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Should you turn down a job if it doesn’t match your values?

By Swingers

From a mismatched corporate culture to a bad track record on sustainability, there are a number of reasons why a job might not feel right for you.

Should you turn down a job if it doesn’t match your values?

From a mismatched corporate culture to a bad track record on sustainability, there are any number of reasons why a job might not feel like the right match for you. We ask how much you should allow your personal values to affect your professional choices.

There are few moments more satisfying than getting a job offer. Whether you’re new to the job market or having been searching for a while, it can be a huge relief (plus a confidence boost) to know your skills are up to scratch. But after the initial excitement fades, what if something doesn’t feel quite right? 

From a mismatched corporate culture to a disappointingly low salary, there are any number of reasons why a job might not feel like the right match for you. But if a job doesn’t match your values, how much should you allow your personal feelings to affect your professional choices? 

The concept of a “good job” is changing

Historically, young people have felt a lot of internalised pressure to chase a “prestige” job in a traditional industry, from finance to medicine to law. As Gen Z enters the workforce, however, the concept of a high-status job is changing. 

While some early-career professionals do still go after high-earning jobs (gotta pay that rent, after all), a lot of young people are prioritising professional opportunities that enhance their own life. Think flexible working, autonomy, meaningful work, a personal development budget and an employer they’re proud to shout about.

In fact, 64% of Gen Zers in the UK, France, Germany and Ireland want to work for companies that are aligned with their values. For example, you might want to check that any potential employer has a gender-balanced leadership team, is proactively LGBTQ+ friendly, or shares your commitment to animal welfare. Climate is also a real priority for both Gen Z and millennials, with workers demanding greater climate action from their employers, including the opportunity to undergo sustainability skills training. The likelihood of the average Gen Zer accepting a job from a top polluter? Pretty low. 

A value-first perspective doesn’t just apply to the job hunt, either: over 40% of Gen Zers have rejected assignments due to ethical concerns, showing that they are willing to stick by their principles even when they’re employed. 

What’s more, with so many jobs now posted online, younger workers can get a better idea of what else is out there compared to previous generations, making them less likely to settle for a role that isn’t up to scratch — worth thinking about if you’re an employer looking to attract Gen Z talent. 

Of course, turning down a job is a privilege not all of us can afford. You might urgently need to accept the first role you’re offered — and that’s ok. But if you are in the position to be more selective about your next role, chances are you’re not alone in thinking twice about who you work for.

How do you know if a company aligns with your values?

The job application process isn’t just for a company to assess whether you’re the right candidate for them. It’s also for you to decide whether the company is the right fit for you. Always do your research before accepting a job. Here are some questions to consider before and during the application process:

  • Has the company received any recent press? If so, was it positive or negative, and why?
  • What do other (current and past) employees say about the company? 
  • What kind of comments does the company get on its social media pages?
  • What does the company list as its values on its website?
    • How well are these values embodied in what they do? For example, if they say they care about sustainability, is there evidence of tangible policies and practices that reflect this?
    • How well are these values embodied in the job description you received? For example, if they say they value growth and progression, does the company offer training or mentorship to employees? 

While it can sometimes become very obvious pretty quickly that a job doesn’t align with your values, at other times it can be less clear cut. Depending on what is making you feel uneasy, you might be able to discuss it with the company and ask them to adjust the offer so that everyone is happy. If not — and you decide to accept the offer anyway — just make sure you’re going into the role with your eyes wide open. 

How do you decline a job offer?

  • Decided the job isn’t for you? Turning down a job offer can be a tricky art, especially if you want to maintain a good professional relationship with the company and the hiring manager and/or recruiter. Here are a few tips to help you write that email.
  • Make it clear you’re grateful for the opportunity. Keep things classy by thanking the hiring manager for their consideration and the time spent on the application and interview process. It’s always good to be specific about what you appreciate, such as their kind feedback or the insight into the company’s work. 
  • Be honest (within reason) about why you’re turning down the job. If you feel the company doesn’t align with your values, you don’t necessarily have to go into detail about your thinking (this is probably not the place to list all the company’s flaws). However, you can always let the hiring manager know that you’ve accepted/have applied for a role that’s a better personal fit. They’re likely to read between the lines. 
  • If you’d like to stay in touch, make that clear. If your reasons for turning down the job were more related to the role itself — such as salary expectations — than to the company, it can be smart to leave the door open for future opportunities, particularly if it’s a growing company that’s likely to have bigger budgets in the months and years to come. Ending on a positive note will make the hiring manager more likely to remember you if your paths cross again. Of course, if you have no interest in working for the company in the future, feel free just to sign off with a polite thank you.   
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