Knowing how to decline a job offer can help you build an employment network for both today and tomorrow.
Accepting the perfect job offer is one of the best feelings in the world, but it can also mean turning down one or more offers along the way that, for any number of reasons, aren’t the right fit. Yet, how you decline a job offer is crucial to your ongoing reputation in the marketplace. The people you meet now during your job search might be of benefit to you in the future, even if they can’t help you right now. With that said, check out these tips on how to decline a job offer with charm, clarity, and confidence.
Do it as soon as you’ve made your decision
If you absolutely know you don’t want the job, contact the recruiter or hiring manager right away. While they might be disappointed, declining in a timely manner will let them move on to the next potential candidate and hopefully fill the position quickly. Don’t make your delay the reason they have to go back to square one. As a recruiter trying to fill a lot of jobs, I always appreciate a quick answer, even if it’s a no, so I can continue to efficiently manage my hiring process.
However, be prepared that the company may want to negotiate with you. If you’re open to that, let them know. If you’re not, stop them before they start. Don’t let them spend the time changing the offer when you know you won’t accept it no matter what they do.
Call first, email second
Since saying “thanks, but no thanks” is usually uncomfortable, most of us would prefer to do it in writing. Yet, don’t give in to that temptation; start with a phone call and follow up with an email instead. Trudy Steinfeld, Associate Vice President/Executive Director of Career Development at New York University, gives a good explanation for this:
A phone call “will demonstrate your maturity, professionalism, and acknowledgment of how much time and energy was invested in you and the recruiting process,” says Steinfeld. It also lets you share specifically why you accepted a different position, which might be helpful for the recruiter to know. If you’re really nervous about how to politely decline a job offer by phone, create a “script” for your conversation. You’ll sound more confident, and you’ll articulate your reasons more clearly.
Follow up the phone conversation with an email that reiterates the reasoning you discussed with the hiring manager or recruiter. Consider using the wording from the script, if you wrote one. A written message solidly confirms to the employer that you really don’t want the job and provides proof that you did indeed say no.
There is one exception to this rule: If after a few days you haven’t reached the hiring manager by phone, send an email with your decision. Start by saying that since you couldn’t reach them by phone, you didn’t want to delay them moving on to the next candidate. Providing a quick response is more important than the overall process.
Be professional, humble, and respectful
Always express your thanks and appreciation for the offer and the time taken to interview you. Never say anything negative about the company, the process, or the offer when declining the job — even if it’s true. It could hurt your chances of being hired in the future. LinkedIn, Twitter, and other sites are making the business world smaller and more connected every day, and your future interviewer might be a friend or online connection of the recruiter or hiring manager whose company or process you just insulted.
Reveal only what you're comfortable with
In general, you should offer at least a brief reason for turning down the job, but you can provide more details if you’re comfortable with that. It’s better to be brief, honest, and direct than ramble on without really saying anything. If nothing else, simply state that you’ve decided to focus on finding a role that’s more in line with what you hope to do.
You could also refer someone you think might be right for the job, particularly if you like the company but know it’s not a fit for you. Be sure to refer people who are an excellent fit, or you could again damage your reputation.
Use this opportunity to build connections
Steinfeld offers some great advice in this area: “If you haven’t done so already, send the recruiter and other individuals you met in the process a LinkedIn invitation and take the time to personalize it.” This can be part of a thank-you letter or a separate correspondence.
According to Steinfeld, many companies now take the initiative and invite candidates who turned down an offer to connect on LinkedIn so they can contact them about future job openings. However, if they don’t make that offer, you should.
Turning down job offers can be difficult, but doing it well can help you eventually find the job you love — with the added benefit of building your network for future job searches.
Before you receive a job offer, you have to ace the interview. Need help? Our TopInterview coaches know exactly what to do.