So, it’s decision time. You have been offered a job opportunity you do not want to take (or you have a counteroffer). What to do? How to respond once you have made up your mind? Would you like to learn techniques for declining an opportunity to work you have been offered? This article was born from my experience doing just that myself, and even though it will be in memory, I felt it would be appropriate to write it down and pass the information on.
Thank the person for the offer and the opportunity to interview.
It’s essential to keep your tone appreciative and kind, even if you are unhappy. When declining an offer, it’s customary to thank the person for their time and the opportunity to work with them:
You don’t need to be too specific about what you liked about the company or position, but you want to show them that you appreciate their time. Again, this is where it’s essential not to be overly effusive with praise. Instead, keep your note brief and professional:
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me yesterday; I enjoyed learning more about [company name].
If you are declining a job offer, be sure to do it within a week of receiving the offer.
If you decline a job offer, sending the rejection letter is best to do so quickly. The hiring manager will want to move on with the hiring process and find another candidate if they don’t hear from you within a week or two of the offer being made. So try to get in touch within a few days. If possible, respond within 24 hours after careful consideration, but waiting until the next day is acceptable. It’s never appropriate to wait until the deadline for accepting an offer has passed.
Be clear, direct, and respectful.
When you turn down the offer, be clear that you won’t accept the new terms while writing to the hiring manager. It would be best if you also were direct in stating your reasons for turning it down—be it a job in another company or an unwillingness to take a pay cut. Be prepared to explain this concisely and politely. A cookie-cutter response like I don’t think I can accept those terms is vague and slightly disrespectful to the hiring manager who made the offer (and got their hopes up!). Saying something like,
Use positive language whenever possible.
As with any professional communication, I am using positive language is vital in writing emails or a rejection letter. This includes avoiding phrases such as “
I am sorry” or “ I don’t think I can” that can make you sound unhappy—even if you are! Instead, consider replacing these phrases with neutral expressions such as “unfortunately” or “regretfully.” Again, the goal is to deliver bad news with a polite tone but firmly not to offend anyone involved in the hiring process.
Respond directly to the offer.
While it’s good form to avoid saying you’ve accepted or declined a job in your initial response, you should acknowledge any specifics they mention in their offer. For example: “I’m thrilled with the base salary and benefits package you have offered me, but I would like to revisit the signing bonus to consider this a good fit.“
Be direct and honest. You may be tempted to sugarcoat your counteroffer, especially if the company seems eager for you to accept immediately. Too much sugarcoating confuses your message, and the hiring manager is left wondering exactly what your intention is. But making a solid case by citing specific reasons both sides will benefit will increase your chances of getting what you want (or at least getting closer).
Don’t get greedy. Like in real estate, more is not necessarily merrier when negotiating salary—especially when dealing with small companies that don’t have bottomless budgets. It’s OK to ask for a little more than what’s being offered, but asking for double is likely to get a firm no.
Show enthusiasm for the company or organisation.
You want to be as transparent as possible about why you decided to decline the job offer via a refusal letter. Remember, the people at the company or organisation that made you an offer aren’t your enemies. You may be working with them in the future! That’s why it’s essential to keep your tone professional and show enthusiasm for their organisation, even if you’re not interested in this particular position or opportunity.
When we politely dismiss a job offer, it can positively impact our future supporters and colleagues. Here is an example of polite ways to turn down a job:
Do not give a reason unless you have a good reason
It is best not to explain unless you have a good reason, such as the job being contingent upon something that did not happen. However, if you give a reason, be sure it is true. For example, “I am no longer interested in making a career change at this time” is true, but “I have been offered another job” is false.
Your reason for rejection should sound like an excuse, defined as “a ground offered for excusing or justifying some act or omission.” Therefore, expressing why you are turning down an offer may be insulting unless your reason is legitimate (such as their salary is significantly lower than what other companies were offering).
Remember that the way you decline the job may influence your reputation.
As a professional, it’s not just about clinching the deal—you should always be mindful of how you present yourself in the world. Those who are rude when turning down offers or counteroffers risk burning bridges with people they could work with in the future. People talk, and word gets around fast—so if you want to be known as someone pleasant to do business with, make sure that you’re representing yourself well when declining an offer or counter offer.
Keep the networking door open. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received from a mentor was this: “You’ll never know when your paths will cross in the future.”
Do not give in to pressure to accept the job.
When you receive an offer or counteroffer from a company, you must consider the time involved in keeping the conversation going. If you are not interested in pursuing that opportunity, don’t waste your time by making them think otherwise. Also, don’t waste their time—if you know you do not want the job, cut them off in the first instance and politely turn down the offer. It can also help avoid missing a more lucrative opportunity if you are upfront with companies and let them know that you are still considering other opportunities.
Do not get into too much detail.
A simple “thank you for the kind offer, but I have chosen to accept another offer” will suffice in most cases. You want to balance being polite and firm in your refusal. However, it is essential not to make the person feel they have wasted their time by making or considering a counteroffer if you are not interested.
There could be a chance to work with this company in the future, and not burning bridges is always a good idea! Keeping in mind your long-term career goals.
Restate your appreciation
A simple way to say “Thanks, but no thanks” is by restating your appreciation. This allows you to thank the other party politely and professionally for their offer and reiterate that it was a privilege to have been considered (or even offered) the position/residency/contract in the first place.
If they offer an invitation to apply again in the future, accept it graciously. If they don’t extend this invitation, you may want to add something like, “I appreciate being considered and hope my qualifications will be of interest again in the future.” This is especially true if you have strong feelings about how close you are now (or could be) to meet their criteria. Don’t forget that politeness should always be your guiding principle when drafting these kinds of messages (and all messages).
Focus on your response.
It may be tempting to avoid the topic altogether by saying, “I appreciate you considering me for the role,” but it’s better not to leave things up. Instead, you can tactfully decline while opening the door for future opportunities. Express your disappointment honestly, but don’t get too personal about it (no crying or cursing). Instead, your response should gracefully indicate declining a job offer.
“Thank you very much for letting me know about your decision—I’m disappointed that I won’t be joining [Company Name], as I was excited about the opportunity to contribute to this new job. Best wishes”
This is an excellent way to affirm how much passion and interest you had in being involved with this company without stating that your life will be over now that they’re dropping out of it. The hiring manager might ask why you’ve chosen to decline their offer—whether they’re hoping to persuade you otherwise or want feedback on the experience so far—so have your reasons ready (e.g.,
“My career goals have changed since our initial conversation”; “I am looking for something more full-time than what was originally discussed“. Best Wishes
In addition, suppose there are other aspects of an offer that might make you pause. In that case, this is also an opportunity to address those concerns with your would-be employer before making any final decisions (e.g.,
“I noticed that my start date has been delayed by a week from what we initially discussed; is there any room for flexibility there?”).
Maintaining good relationships with companies you hope to work with in the future is crucial.
Don’t be vague or use ambiguous language when declining an offer. For example, “I’m excited about my options” doesn’t tell the recruiter or hiring manager about your decision-making process. Likewise, you don’t need to discuss your other opportunities (or lack thereof). Still, it’s OK to say, “The type of work at this company is closer to my interests than other things I’m considering.” Remember: this is a business conversation, first and foremost.
Politely explain that your decision isn’t related to anything at all about their company or its offer — simply that it doesn’t align with your goals. If they ask why not (and they might!), say something like
“Thank you very much for offering me the role. I’ve decided that I’d like more time before taking on a full-time position” or “Inline with my career goals, I’d prefer an opportunity where I could focus on sales over marketing in my new job.”
Ask to stay in touch.
If you’re interested in a similar role, you may want to check back in with the recruiter to inquire about it. You can also refer me if you know someone who would be a good fit for a job. It’s always helpful to have a relationship with recruiters you meet, so don’t hesitate to ask to stay in touch after declining an offer.
Think about leaving your contact information to keep in touch and remain open to future opportunities- leave your contact information and tell them that you’re willing to stay in touch to discuss future opportunities.
Takeaway points: There are several ways to turn down a job offer and know that you have handled it correctly. But, whatever you do, stay calm, keep the door open for future opportunities and never burn bridges with the company or people involved in the process before making a decision and continuing your job search. You never know what opportunities might present themselves in the future, and your actions now will be remembered by them.