The best way to decline a job offer
Once in a while, you find yourself in the position of having to potentially turn down a job offer. Maybe you got a better offer in terms of wages. Maybe you have a bad feeling about the work environment or your future manager. Or maybe you’re just hoping for something a little better suited to your goals.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s best to use care and consideration when turning the job offer down.
Even if you’re not going to work there, preserving a good relationship with the company may be useful as you advance in your career.
Here’s a breakdown of different situations and ways in which you can turn down a job offer, along with some practical examples and templates.
How to turn down a job offer depending on the situation
The phrasing of your rejection letter will vary depending on the reasons for turning down the job.
Some common reasons are:
When you have accepted another job
No need to go into a lot of detail here. Simply tell the recruiter or hiring manager that you have accepted another job which is a better fit. You can probably do this on a phone call to the hiring manager or recruiter for the position.
You could mention that the position you’ve accepted works better with your career goals. If the decision was difficult to make, you can mention that, too.
Don’t go overboard listing out all the reasons for your decision, though. As with any rejection, it’s best to keep it short and sweet.
When you weren’t happy with the salary
It’s OK to politely tell the company that their salary offer just doesn’t meet your needs.
In fact, a 2018 survey from Glassdoor found that salary was the leading reason for candidates to reject job offers. This is valuable information for them as they continue to interview candidates.
In this case, you can talk about some of the positive things you noticed about the company and the position during the interview process.
If you give salary as a reason, you might want to be prepared in case they come back with a higher offer in an effort to negotiate.
It’s important to be honest and not give salary as the sole reason for your refusal if there were other issues that matter to you in the job search, too.
When you don’t like the company
If you just aren’t feeling warm fuzzies about the company climate or the people that work there, it’s a valid reason for turning down the job. But be careful how you phrase your rejection in this case.
And that’s OK. Here’s a statistic that should give some sense of validation to your feelings.
Don’t add insult to injury by saying that you didn’t hit it off with the hiring manager or that you read an article about their notoriously bad work environment.
Simply tell them that you are accepting an offer from another company which fits better with the goals of your job search.
Now that we’ve fleshed out these different situations a bit, let’s take a look at some guidelines for turning down a job.
Tips for declining a job offer
These guidelines are a good rule of thumb for rejecting an offer while still preserving a good relationship with the company for future opportunities.
Much like turning down a date, it’s best to be clear about your intentions as early as possible.
Don’t leave them with the false impression that you are still considering their offer if you have made up your mind that you’re not interested.
Employers and hiring managers want to fill positions with the right people as quickly as possible, and any delay in your response slows down their search for another job seeker who might want the position.
Show your appreciation
Interviewers have paid you a compliment by taking the time to talk with you and offer you the job. Be sure to recognize these efforts by starting with a “thank you.”
A simple “thank you for your time” goes a long way towards building a sense of mutual goodwill and will help smooth over any sting from your rejection of their offer.
Give a brief explanation
No one (whether it’s a job seeker or an interviewer) likes to be left wondering what happened.
It’s considerate to provide at least a brief reason for your rejection of the job offer. Be as honest as you can while still remaining polite and diplomatic.
Keep it simple and to the point
As with any kind of rejection, the fewer words the better. Going on at length will just make the situation seem more emotional than is warranted, and might make you sound unprofessional.
Don’t worry; you won’t hurt their feelings. A survey from Glassdoor found that job rejection rates are over 17%, so most employers have experienced being rejected before, and likely will again. Business is business.
Stay in touch
The more professional contacts you collect during your career, the better off you are long-term.
Hanging on to the company’s contact information or adding them on LinkedIn may pay off with networking opportunities and partnerships in the future.
How so? Let’s flash forward 10 years.
It would be a mistake to rule out the possibility that you might want to work for this company again at some point down the road, so it’s best to leave bridges unburnt.
Don’t burn any bridges
Life takes many strange twists and turns. You never know where your future might take you, or how a chance meeting during your interview process might have value for you as your career progresses.
Cultivate a good relationship with everyone you met during the interview process and it may help you advance your career in unexpected ways.
Provide a recommendation
Be the bigger person and admit that you want this company to find the right candidate who will be a good fit for the position, even though it wasn’t you.
Recommendations on job search boards can go a long way toward showing your goodwill and ensuring that they can move ahead with the search.
3 Templates for declining a job offer
Here are three examples to give you some concrete ideas of how to decline a job offer.
Template 1: Turning down a job because you accepted another one
Dear Mr./Ms. (Last Name):
I want to thank you sincerely for offering me the position of Store Manager at Buttermore Auto Parts. Although the decision was a difficult one, I’ve accepted a position with a different company.
I enjoyed talking with you and I’m grateful for the time you took to interview me over the past week.
I hope to keep in touch in the future. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Template 2: Turning down a job offer because of pay or salary
Dear Mr./Ms. (Last Name):
Thank you very much for considering me for a position with Wilson Family Services. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to pursue a position offering a salary that better fits my needs.
Thank you again for your consideration. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out, and I hope you find exactly the right person for the position.
Template 3: Turning down a job because of company climate/culture
Dear Mr./Ms. (Last Name):
Thanks so much for offering me an opportunity to work at Smith Foods. Unfortunately, I’m unable to accept this position because it doesn’t fit with my current career path and goals.
I very much enjoyed learning about the opportunities at Smith Foods and about all the great work you do in the community.
I appreciate the time you took to interview me and I wish you the best of luck as you continue in the hiring process.
In your search for the perfect job, there are bound to be occasional disappointments.
Sometimes, a job offer is just not meant to be. But with some care and tact, you can transform a declined job offer into an opportunity for open doors in the future.
For more job search tips, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.