What to Do When You Receive a Better Job Offer? – Ultimate Guide

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The job hunt can be a delicate and exhilarating experience. Like tracking that of a magical unicorn through the tall grass of some fantasy landscape, you may come across some beautiful horses along the way. You may be willing to settle with the appealing horse, leaving the mystical better job offer sitting in some hypothetical field. You may settle for what’s available first.

So, you take the best job available at the time. You are geared up to begin your new career and may have even signed the onboarding paperwork. But then, like a golden light appearing from the sky, your dream application calls you back, giving you a better job offer.

Getting wrapped up in the excitement of the dream offer can make you forget about the one you already expected. It’s understandable. A prospect leading to a fulfilled dream can blind you with optimism. But what about the job you already accepted?

What do you do when you receive a better job offer after accepting another one?

What Is a Better Job Offer?

Firstly, it’s important to note a few things regarding the topic of job offers. Like most topics we cover, every situation is unique. It’s impossible to pinpoint every possible scenario in which a job offer decision must be made.

Let’s start by saying this: it’s entirely okay to take a job offer and renege on it. In fact, it happens fairly often. A 2017 study by Milkround found that around 70% of college students were willing to renege on a job offer they had already accepted. Around 30% said they already had.

And this was all before the Great Resignation, a shift in ideals where younger workers have put mental health and job humanity above all other factors. Potential employees have gotten even pickier when choosing a job (respectfully so). 

Therefore, reneging happens more often than you would imagine. If you have to do it, that’s okay. You have to do what is best for you. It is not the end of the world, we promise.

You may have taken the first job offer available for monetary reasons. That’s entirely okay. Your reasons are your own. We are not here to speak on them.

The purpose is to help you make the decision and move forward, not look down on why you are in the situation in the first place.

How to Go About the Decision?

With all the preliminary information and babble out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks.

You have received a better job offer from a different company. You are now in a pickle, of sorts. Do you keep your promises and stay where you are or do you move on?

The one thing to remember is that these are good problems to have. Right? Regardless of what you choose, you have a new job.


1. Stay Where You Are and Negotiate

Out of the two main options, this one may be the road less traveled. Overall, it may be the most difficult one, filled with uncertainty and rocky divots.

You can always use the better job offer to help leverage the job offer you already accepted. You can state that you want to work for the company, but you just received a better offer. Is there any way they could meet you halfway?

Ultimately, this path is often only used if finances are the ‘better’ deal drawing you the other way. If pay is the biggest factor, then you may be more likely to take the higher-paying offer, regardless of if you want to work for and represent the first employer.

If pay is more important, but you really want to work for the first company, you can always ask in negotiations. 

If you have already signed the job offer or contract, it can be impossible to negotiate. You already agreed. In this scenario, you are staying with the first offer entirely based upon staying with your word.

While admirable, it’s important to remember yourself (we’ll get to that later). 

Also, remember that a company can always rescind your offer. You may stay with the first job because you know, for sure, that the offer will remain. It’s a chance you are not willing to take.

2. Take the Better Offer and Be Truthful

The more common of the two and the easiest (though some hard conversations may be ahead).

You have decided to take the better job offer, for whatever reason. Firstly, congratulations on the new gig. Secondly, remember to stick to your guns. Follow your dream and stick with the decision you have made. 

Ultimately, the remainder of this article will keep this decision as its basis. We will act as if you have already made the decision to take the better offer and are looking at how to take it gracefully.

We will reiterate, you are entirely in the right for taking the opportunity that is better for you. You are one of the millions that have gone about this path. It’s entirely okay, and in hindsight will be seen as the best decision (hopefully).

Different Situations May Include:

Once again, all sizes do not fit all. We can’t take the time to break down every single possible situation in which a job offer decision needs to be made. I don’t get paid enough for all of that. You don’t get paid enough to read all of that.

Overall, there are three main scenarios, though. We will break them down and how to handle them.

1. You Have Yet to Officially Accept the First Offer

This is the easiest of the three scenarios we will mention. You have verbally agreed with the first employer on taking the job, but you haven’t officially started or completed paperwork.

While not attempting to deter your decision, you must remember that it takes a fair amount of company resources and time to complete the vetting process. Though you have yet to be officially hired, the employer has still spent effort on you. Remember to be respectful when letting them down.

Furthermore, remember that there is a potential to burn a bridge. It’s possible that the company will not look your way again for work. It may be seen as petty, but it makes sense regarding the company aspect. No one wants to be a second choice, especially not an employer. Regardless of how respectfully you treat the process, some people will not be happy. 

That’s okay. You can’t please everyone on your path to success. All you can do is be as respectful and honest as possible.

ALWAYS Be Truthful

The main tip here is to be straightforward and honest. Tell them that you will…

not be able to actually accept the job offer and that you apologize for wasting their time.

You very much appreciate the opportunity that they were willing to give you and you wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Unfortunately, I was given an offer from another company, and believe it is a better fit for my future and career goals.

At this point, you want to explain to the company why the offer is better. Whether it be the title, company, salary, or schedule, it’s important to note. Don’t be mean about it, of course. Do not say that the current company offered you pennies on the dollar (or something insulting). Gracefulness is key here.

Ultimately, telling the company why you chose the other offer is a sign of respect.

You are giving them a bit of a bonus in vetting you for as long as they did. You are giving them a hint about their process, letting them know what they should do to up their acceptance rate in the future.

Maybe telling the first company they didn’t offer as much for the role will allow them to offer more to a new applicant in the future. You are helping the company reform its process. 

Regardless of the reason, honesty is always key to any aspect of life. There is no reason to lie and tarnish your future any further.

2. You Have Accepted the First Offer and Started Working (Or Filed Paperwork)

This is a little bit tougher. You have already filled out the paperwork (or some of it) and have started working. Whether you haven’t started your first day, have worked your first day, or have worked your first week, you are still past the point of vetting. You are officially hired.

It’s important to note that if you have been working for longer than the training period, your move would be officially quitting, not reneging. Depending on the role, this can be quicker than others. With some jobs, leaving after the first week would be considered quitting.

At the end of the day, the process should be the same. You should let the supervisor know that you are taking the new offer and explain why. Let them know that it has nothing to do with your first few days on the job.

The Sooner, the Better

As we have alluded to throughout, it’s important to keep a sense of empathy when going about this process. At the end of the day, you did like the first company enough to take their job offer. You also care enough about their opinion to be reading this article. Therefore, try to help them out as much as you can.

The sooner you can let the company know you are reneging on the offer, the better. Not only will this act as a bandaid pull, helping you get the tough discussions over with, but it will give them more time to find someone to replace your candidacy. The company was obviously in need of the position. Don’t leave them scrambling for new applicants at the last moment, if possible.

This tip especially stands true if you have signed the onboarding paperwork. You have already gotten as close to being fully employed by them as possible. Tell them your decision ASAP.

Now, giving the employer an ample heads-up can be difficult. You may have been mulling over the decision for quite some time. There really is no best time to pull out of a job. It’s going to sting them regardless. So, make sure to do it as soon as you decide.

3. You Have Accepted the First Offer and Signed a Contract

Ah, the hardest of all scenarios. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to say exactly what this means. If you have already signed a contract with a company, it may be impossible to cancel it. You may be required to work the job for the rest of the contract.

Look over the paperwork and see what the termination situation is. It’s entirely possible that it can be done, but it may result in more apathy than any other scenario on this list.

If, for some reason, you can not pull out of the contract, take it for what it is. Ultimately, it isn’t the end of the world. There will be other job offers going forward. Remember that you still must put your all into your current job. Just because you mentally checked out before it began does not mean you should check out for the contract.

Work hard, don’t make the mistake again, and move on.

Renege in Person, if Possible

For all of these scenarios and tips, it’s crucial to have the meeting in person. Meeting in person not only demonstrates a level of respect for the employer, but it allows the situation to be worked out without the confusion of email tone. You can feel the energy in the room and you can use outward emotion to express your level of care about the situation.

As a respectful and professional adult, you should attempt to have any meeting in person. From firing to hiring. From positives to negatives. All important meetings should be done face-to-face.

If the meeting isn’t possible for some reason, then a phone call would be the second-best bet. In a phone call, you can still express your emotions and empathy through tone of voice.

This is not to say that an email isn’t possible, but it should be the last on the list of options. You care enough about the first employer to worry about your longstanding relationship with them. Therefore, you should meet in person to fully display your thoughts and feelings.

You Come First

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the entire situation, worrying about what professionals will think about you.

Should I really renege on the first job? Is it unjust of me? Will it ruin my future? Is the better job offer really worth it?

Remember that you come first. If you are an empathetic person, it can be hard to put aside the negative situations or emotions you may be causing the other party to experience. Try to remember that the betterment of your life and career is more important than the feelings of a potential employer. Do what you believe is best for you, not for others.

If you handle the situation with care, everyone will get over it. And if the first employer feels scorned by your move, never forgiving you, that’s on them. If they cannot appreciate a move for improvement on your behalf, then they don’t deserve to matter to you.

Remember that hiring managers are people, too. The majority of them get your position and will understand that you have to do what’s best for you. It may be a bitter moment, but it won’t last forever.

Becoming great takes sacrifices and a bit of gambling on yourself.

“Give it your best shot. Go for it. If it’s what you really want to do, go for it. Even if you don’t make it, you will never look back and have regrets. You can always say, “Hey, I went for it. I tried my hardest. It was an awesome experience.”

Carmen Rasmusen, American Author

How to Avoid This Issue Going Forward

So, we have discussed how to handle the situation with both guile and grace. You have moved on from the first job and started your time with a better offer. Your future is bright and all are happy.

Unfortunately, you never know if you will be in this situation again. You never know if you will accept a role and have a better job offer come from left field. If you are starting out in your field, it’s possible you are on the job hunt later in life.

How do you avoid this issue going forward? How do you work to make sure you never have to renege on an offer again?

If You Have a Prefered Job, Let Them Know

We understand that job offers can be extremely time-sensitive. But, if you have a job that ranks high above the others, you may want to wait a little for them.

Okay, let’s give an example. Let’s say you really, really want to work for Company A. You apply but never hear back. You interview and accept an offer with Company B, expecting that A denied you. Though, A had not seen your application yet. A week later, Company A calls you for an interview.

Chances are, you are going to give up the ghost for Company B to take Company A’s offer. It makes sense. But what if it was avoidable?

While you don’t want to appear desperate to any professional, you should reach out to the company if you desire their position above all the others. Just a quick email to the hiring manager asking if they had time to view your application. State that you prefer working with their company (explain your reasons why) and that you would love to hear back from them before moving on.

Not only will this help avoid the aforementioned situation, but it may get their attention, helping heighten your hiring chances.


Do Your Research

You should always do a plethora of research on the company you are applying to. Check their social media, website, and reviews to see what they are about. Not only will this give you higher knowledge in the interview process, but it will also allow you to decide if you want to work for them before accepting an offer.

Workers often renege on an offer because they find out the company or job isn’t what they thought it was. Another offer may come along that fits their original expectations. Doing your research on the company can help you avoid this mistake.

Regardless, you shouldn’t blindly apply for jobs. It can end with a gig with a company you don’t stand behind. That’s never a good thing.

Take Your Time

As we said, job hunting can be time-sensitive. Some people do not have the luxury of time. Some people can not sit and wait for the perfect gig to land in their laps. We totally understand.

If you can afford a little bit of time, you should take it. It’s entirely okay to let a company know that you need to take a week to decide on their offer. This will give you ample time to reach out to the more appealing companies and make your final decision. Avoid the entire process of reneging by waiting for your top companies to respond. Reach out to all of them if things are getting too long.

It can also give you time to emotionally adjust to the excitement of job offers. Sometimes workers rush to the first offer out of excitement. Take a breather.

There is a fear of the first employer rescinding their offer to you. That’s entirely possible but unlikely. If they like you enough to want to hire you, they will be willing to wait a little bit of time for your decision. If they can’t they should be upfront about it. Ask them straight if you can take a little time for the decision. If they say no, and you aren’t entirely sold, then you may be better off letting them go now (instead of waiting and reneging).

We will leave you with this:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot, English Writer