Is there a way to reject a job offer, make a great impression, and keep all your bridges intact? You bet there is!
When you’re looking for work, declining a job offer may feel like a luxury. However, there are times when you complete the interview process, only to realize the opportunity is not right for you. Whatever the reason, there are a few steps you can follow on how to reject a job offer without ruining the business relationship.
1. Do it promptly.
While employers recognize that you need time to think it over or discuss it with your family, it’s important that you decline a job offer as soon as you know you don’t want to take the position. The longer you wait to tell them, the more effort (and money) they will have dedicated to your recruitment and onboarding. If you don’t want to cut ties and future opportunities with the organization, it’s best to waste as little of their time as possible.
2. Follow the style of your point of contact.
Have your communications been entirely via email? Has the hiring manager or recruiter called you several times? Consider this when choosing how to decline the offer. Yes, it’s much easier to turn the position down through an email; however, if the person you’ve been speaking to has taken the time to keep you informed over the phone, etiquette dictates that a phone call is the best way to break the news.
3. Reject the offer, not the company.
When you're declining a job offer, it’s important to explain that, while the offer doesn’t work based on your needs at this time, you’d like to keep in contact with those you’ve met during the interview process. Burning bridges is the worst thing you can do for your career. Keep the relationship open because you never know when another opportunity may open up that’s of interest to you. Explaining why this role, and nothing else, is not a fit for you is key to keeping that relationship intact.
4. Don’t oversell it.
People are fairly conscious of when someone is just trying to make them feel better, so be honest about why the opportunity doesn’t work for you. However, don’t gush about the company only to reject the offer – unless you mean it. You can be straightforward and professional without being negative. It’s better to give honest feedback rather than empty promises. If you oversell it, you run the risk of having the recruiter try to change your mind after you’ve already decided it’s not the right fit.
5. Don’t expect them to beg.
Declining a job offer under the hope that they will offer more money or a better deal is a bad idea. There were likely other candidates lined up for the role, and any one of them could be called to fill the position you don’t accept. It’s also disrespectful and even unprofessional in many ways. If you're interested in the position but honestly cannot afford to take it or there is one element that prevents you from taking it, share that information. Perhaps they will be able to go to bat for you but go in assuming they won’t and can’t. When you decide to decline, it should be a 100 percent decline based on the information currently available.
6. Honesty is key.
Whatever the circumstance, always be polite, professional, and honest when you respond. Were you offered more money to stay in your current role? Did another offer come in at the same time that was slightly more attractive? Did you realize in your last interview that there would be too much travel or that the position wasn’t exactly what you thought it was? Let them know why you went through the process and decided to decline in the end.
Just as you would prefer to receive helpful feedback when you are rejected for a role, hiring managers will appreciate knowing what made you decline their offer.