Changing Your Mind about a Job Offer

Q. Dear Crucial Skills,

Some time ago, I rejected a perfectly good job offer. I now realize that I made the biggest mistake of my life. The line manager actually personally called me after the interview process to reassure me that he was very eager for me to join his team. Is it a good idea to call him back to inquire about possible opportunities?

Provided I am granted a face-to-face meeting, how do I ask to join his team after I rejected a previous offer?

Overcoming My Biggest Mistake

A. Dear Overcoming,

By all means, make the call! Now! You have nothing to lose. It’s possible that the hiring manager will only feel flattered that you reconsidered. Of course, he may have found another candidate already. Or he may have felt hurt if you gave some indication that you would accept and then didn’t. Or if you just went silent and never actually shared your decision to decline, he may feel insulted or have a negative view of your emotional maturity.

Here are two possible scenarios as well as tips for handing each conversation.

Scenario 1: You clearly and respectfully declined the offer. You need to do three things in your conversation:

Reaffirm your original feelings about the offer.
Help him make sense of your change of heart.
Make it easy for him to let you know the position was filled.
This might sound like, “I know it’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve spoken, and I fully understand that you may have extended another offer for the position. If it is still open, I want you to know I have changed my mind about staying where I am. I realize now that I let a fear of the unknown keep me back from something that would be truly exciting to me. This job would give me a chance to use the full range of skills I’ve been trained for. I’m ready to jump in if the job is available. And if it’s not, I want you to know I would like to talk about other options in the future.”

Scenario 2: You didn’t handle it well. If you expressed enthusiasm then changed your mind, or if you waited too long to let him know you wouldn’t be coming, or if you offended him in some other way, start there.

For example, you might say, “I want you to know I’ve changed my mind about your offer, and I’d like to explain why. But I also want you to know I’ve been feeling some guilt over how I may have offended or inconvenienced you when we discussed the position earlier. I was embarrassed to let you know I had changed my mind so I waited two days to call you. In retrospect, I think I may have caused you to waste time in filling the position. I am sorry if that is the case . . .”

Let him respond by either acknowledging that this was an issue or bringing up any other concerns you might have created. Give him permission to factor these concerns into his decision about reconsidering you. Then move on to explain why you’ve changed your mind.

I wish you the best in this decision. I know making such a leap can be scary. I hope it works out well for you and the organization you’ll join.