How to decline a job offer probably isn’t something that you considered as you started your job search. After all, no one spends days of their time researching companies, applying for roles, interviewing and being offered a job that in the end, they turn down.
But knowing how to decline a job offer is an important part of looking for your next job. If you’re not comfortable rejecting a job offer, you may end up burning bridges that could be useful later in your career, and damage your industry reputation. And worst case scenario, you end up accepting a job offer that isn’t right for you.
Before we jump into how to decline a job offer, let’s look at some of the most common reasons we hear from our candidate and clients, why you might decline a job offer.
Most jobs don’t come with a salary set in stone. There is always rooms for flexibility, and most job adverts even list a salary range on their job adverts.
But all of this ambiguity means that you can often be disappointed by the salary offer you receive. Especially if you were expecting to be offered the top end of the range, and are offered the lower end, which can be a significant decrease.
Of course, just because a salary is offered that is too low for you, doesn’t mean you should reject it outright. You can always negotiate a salary offer, and if you really want the job, it’s always worth taking the chance.
Sometimes employers can post dishonest job adverts, in an attempt to get more people to apply and into the interview process. Or, they will simply gloss over unpleasant parts of the job that they know will turn people away.
Unfortunately, it can take getting to the interview stage to find out that the reality of the job, isn’t quite what was promised.
Maybe you even have the fortunate problem of having two or more job offers to consider. And while that’s a great problem to have, you still have to decline the job offers you aren’t going to take.
The culture of the company you are enjoying can actually be one of the biggest factors to your enjoyment of the role. If the company’s values and the people it employs aren’t the same people you would enjoy working with, it’s safe to say that the job and company may not be the one for you.
Sometimes you have to decline a job offer due to pure logistics. When you applied for the job maybe you were hoping for a more remote/ hybrid work environment that would have worked. Or you’ve come to realise that the job opportunity just isn’t worth the effort of up and moving your entire life.
Of course it’s not easy to decide to decline a job offer, as it’s no small decision. But deciding is only half the battle. When you’ve decided it’s not the opportunity for you, it’s time to politely decline the offer. Ideally without burning bridges, or harming any future opportunities you may have.
If you’re declining the job offer, you should make sure that it’s really what you want.
It’s not unheard of for people to decline a job offer as a negotiation tactic. And while it can work, it’s not something we would really advise unless you’ve exhausted all other options. Instead, we would advise being upfront and straightforward with the hiring manager. If you would accept the job offer if it had a higher salary or more flexible working, then take those conditions to the hiring manager.
And if you do reject the job offer, make sure that you’re happy to walk away from the opportunity. There’s nothing more awkward than asking for the job offer back after you’ve initially declined it.
But if your mind is made up, then read below.
No one likes to be left on read. Whatever your decision, you should try to get back to the interviewer/ recruiter/ hiring manager before too long. While it’s important to take the time to make sure that this job isn’t right for you, it’s a professiona courtesy don’t make them wait too long. It gives the business time to offer the position to any other candidates for the role that they were considering.
This is crucial to maintaining a good relationship with the company or hiring manager. If you were interested in joining the company now, or it isn’t the right job for you right now, you may reconsider further in your career.
Additionally, managers move from company to company. And the senior people and managers who were involved in the process may move to a different company where you interview later in your career. Admittedly, there is a small chance of this happening. But if you work in a small industry, word can get around and damage your industry reputation.
Recruitment is an expensive process for businesses. When you decline a job offer, it’s important to remember the time and money the business has invested in reaching the point where they made you the job offer.
And while you don’t want to be overly emotional, you do want to be respectful and thank them for their time and consideration.
You want to be clear that you’re not accepting the offer. There’s no sense beating around the bush, and the hiring manager will appreciate the clarity. Additionally, there’s no need to write a heartfelt, two page email about why you won’t be accepting the position. The hiring manager will appreciate you keeping it brief and to the point.
But you should be honest and upfront about the reasons you’re not accepting the job. Your honesty can be beneficial to the company and they will appreciate you being upfront.
Having said that, there’s no need to go into too much detail. If the company culture isn’t right for you, you can just say “It doesn’t feel like a right fit for you.” Or if there just isn’t room for progression, you can say “It doesn’t align with your career plan”. There’s no need to break down exactly why you don’t want to join the company.
We would generally advise declining the job offer in whatever medium the offer was made to you: if it was over the phone, give them a call back. And if it was in person (and it’s logistically reasonable), then face-to-face would be best.
But you should send an email as a followup regardless of however you decline the job offer, so you have something in writing. So we would advise writing the email first, because it gives you a structure for your conversation to follow and lets you organise your thoughts.
Better than telling you how to declining a job offer, is showing you how it is done. While your email will look different depending on your specific situation, these email examples are easily adaptable for your specific situation.
While you are turning down a job offer, you want to refrain from burning any bridges with companies or hiring managers who you may want to work with in the future. Especially if you work in a small industry.
Subject: Job Offer – Your Name
Dear (Name of Hiring Manager),
Thank you for considering me for the (Specific role). It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and the rest of the team through the interview process.
Unfortunately after careful consideration, I have to turn down your generous offer to join your team. I have decided to (accept another job offer/ to stay in my current position/ to pursue other opportunities that more align with my career goals).
Again, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your time and your consideration. I would love to stay in touch, and I hope that our paths align in the future at a better time.
However, sometimes you have gone through the interview process and it’s become immediately clear that this isn’t a job or company that you would ever consider. We would still recommend being polite. Even if they’ve been rude, lied in the job advert, or it generally seems like a place you would never want to work. You don’t want your industry reputation to suffer over one uncordial email.
Subject: Job Offer – Your Name
Dear (Name of Hiring Manager),
Thank you for considering me through the interview process. While it has been a difficult decision, I have decided to (accept another job offer/ to stay in my current position/ to pursue other opportunities that more align with my career goals).
I’m grateful for the time you have taken to interview and consider me for this role. I wish you all the best with finding the right person for this role.
These examples should give you an idea of how to put the tips we’ve given you into action, and only accept the job that is right for you. If you’re a digital marketer searching for your next role, you can see our open vacancies here.
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