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How to Turn Down a Job Offer: 5 Polite Tips

turning down an offer politely

It’s a bit funny to think about. When a company isn’t interested in a candidate, they have no problem telling them so. Sadly, in many cases, they also don’t have any qualms about ghosting them entirely. So, why is it that we often struggle to turn down a job offer that doesn’t interest us?

One of the reasons is that people often feel a bit of guilt, especially if they’ve been ‘wined and dined’ a bit during the recruiting process. If this is you, try to shake that feeling off. Recruiters know they will pursue many more candidates than they will hire. To them, this is simply an expense in the majority of cases. 

The other roadblock is this: nobody wants to burn bridges and they worry about turning a job down in a way that offends. To help with that, we’ve got five to help you learn how to turn down a job offer graciously. Let’s dive in! 

1. Pick The Best Reason for Declining and Explain it Briefly

What’s the best reason to give for discarding a job offer? Obviously, that depends on your specific situation. However, you can’t go wrong in selecting the least confrontational, most diplomatic option. Here are some non-confrontational reasons to give:

  • The pay and benefits offered don’t meet my needs.
  • I’ve decided to pursue another opportunity.
  • The demands of the job don’t fit my current lifestyle.
  • Travel requirements are too much for me.
  • There’s an opportunity with my current employer that I’ve decided to pursue.

Then, present your explanation briefly and politely. Avoid going into much detail. The more you go on in your reasoning, the more likely you are to offend. 

OK, but what if something truly negative happened during recruiting and you feel it must be addressed? Depending on the nature of the problem, you can contact the head of HR with your concerns. If it’s something you feel needs to be escalated, reach out to the appropriate agency such as the EEOC.

2. Give a Heartfelt ‘Thanks’

While it’s best to keep your refusal brief, it’s perfectly fine to go into detail when saying ‘thanks for the opportunity!’. Create a sense of goodwill by showing your gratitude for their consideration. 

Similarly to a follow-up email after an interview, you should thank them for meeting you, taking you out to lunch, showing you their offices, etc. Of course, you should also thank them for the job offer.  

Just be sincere. It isn’t necessary to gush over an offer that wasn’t very adequate. Instead, find something positive about the experience, and mention it in a meaningful, detailed way.

3. Promise to Stay in Contact 

This is how to turn down a job offer, but keep the door open — exchange contact details and stay in touch! 

Just because you are turning down a job offer doesn’t mean you should cut ties entirely. It’s always good to make new, professional connections. You’ll never know what may come up in the future. When you turn down the offer, be sure to let the hiring manager know that you’re interested in staying in communication. For example, you might write:

‘I’m going to have to say no to the position at this time. I’ve decided to pursue another option. In the meantime, would it be okay if I added you to my LinkedIn? It would be great if we could connect again in the future. Also, I may have a few names I could pass your way.’

4. Give Your Decision Promptly

Good employers make sure they reach out to applicants with their decisions as quickly as possible.  Make every effort to do the same. Yes, it’s no fun delivering bad news, but the sooner you inform the employer about your decision, the faster they’ll be able to move on to other candidates. Perhaps, someone who’s way more excited to receive this job offer than you did. So don’t be a bottleneck and promptly inform the recruiter about your decision. 

5. Avoid Ambiguities 

When telling about your decisions, be kind and diplomatic, but don’t leave any room for doubt or negotiation. If you are completely sure you aren’t interested in the position, don’t leave the recruiter with any thought that they might be able to talk you into changing your mind. For example, this may leave some doubts:

‘I’m just unsure that I am prepared to relocate to a new city at this time. I think I am going to have to say no’

This states the same thing much more definitively:

‘I’ve taken time to think about your generous offer. Unfortunately, the relocation requirement is a deal-breaker. I hope you can find someone else to fill this position quickly.’

To Conclude

The most important takeaway as you learn how to decline a job offer is to take some time to respond promptly and politely when you receive a job offer. This is a great rule to follow, whether you want to pursue the opportunity or not. You’ll never regret remaining on good terms with a company, and learning to reject them politely is a necessary step.

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