9 October, 2020
By Mike Simpson
You’ve done it. You navigated the hiring process like a boss, impressing with your resume, answering the job interview questions with ease, and really standing out in the eyes of the hiring manager. You’ve got a job offer in front of you.
There’s just one problem; you don’t actually want the position.
Maybe you found out something about the role along the way that you didn’t like or didn’t mesh with the manager. Whatever the reason, you are now trying to figure out how to decline a job offer the right way. After all, rejecting a job offer requires care, ensuring you don’t burn any bridges that may be important later.
But you decided to come here. Why is that so lucky? Because we are going to discuss exactly how to turn down a job offer. So, why wait? Let’s dig in.
Reasons for Declining a Job Offer
Alright, before we take a deep dive into how to decline a job offer, let’s take a moment to talk about why you may want to do that in the first place. After all, if you have an offer in hand, there’s a good chance you’re looking for something new, and likely for a good reason.
While the idea of rejecting a job offer may seem odd, first, understand that you aren’t necessarily alone if you do. In high-demand industries – think tech and finance, for example – 49 percent of job seekers have turned down an offer at some point due to a bad recruiting experience. And that doesn’t cover who said no for other reasons.
The thing is, there are plenty of times when rejecting a job offer is a smart move, including financial, professional, and personal reasons.
On the financial end, if the compensation isn’t right (and is too far off to make negotiating the salary an option), then the job isn’t a good fit. A too-far commute can lead to monetary concerns, such as paying for gas and the impact of more wear-and-tear on your vehicle maintenance.
Professionally, maybe the role wasn’t what you expected when you originally applied. The duties might not be a great match, or you may not have a chance to take on the kinds of projects you thought were available.
As for personal reasons, not feeling like you fit into the company’s culture is a big reason to turn down a job offer. Not meshing with your prospective manager or coworkers is another one.
Not caring about the company’s mission or goals could be a sign that the role isn’t right for you, too. After all, if you don’t care about what they are trying to accomplish (or actively disagree with the company’s aims), you probably won’t be happy there long-term.
Certain red flags could (and maybe should) have you heading for the hills. If the manager or other employees are rude, that’s a bad sign. Additionally, if everyone working there seems frazzled or unhappy, it could indicate that something isn’t right.
Finally, changing life situations can make declining a job offer a necessity. Getting another offer from a different company is a prime example. However, a sudden change in your or a family member’s health, a shift in your financial situation that alters what you need, an unexpected need to relocate, and more can happen.
As you can see, there is a ton of reasons why you might want to turn down a job offer, and it’s okay to decide that it is the best move. Just make sure you are prepared for any fallout. Most managers don’t anticipate a rejection, and being told “no” can sting.
While many managers are completely professional about it, it’s possible that turning down a job offer will hurt any future chance you have at that company. However, if your reason for walking away is a good one, that may not be enough to make it worth reconsidering.
It’s also critical to understand that, once you send the rejection letter, that’s it; there’s no going back. You are shutting this door, so don’t expect to be able to pry it back open in a week, month, or year. Odds are, the hiring manager isn’t going to be interested, so don’t expect that you’ll be able to change your mind, because you probably won’t.
Important Things to Remember When Declining a Job Offer
As you get ready to decline the job offer, keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, you need to handle things politely. How you take care of it will reflect on you as a professional, so you need to act like it matters because, well, it does.
Make sure you are firm, concise, and kind as you are rejecting a job offer. You don’t want to send a meandering message or make your response to the offer seem ambiguous. With this, being straightforward is your best bet.
Additionally, don’t linger. While it is okay to ask for time to consider the offer – say, requesting 24 hours to reply – not getting back to the hiring manager for days or weeks is a no-go.
While they are waiting for you to respond, the hiring manager is essentially in limbo. They don’t know if you’re coming on board for sure, but they can’t start pursuing another candidate either. Considering that it takes an average of 36 days to fill a vacancy, being the cause of a delay isn’t a good thing.
If you don’t want the job, say so quickly. It’s the polite and professional thing to do.
Step-by-Step Guide for How to Decline a Job Offer
If you know that rejecting the job offer is the right move, it’s time to move onto the next part of the equation: how to decline a job offer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you do it the right way.
1. Choose Your Approach
Generally speaking, you have three realistic options for declining a job offer: in-person, by phone, or by email. While it may seem like a face-to-face meeting is the most professional option, that isn’t always the case. If you go that route, you either have to schedule a meeting or try and drop in.
With a scheduled meeting, you’re asking the hiring manager to set aside time for you. If you then arrive and reject the job, that may not go over well.
Dropping in unannounced isn’t wise either. You’re interrupting their day and surprising them with bad news. No one likes that.
Out of the other two options – calling or sending an email – both can actually work. In fact, doing both can be a smart move if you had a good rapport with the hiring manager. Essentially, you’d tell them your decision over the phone, and then follow-up with an email, ensuring they have a written copy of your decision.
However, calling means you are initiating a dialog. They may try to convince you to change your mind or press you for specifics about why you are saying “no.” That can be tricky to navigate.
If you didn’t develop a strong rapport with the hiring manager, don’t want to potentially get caught up in a negotiation attempt, or aren’t sure you could handle being asked for more details, then it’s okay to go with just an email. Just understand that you can’t anticipate when the hiring manager will actually read it, so they might not learn about your decision until well after you send the message.
If they don’t check their messages regularly, they might not know you sent an email and may end up calling you for an answer. Be ready for that possibility.
2. Start with a “Thank You”
A job offer is a special thing. Even if you don’t want the position, acknowledge that the hiring manager is going out on a limb and show your appreciation.
No matter what has happened up to this point, always say, “thank you.” It’s essentially a non-negotiable.
3. Definitively Decline the Job Offer
After showcasing your appreciation, make it abundantly clear that you are turning down the job offer. Use undeniable words like “decline,” “turn down,” or “say no.” Avoid phrases like “I think I want to,” “it might be best if,” or “I feel I may need to.”
Essentially, don’t hedge. If you aren’t blunt, the hiring manager may think that you’re trying to initiate a negotiation without being upfront about it.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t express the sentiment in a professional manner. Just make sure the point is definitive.
4. Briefly Say Why
Regardless of why you are saying no, one of the key parts of how to politely decline a job offer is to give a basic reason. This lets you address the situation in a concrete manner.
You aren’t required to provide details, no matter your reasoning. In fact, going too deep into why you’re rejecting the offer can work against you. So, embrace brevity.
5. Leave the Door Cracked
If you are rejecting a job offer today but may be interested in working for the company down the road, then you might want to try and leave that door cracked. This can happen for a number of reasons. For example, if you accepted another job before this offer arrived, and that’s the only reason you’re saying “no” to this opportunity, you might want to go this route.
Usually, this means requesting to stay in touch with the hiring manager. You might want to see if they’re open to connecting on social media, for example. That way, you can incorporate them into your network, and may be able to reach out down the line if you are job hunting again.
However, you aren’t obligated to add this if you have no interest in staying connected, say, because the hiring manager was rude or hostile during your interview.
Additionally, understand that they don’t have to accept your request to keep in touch. Just as you can reject a job offer, they can say no to this. And, if they do, respect their decision.
3 Examples of How to Turn Down a Job Offer
While the core of how you approach turning down a job offer remains fairly consistent, there can be some nuances based on why you are choosing to decline. Since you do briefly want to touch on a reason, and may or may not want to try to stay in touch, you need to alter your message slightly to align it with your goals.
Now, these examples are email messages. However, you can use the content to create a simple script for a phone call or in-person meeting. Just understand, with those, the hiring manager may interject along the way, so you might have to change course depending on how the conversation unfolds.
If you’re trying to design a decline job offer email, and don’t know where to begin, here are three examples based on different situations.
1. You Accepted a Job Elsewhere
Dear Mr. Doe,
Thank you for taking the time to interview me and extending me this job offer. It was a pleasure to meet with you and to learn more about ABC Company and the administrative assistant role.
Reluctantly, I’m going to have to decline this job offer, as I have accepted an opportunity elsewhere.
I wish you luck securing a great candidate for this position. I do value the connection we have made and would like to connect with you on LinkedIn. Can I reach out?
Once again, I would like to express my appreciation for the job offer, as well as my regrets that I am unable to accept. Thank you again for your time and consideration.
2. The Salary Doesn’t Meet Your Needs
Dear Mrs. Doe,
Thank you for extending the job offer for the data scientist position. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about, and want to express my gratitude for your consideration in the matter.
Regretfully, I am declining the position. While I appreciate the offer, I’m afraid that it does not meet my salary needs.
I want to thank you again for the chance to meet with you, as it has been a pleasure to work with you during this process. Also, I want to wish you luck in securing a new hire for your team, and hope to see you at the conference scheduled next month.
3. The Position Isn’t a Fit
Dear Ms. Doe,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me about the project manager position and extending a job offer. I genuinely appreciate having the chance to learn more about your company, as well as the role.
Unfortunately, I have to decline the position. Upon careful consideration, the job isn’t a fit for my career goals, so I have decided to pursue other opportunities.
Again, I want to thank you for your time. I hope you are able to find your ideal candidate quickly.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, figuring out how to decline a job offer may feel tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Use the tips above to craft a simple, straightforward, and concise message. That way, you can ensure you are well understood.
Plus, you’ll be able to move forward with your job search confidently. There won’t be a job offer that you don’t want hanging over your head, and that can bring a ton of relief.
Just focus on being polite and professional, no matter why you are rejecting the job offer. If you are, then you may be able to leave the door cracked just a tad, giving you a chance to try to land a job there again, if that is what you want to do.
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