation on the face of it, but you need to look into it a little more. If they’re salespeople or recruiters, of course their phone number is right there on the profile. But if all the sysadmins in the IT department have their phone numbers listed, then I’d start to get wary.”


  8. Donna, this is superb & I love the infographic! Absolutely excellent guidance–as always!

    Thank you Ed. Donna

  9. Nice article though I disagree with being cautious about new roles, there should be A LOT of new roles in a growing company. And whatever you do, take GlassDoor with a huge grain of salt, it’s a great vehicle for all those disgruntled employees. Finally, if you are senior enough, as to see the cap table.

    Hi Vikki, Thank you for this. I love it when my posts stimulate conversations with a variety of perspectives. Kind regards, Donna

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