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How to decline a job offer

How To Decline A Job Offer

How to decline a job offer? When you’re navigating the job market, it occasionally requires turning down offers that may not align with your aspirations or circumstances. Maybe you’ve received a more fitting opportunity or maybe the offer at hand falls short of your expectations. Whatever the reason, it’s important to master the art of gracefully declining a job offer. It might be tempting to swiftly brush off an offer, but taking the time to decline respectfully can preserve your professional integrity and uphold your reputation in the eyes of recruiters and firms in your chosen field.

Professionalism serves as the cornerstone of any successful career journey, extending far beyond the confines of the workplace. Each interaction, including the act of declining a job offer, presents an opportunity to showcase your commitment to excellence. Following a structured approach ensures that your message is conveyed clearly and concisely, leaving no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding.

So, to decline a job offer with finesse and professionalism, consider following the steps below:

  1. Avoid Getting to the Point of Having to Decline an Offer
    Sometimes, you’ll progress through a recruitment process and decide the opportunity isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s the scope of the role, maybe it’s the target compensation the firm is willing to offer, maybe it’s the manager, or perhaps it’s the firm culture. No matter the reason, if you realize that it’s not going to be a good fit for you, remove yourself from the process to avoid spending more of your time or the company’s. Firms – and especially recruiters – hate going to the trouble of preparing an offer and getting approval for it, only to have it turned down. If you know you’re going to reject an offer if you get to that point, take yourself out of the process and save everyone the trouble. You can follow some of the subsequent steps to communicate that decision, but the hiring firm and recruiter will appreciate that you “called the moment” as soon as you knew the situation wasn’t right for you.
  1. Choose the Communication Medium
    If you do get to the point of receiving an offer, deciding whether to decline a job offer via email or over a call depends on the communication you’ve had with the employer and your personal preference. If most of your communication with the employer has been via email, for instance, it may be appropriate to decline the offer in the same manner.
    1. Email: Email is a widely accepted and convenient medium for declining a job offer. It allows you to carefully craft your message, providing a written record of your decision and reasoning. It also gives the employer time to process your decision at their convenience. You can offer to follow up your email with a call, to provide more color on your reasoning and answer any questions the recruiter may have for you.
    2. Phone / video call: Some candidates prefer to decline a job offer over the phone or by video, especially if they’ve had significant interactions with the employer or hiring manager during the hiring process. A phone call allows for a more personal touch and immediate feedback or discussion. However, it may be less convenient for both parties, especially if scheduling a call is challenging. It may also feel more uncomfortable, and if you’re worried about getting you’re messaging right, you should prepare a set of talking points in advance.
    3. In-person meeting: If you have a close relationship with the employer or if you’re declining a high-level position, an in-person meeting may be most appropriate.
  1. Express Gratitude
    Whether in person, over the phone, by video, or via email, begin your message with an expression of genuine gratitude, acknowledging the efforts made by the company in extending the offer to you. This acknowledgment reflects a sense of mutual respect, affirming the value of the company’s time and efforts, regardless of the outcome.Moreover, setting a positive tone from the outset establishes a constructive framework for the remainder of your communication. By infusing your message with optimism and goodwill, you foster an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect. Even as you navigate the delicate task of declining the offer, maintaining a positive demeanor reaffirms your professionalism and commitment to fostering positive relationships within your professional network.
  1. Provide a Clear Explanation
    Offer a brief but honest explanation for declining the offer. Whether it’s because you’ve received a better-suited opportunity, the compensation package doesn’t meet your expectations, or there are other personal or professional reasons, it’s important to provide some context. However, you don’t need to go into extensive detail. Here’s how you could approach it:“Thank you sincerely for extending the job offer to me. After careful consideration, I’ve decided to decline the offer. While I greatly appreciate the opportunity, I’ve recently received another offer that aligns more closely with my career goals and aspirations. I hope you understand that this decision was not made lightly, and I have the utmost respect for your company and the team. Thank you again for considering me, and I wish you all the best in finding the ideal candidate for the role.” 
  1. Maintain Professionalism
    Regardless of your reasons for declining an offer, maintain a professional tone throughout your communication. Avoid being overly negative or critical, as this could reflect poorly on you. Remember, the goal is to leave a positive impression even as you decline the offer.Focus on highlighting the aspects of the opportunity that you appreciated and the positive experiences you had during the hiring process. Express your respect for the employer and their organization, even as you decline their offer.
  1. Offer to Stay Connected
    Express your interest in maintaining a positive relationship with the employer and the team. Offer to stay in touch for potential future opportunities or networking purposes. This demonstrates your professionalism and leaves the door open for potential future collaborations. For instance, in your email, you could include a paragraph or two similar to the following:

    “I have a great deal of respect for your company and the team, and I am genuinely impressed by the work you’re doing. I believe there is potential for future collaboration, and I would welcome the opportunity to stay in touch. Whether it’s for potential future opportunities or simply to maintain a professional connection, I am open to staying engaged with your organization.
    Please feel free to reach out if there are any future opportunities that align with my skills and experience, or if there’s ever an opportunity to collaborate or network in the future. I value the relationships I’ve formed during this process and look forward to the possibility of working together in the future.” 
  1. Be Prompt
    Don’t delay in communicating your decision. Once you’ve made the choice to decline the offer, inform the company as soon as possible. This demonstrates you respect the employer’s time and resources, as your timely response will allow them to proceed with other candidates or make alternative arrangements without unnecessary delay.To ensure timely communication, aim to notify the employer of your decision as soon as you’ve made it. Ideally, this should be done within a day or two of receiving the offer, and certainly no more than a week later.

Remember, declining a job offer is a normal part of the job search process, and handling it with professionalism and courtesy can leave a lasting positive impression, even as you pursue other opportunities. By following the steps above and approaching the situation with tact and consideration, you can navigate the process smoothly while preserving your reputation and relationships within the industry.

Want to check out more of our how-to series? Become a PathWise member. Basic membership is free! And for other guidance on turning down a job offer, check out this HBR article.

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