You did it! You received a job offer! Now it’s just a simple matter of accepting and starting the new job.
But as you read the offer over or think about the hiring process, something doesn’t sit quite right with you. Maybe it’s nerves, but maybe you’re not the right fit. Or, maybe you realized that this job won’t help you move your career forward.
Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to turn down the job offer. Here’s how to do it professionally and without burning any bridges.
How to Decline a Job Offer Before You’ve Accepted
Depending on your rapport with HR and how you’ve communicated to this point, you can decline a job offer over the phone or via email. That said, even if you decline over the phone. HR may ask you to submit a written version for their records.
Act as quickly as possible. This will give the company a chance to offer the job to the other applicants or restart their search as soon as possible.
You don’t have to make a decision seconds after receiving the offer, though. Take your time to evaluate it carefully. And if you’re going to negotiate the offer (and you should!), give yourself some time for the back and forth before declining.
Start by thanking the hiring manager. Thank them for their time and efforts and for extending the offer. You can even include one or two things you enjoyed learning about or praise the hiring process:
Thank you for offering me [the position]. I appreciate the time you and the team spent explaining the role and getting to know more about me.
Thank you for offering me [the position]. It’s exciting to be the top choice for the job.
Explain Why You Are Turning Down the Job Offer
Then, explain why you’re declining the offer. The key here is to be clear, brief, and polite.
While you don’t want to lie to the employer about why you’re turning the role down, you may not want to be brutally frank, either. If you suspect that the company culture is toxic, you may not want to say, “I’m declining the role because I don’t want to work for a bunch of immature micromanagers.”
When in doubt, keep the answer vague and professional:
After thinking everything over, I’ve decided I’m not the right fit for the role/company.
After careful consideration, I’ve decided that now is not the right time to leave my current company.
However, there may be valid reasons you’re turning the job down that you want to share with the employer. Feel free to share these, but again, be brief and professional:
I’ve accepted a different position that I feel is a better match for my current skills/intended career path.
I appreciate you and your company being open to negotiating salary and benefits with me. And while I understand that you can’t go any higher with the salary, I must decline the position.
Keep Your Options Open
Finally, you never know what the future holds. Sometimes recruiters look at prior applicants for future positions, so if you’re truly open to working for the company in the future, consider keeping your options open. Offer to stay in touch and leave things open-ended and cordial:
Thanks again, and I hope we have an opportunity to work together in the future.
Then, connect with the interviewer on LinkedIn and follow the company too. Maybe you weren’t a good match this time, but you might be later on down the road.
How to Decline a Job Offer After You’ve Already Accepted
Initially, the offer was fantastic, so you accepted. But after thinking about things, you decide accepting it wasn’t the right call. Or, your current company made you a last-ditch counteroffer that’s too good to pass up.
If you’ve already accepted a job offer but now need to decline, here’s how to handle it.
Written or Verbal?
If you’ve verbally accepted the offer, you can call the hiring manager and tell them you’ve changed your mind using the above scripts. If you’ve accepted in writing, though, you may have to approach things differently.
As a rule, signing an offer letter does not mean you have a legally binding contract with the employer, so you can likely rescind your acceptance without a penalty (but consult a lawyer just to be safe).
If, however, you’ve signed a written contract, that’s a different matter, and you will definitely need to consult with an attorney.
When Rejecting a Job Offer Is the Right Call
Sometimes, despite everything leading to an offer, saying “no, thanks” is the right choice. It’s likely disappointing to both you and the company, but it’s better to walk away now than accept a job you won’t be happy in.
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