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Getting a job offer is always flattering: of all the candidates who applied to and interviewed for a position, you were deemed the best fit. It’s a testament to your skills, your interview prowess and the potential the employer sees in you. But just because you received a job offer doesn’t always mean you’ll want to take it. In these cases, it's worth learning how to decline a job offer the right way.
Whether you realize that you need a higher salary, don't want to end up relocating after all or simply feel the job isn't the right professional fit for you, you're well within your right to turn a position down. However, it’s important to notify the company in a respectful, professional way. Not only is it the right thing to do — it’s critical for maintaining a strong reputation. In this guide, we’ll share how to decline a job offer gently and respectfully without burning any bridges.
Before you give your final answer, it’s worth taking a final moment to make absolutely certain that you’re not interested in the job. After all, there’s no going back once you turn down a job offer. The moment an employer hears “no,” they’re probably going to move on and reach out to the next person they had in their pipeline. Even if they haven’t yet, an employer is unlikely to agree to hire you after you’ve just rejected them. Turning them down and then changing your mind comes off as wishy-washy, and suggests you may not stay loyal to the company for long.
To be certain that you’re not interested in the opportunity, ask yourself a few probing questions:
If you’re still unsure after considering these questions, try making a list of all of the different criteria that are important to you in a job search — such as salary, benefits, professional development opportunities, company culture, distance from home, etc. — and assess how well the job offer satisfies those requirements. Then, stack the different categories in order of importance, making sure to note if there are any non-negotiables. Hopefully, this exercise provides you with a more objective, data-driven look at whether or not the position is truly the right fit for you.
Finally, when you’re really feeling lost, it can help to talk things through with somebody you trust: a friend, a parent, a counselor, etc. Sometimes, all you need to clear your head and arrive at the best decision for you is to hear yourself out loud.
Once you’ve decided for certain that you’re no longer interested in a job opportunity, it’s time to let the company you’ve been interviewing with know. Here are a few tips you can use to keep it as respectful as possible:
Act Quickly: Often, a company will give you a certain amount of time to consider a job offer. But if you’ve made up your mind before the due date, let them know ASAP — this softens the blow by allowing them to get back to filling the job as quickly as possible.
Consider the Medium: Most people choose to turn down a job offer over email, which in most cases is perfectly fine. But if you really want to go the extra mile, try calling them. While it’s not for everybody, a phone call offers a more personal touch. It can also help you avoid the unfortunate miscommunications that sometimes arise from written messages.
Respond Graciously: The candidate selection process requires a considerable amount of time and resources from companies, so you shouldn’t disrespect their investment by coming off as ungrateful or insensitive. Show that you care by thanking them for their time, and mentioning one or two of the things that you really admired about the company.
Give a Reason: You may be hesitant to explain why you’re turning the job down, but doing so will keep the company from wondering what went wrong, and may even help them improve their hiring process moving forward. Be careful with what exactly you share, though. Something too blunt like “The hiring manager was a jerk” won’t go over well, but saying “I really connected with the team at the other company I was interviewing with” is perfectly acceptable.
Leave It Open-Ended: It might be that you’re still interested in the company, and that it’s just the timing or the specific position that isn’t right. If that’s the case, consider letting them know that you’d love to keep in touch in order to stay up-to-date on future opportunities.
It’s one thing to read these tips — it’s another to see them in action. Read on below for a customizable template you can use to let the company down easy:
Dear [Contact Name],
Thank you for the offer, as well as for the time you’ve spent getting to know me and educating me about the opportunity. However, after reflecting on it, I’m going to have to pass. While I really enjoyed [one or two things you liked about the company], [reason you’re turning the opportunity down]. (OPTIONAL:) I would love to stay in touch in case any relevant positions come up down the line.
Thank you again for everything, and best of luck filling the position — I have no doubt that you’ll find someone incredible!
If you really want to stay in touch with a company moving forward, mentioning it in your rejection letter is a good place to start — but it’s probably not enough. If a role opens up six months down the road without any additional contact from you, odds are the recruiter won’t remember you. To really stand out in their mind, you need to put some additional work in.
After you turn down the job opportunity, you may want to send an additional email or message reiterating your interest in the company and sharing which positions you would be open to down the line, as well as at what point you’d consider revisiting the interview process. This will help ensure that they think to turn to you first if any relevant opportunities pop up.
Adding them on LinkedIn if you haven’t already, as well as posting regular updates on your achievements, is another great way to help keep you top-of-mind. Finally, once you are ready for a new position, check in with your company contact to let them know and to see if there are any positions available that you might be a good fit for.
Decline a job offer is a big decision, and it might seem intimidating. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about treating the company the way you want to be treated. Follow the steps above, and you’ll be able to turn down the opportunity while still staying in the company’s good graces.