Job search
By Chris Bongard
14th October 2014

First impressions do matter… but which first impressions are really important? We did a double-take when we read a recent survey from a well known job website that claimed that 35% of interviewees said they’d turn down a job because they didn’t like the reception area. Surely there’s more than meets the eye behind that surprising statistic, but it got us thinking: what are your dealbreakers? What would have to happen in an interview to make you decline a job offer? And are they the right issues to focus on?

Dealbreaker: A rude welcome

Let’s start with this reception area statistic reported by the job website – what is it telling us? The reception area is often the first glimpse of the company, and a view into what the environment is like. For instance, if your overall perception is one of a stuffy corporate setting, and you have your heart set on something more modern and entrepreneurial, you’ll be put off. Perhaps the reception area is untidy, unprofessional or unwelcoming – giving the distinct impression that the rest of the company might be the same way.

However, it’s not wise to make assumptions at this point. Often a posh foyer is designed to impress clients and is no indication of the actual work space, and a minimalist décor may indicate the company would rather splash out on paying talent or investing in technology. But what could be a valid dealbreaker is the welcome you receive. If the employees who greet you seem harried or stressed, or are rude and dismissive, this could indeed be a bad omen.

Dealbreaker: A negative interview experience

Besides the obvious factors such as job description, responsibilities, and salary, another area of concern that could lead to declining a job offer might be a negative experience with your potential manager. As we wrote about here, you don’t necessarily have to love the boss to love the job. But you do want to be on the lookout for vaguely defined job descriptions, or signs that you would have no autonomy. If your direct questions are met with evasive answers, this could signal a lack of communication or organisation internally.

Another sign of a potentially haphazard work environment? An interview process that is either overkill (having to meet with many different people who all ask the same questions) or overly simplified (you’re offered the job just a little too quickly). A company that gives you the impression the employees don’t talk to each other is maybe one best avoided.

Dealbreaker: A high-pressure sell, or a bait and switch

Some candidates we’ve talked to reported they’ve declined a job offer because of the pressure on them to accept immediately. If you’re being put in a position where you’re negotiating terms before you’ve had time to really think about your decision, it might make you wonder what the rush is. Are they desperate to hire, and why? What’s the staff turnover like there? And what if the job itself, the salary, or the terms of employment suddenly change in the middle of the process? These are legitimate concerns and could rightly be considered dealbreakers. It’s often difficult to predict what working at a given company might be like, but signs that the employer is unfocused, impulsive – or even worse, dishonest – are not to be overlooked.

The job website survey results show that there are a myriad of negative first impressions that can put a candidate off, everything from the décor to the manager’s handshake or dress sense. In our opinion, those are not legitimate reasons to dismiss an employer’s offer. That said, we always advocate for going with your gut reaction – if something doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t. We know that with the skills shortage in Information Management, candidates can afford to be more selective. But don’t miss out on a potentially fantastic opportunity because of the state of the reception area.

What are your dealbreakers when considering a job offer? Have you ever ignored a gut feeling about a place and accepted the job – and how did that turn out? What can employers do to create a better first impression? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.


"Turning down a job because reception is ugly is ridiculous, if you want to really see how tidy things are, look in the toilet – If its mingen and smells of wee then dont expect the little benefits from the company…. But then again. Just ask directly in the interview, do you use this, how do you deal with this, all the things that annoyed you in previous roles. You either accept the challenge to try and introduce those things or you find the perfect company and stay with the, or, you become a contractor like me, deal with the sh!t for 3 to 6 months and move on because the perfect company, is my own." - Piotr Kula


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