Turning down a job without closing a door forever

November 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

Though some might say this falls into the “nice-problem-to-have category,” it can also be a vexing issue: How do you turn down a job or free-lance opportunity with an organization without killing your chances to ever work for that employer in the future? And even if you may not be interested in keeping the door open at that company, as we all know Washington is an incredibly small town (especially in journalism circles) so you at least want to keep the contact as a friendly one.

Hiring experts say that, even in a lousy economy and an ultra-competitive job market, there are sometimes reasons to turn down a job. Often these relate to pay. It’s awkward to discuss money early in the hiring process (though as noted in an earlier blog post, “Talking about money,” it’s important to state your salary expectations as soon as you can) and sometimes the salary is simply much lower than you can accept. Or you may have received a better offer. And sometimes further research shows you would likely be a lousy fit for the organization and you’re better off not taking the job and failing.

Whatever the reason, recruiters and experts say it’s important to be clear, honest and upfront with the organization about your decision not to take the offer. Here are some of their tips:

*Let the hiring manager know by phone right away — as soon as you’ve made the decision — that you won’t be accepting the offer. Don’t make them call you back and don’t hide behind an email response. Especially in this competitive market, the manager likely has a No. 2 and No. 3 candidate (and who knows, maybe you weren’t even their first choice and someone else has already turned it down?) that they can quickly contact to fill the job soon. If you appear evasive or non-communicative, it could tarnish your reputation with that person and potentially their network of contacts, especially if you drag out a response and hurt them in terms of filling the job quickly.

*Be straightforward, though in doing so don’t appear negative about the company. Rather than saying you’re turning down an offer “because the salary is too low and the duties are far beneath those I performed in my previous job” it’s best to say something like: “After careful consideration, I decided that this wouldn’t be the right fit for me. I have a great deal of respect for your organization and you, which is why I took some time to think over your offer.” Always try to be positive and respectful — this person is a manager at the company and doesn’t want to hear negative things about where he or she works.

*If the opportunity arises and you know of someone else who might be right for the job, ask if you could refer this other person to them. It’s best to say something like, “I’m sure there has been a lot of competition for this position, but if you’d be open to looking at another candidate, I have someone I think could be an asset to your organization.” Only do this if you know someone who would be a very good candidate and quite interested in the job.

*If you’re turning down a position because you have decided to take another offer, be careful how your relay that news. You don’t necessarily have to tell the hiring manager that right off but if they ask, you can tell them, again without appearing negative about the company you won’t be joining.  Of course, you’ll only be making the call to turn down the other job once you’ve accepted the first job — and that employer allows you to make the news public. Again, it’s best not to say “this other position paid more and I’m so excited I got it!” but rather to focus on how difficult a decision it was and how much you appreciated the opportunity you were offered.

*If you’re turning down a free-lance project (after some consultation with the company and time spent on both your parts) because you have too much other work, find a way to politely tell the manager. If you remain interested in future work, let them know when you’ll be more available. If you handle this in a professional way they may be happy to give you other projects, and you don’t want to cut off an important future pool of work.

*Take this seriously. Too many people navigate the hiring process well until this point and then fail here. Even if you have another offer, you never know how that position will work out and whether you’ll need the other employer — and this other contact — down the road. Hiring managers and recruiters have long memories and if they feel you have burned them, they may burn you when they get the chance. So turn down an offer with the same care and courtesy with which you handled your other contacts during the job search process. It could benefit you in the future.

*Thanks to all who have joined the dcworks Facebook group — it’s called just that on Facebook so please check it out. I’d love it if we could get some discussions started there about hiring and job hunting issues facing journalists…Also feel free to post links to information, videos and Webinars that may prove useful to others. Spread the word!

*And one Facebook friend, Janice S. Ellis, encourages journalists to check out her online magazine USARiseUp.com dedicated to issues of race, culture and ethnicity. She’s looking for journalists who want to contribute to the site. Check it out at:  Refresh Method Source: http://www.usariseup.com


*As always, some job leads. Even though it’s late November and the holiday season beckons, remember that organizations are adding newly budgeted positions after the new year and are hiring for those now. If you want to land in January, you need to be beating the bushes in November and December! Please keep the leads coming…

*A good Web content opening at the U.S. Department of Agriculture follows:

The opening is for a Web content manager with the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, includes some Web 2.0. (Social media/Gov2) Not just content writing, need someone with basic programming and/or design and/or project management for Web sites. 5+ years Web work essential. Flexible, fast learner, bureaucracy-buster. Salary to $113k.  To apply:


*Another Web-oriented job is open at the Brookings Institution in D.C. The hat tip on this opening is to The Pulse at http://www.businessjournalism.org/thepulse:

Brookings Institution needs a Webmaster

The Brookings Institution is looking for a Web and Communications Coordinator.

In the Institute’s JournalismJobs.com listing, the job is described as:

‘Basic Function Coordinates content for Foreign Policy (FP) program web site pages and maintains information structure for FP-related web content. Provides support and assistance for media outreach, program events, and publications.’

The full-time job is based in Washington, D.C., and applications need to be in by Dec. 23.

*The hat tip on these next two jobs is mediabistro.com. To get more information or apply for the jobs,  go to: .http:// http://www.mediabistro.com/joblistings/jobview.asp?c=jfbdc&joid=93187


*This tech policy-oriented public relations job is based in D.C. with 463 Communications:

Publication or Company 463 Communications, LLC
Industry Public Relations, Tech Policy
Salary Negotiable
Benefits 401K/403B, Dental, Health
Job Duration Full Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements The Account Manager, based in Washington, will provide creative and strategic communications support for 463 clients. The successful candidate will be a strong writer and analytical thinker with past experience working on communications campaigns, driving positive media coverage and meeting deadlines under pressure. Experience working in communications, public policy, journalism and legislative affairs is appreciated. A passion for the technology industry and the surrounding policy landscape is valued.


463 offers great benefits, including medical, eye and dental, life insurance and disability coverage. We also offer a 401(k) retirement plan, three-weeks vacation to start, sick leave, and a federal holiday schedule.

Drive and execute communications campaigns across multiple audiences.
Proactively work with members of the news media across print, broadcast and online, with a willingness to build long-term relationships.
Drive positive media coverage for 463 clients across technology, policy, business and consumer outlets.
Design and manage social-media campaigns for advocacy and community building.
Organize press briefings, media gatherings and events.
Manage executive speaker programs.
Support and manage the creation of press materials and client reports, including a daily news report.
Prepare briefing materials and manage executive spokespeople.
Monitor and research current and emerging policy issues related to the needs of 463 clients.
Protect and enhance the reputation of 463 clients.

Bachelors degree or higher.
At least 3 years work experience in communications, public policy, or legislative affairs.
Exemplary written and oral communications skills, knowledge of Associated Press style is a plus.
Track record of working calmly and quickly under pressure with good judgment.
Experience working with the news media to achieve positive, thoughtful coverage.
Understanding of the social-media landscape.
Creative thinker willing to challenge herself/himself and colleagues to push the limits.
Strong analytical skills.
Collaborative and team-oriented.
Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously.
Ability to work autonomously in a fast-paced environment.
Passion for the technology industry and the surrounding policy environment.
Work hard, play hard personality.

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume and 1-2 writing samples to: humanresources@463.com

About Our Company 463 Communications is a strategic communications consultancy to technology companies, start-ups, trade associations, and nonprofits. We help organizations clear through the noise of competing internal interests and external forces to develop communications campaigns that establish business, technology, and public policy leadership.


With offices in Washington, D.C., and Palo Alto, Calif., 463 has a particular focus in helping organizations navigate the policy landscape to communicate their perspectives to members of the news media, federal government, and other groups. Founded in 2004, we are the first firm established with a focus on technology policy communications.

463 has a joint venture with Zogby International, Zogby463, that tracks public opinions on a variety of issues related to technology and the economy. 463 is part of the Next Fifteen Communications Group, the largest technology communications brand in the world. http://www.463.com


*This part-time art director job for Avalere Health is based in D.C.

Publication or Company Avalere Health
Industry Branding, Graphic Design/Art Direction, Marketing
Salary Competitive
Job Duration Part Time
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements Art Director, Avalere Health


Avalere Health seeks an experienced art director to lead its creative efforts. The creative team is critical to the development of Avaleres visual brand and also produces high-impact communication products for Avalere customers. To date, the firm has invested significant resources into developing a recognized brand in the healthcare marketplace, and considers effective communication key to our future success.

Our art director will be energetic, creative, and inventive. The ideal candidate with have significant design experience, excellent attention to detail, and a penchant for perfection balanced by an efficient, deadline-driven approach that enables engagement on multiple projects at once. The successful candidate will thrive on collaboration and will demonstrate a proven ability to work with a team to successfully translate technical insights and concepts into powerful visual media, from interactive to print. The ideal person will comfortably and enthusiastically split their time between doing hands-on work (creating comps, initial graphic concepts, and final deliverables), guiding efficient brainstorming with staff and clients, and managing other designers work. Relevant experience in digital marketing and/or web-based creative work is required. Agency experience preferred.

Our art director must be a superb communicator who can effectively work with current and potential customers, Avalere health policy analysts whose expertise is not in design or communications, and our skilled team of internal production staff and freelance creative resources who they will directly supervise. The ideal candidate should be flexible, assertive, diplomatic, organized, and have exceptional time management skills.

The art director will report to the Vice President, External Relations. The external relations group presently has 5 staff. The art director will supervise the work of a number of long-term freelancers, and also bring in new freelance talent to Avalere. There will be one direct report, and it is possible that over time we will grow the group, depending on firm needs.

Steward and evolve Avaleres visual brand identity for both internal and external efforts
Suggest innovative design concepts for new projects and products, both in support of Avalere and our customers
Supervise and mentor internal marketing and production staff
Provide creative and art direction to freelancers and vendors who are adjunct members of our team
Interact with clients when appropriate to help conceptualize new projects
Oversee quality control over the visual aspects of all Avalere-branded or client branded materials
Articulate and accurately define scopes of work for clients, including development of budgets
Foster an environment that is inventive and collaborative

8+ years experience, with a combination of design, art direction, and management of creative teams
BA or BFA in Graphic Design or an equivalent degree or relevant work experience
A command of typography, color, composition, hierarchy, and strategic based ideas
Proficient in Adobe; Illustrator, Photoshop, In Design and other design industry standard tools
Experience in digital communications/marketing product development
Experience presenting in corporate environments and in client interaction
Previous supervisory experience of junior design and/or production staff
Solid knowledge of the constraints of online and offline design

The position is slated to be a 30 hour/week position, with room for growth.

Qualified candidates should provide samples and portfolio along with an electronic cover letter and resume to:
Jenn Ripkin
Avalere Health
1350 Connecticut Ave., NW
Suite 900
Washington, DC 20036



About Our Company Avaleres culture is one of close collaboration, candid and constructive feedback, and assignment of responsibilities on the basis of ability and availability, without undue emphasis on rank. We prize curiosity, resilience, a passion for excellence, and a willingness to embrace new challenges. Avalere offers competitive compensation and benefits commensurate with experience. Located on DCs famed and vibrant Dupont Circle, Avalere is centrally situated and readily accessible from all over the DC metro area. For more information, visit http://www.avalerehealth.net.

Happy hunting out there!



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When to act as a reference Looking forward even when you don’t feel like it

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