Respectfully Declining a Job Offer

By: Lauren Mineau

Let’s say you’re on the hunt for a new job. The process can be exhausting and you’re likely to hear more no than yes. But a few days after an interview, you get the call – complete with a job offer. However, something doesn’t feel quite right. How do you decline respectfully while also being honest?

Always Say Thanks

Even if the offer is something you could never accept, or the job turned out to be something you’ve never considered, always say thank you. Many people likely took the time to interview with you, contact you, and confer among each other about which candidate to choose. Just as your job search is time consuming, so too is the process of finding the perfect candidate for employers.

A thoughtful and specific thank you will likely overshadow the disappointment of your rejection. For example:

  • “Thank you for taking the time to interview me for the Directors of Operations position. I enjoyed learning about the company and this position specifically. I appreciate the generous offer.”
  • “It was my pleasure to meet and interview at your company. I appreciate your time and consideration of me as a candidate for the Sales Manager role. Thank you for taking my questions and providing such thorough answers.”

Give One Good Reason

While there may be a number of factors playing into your saying no, give the company something so they are not left in the dark. However, be careful with how much you reveal. If the job you did accept offered you twice the salary and a company car, that’s great, but there’s no benefit in revealing that to the place you’re rejecting. If you’re unsure, be brief but honest and firm. Here are a few examples:

  • “After much consideration, I’ve decided to accept a position at another company.”
  • “While this position is a great opportunity, I’ve decided now is not the best time to leave my current role.”
  • “This was a tough decision, but I have decided to seek out another position that will allow me to further pursue my interest in writing and editing.”

Depending on the situation, you can potentially offer more information. If you perhaps you feel like your enthusiasm in the interview process didn't match your final decision, you could explain that you had a tough choice to make. While I was interviewing, I was offered a job in my field that had many pros and cons. I ultimately decided that a slightly higher salary was not worth giving up my social life (the hours in this particular position were almost all nights and weekends). Through honesty, I was able to respectfully decline and not burn any bridges within the small industry I was interviewing. A friend of mine worked there and was able to put in a good word for me before interviewing, so I felt it was necessary to be honest so no one was left wondering where they went wrong. They hadn’t, it just wasn’t the job for me.

If the position seems awful, brutal honestly may not be beneficial. Rather, be short and sweet. Simply saying “This position doesn’t quite fit my career goals and vision at this time” will be sufficient.

Don’t Keep Anyone Waiting

It’s natural to ask for some time to think once you are made an offer. But don’t keep them waiting too long; they may miss out on offering the job to the next candidate in consideration. Take a breather and respond efficiently with your answer. It’s best to call, if possible, as it shows a higher level of respect. With the amount of emails people get, it may get lost or be perceived as unprofessional. Above all though, always give a response – no matter what it is. Ignoring someone is flat out unprofessional.

But just like with an interview, a follow-up email with another thank you seals the deal. This way, there’s a paper trail and there’s nothing left open-ended, especially if your phone call was cordial or there may have been room for misinterpretation.

Searching for a job is tough. Not every offer is going to be for you, but often your instincts will be right. By knowing how to respectfully say no to jobs that may not be quite right, you set yourself up for the right job to come your way.