Do give yourself permission to say no. You don’t have to take the job, no matter how many interviews you’ve had and how much enthusiasm you’ve expressed to them. Just as they were free to turn you down at any point, you’re free to do likewise. Ultimately, it’s a business decision.
Make sure you really don’t want the job.
If you have an offer but think you’ll be getting a more appealing one soon, don’t decline yet. Wait until that better offer is confirmed, because once you’ve turned an offer down, coming back to say “My other offer fell through” will get you nowhere.
Or let’s say you want to reject an offer that just isn’t a fit. Maybe the company culture isn’t right, the commute is too long or the salary is too low. Make sure you’ve considered the job from every angle, because once you say no, a message that “I changed my mind, I want to accept after all” is likely to be met with a stiff “no, thank you.”
Declining the job is not the way to try to start a negotiation.
On the other hand, don’t drag out your decision.
It’s one thing to take a day to think about the offer, but once you’ve decided against it, let the company know promptly. The hiring committee and the other candidates don’t like living in limbo any more than you do.
Choose your channel of communication.
It’s a nice touch to decline via a phone call, especially if that’s how the offer was made. But if the thought of that conversation makes your palms sweat, know that it’s fine to send an email.
In addition to interviews, people have spent time looking at your resume, LinkedIn profile and other materials, checking references, and more. While this is all part of their job, appreciation is still in order. Begin your phone call or email by thanking them for their time and interest.
Mentioning things you liked about the company can also help soften the blow.
Give a brief reason for declining the job offer.
Of course, they will wonder why you turned the job down, and the feedback may be useful to them in the future. If you decided to take another position instead, that’s enough of an explanation. If you want to be more specific, you could mention the main feature(s) of the other role that led to your decision.
If you don’t have another offer, you might just say “It’s not quite a fit for my career goals at this time” or at most, “I’m looking for something with more involvement in team leadership/digital marketing/making balloon animals” or whatever is true for you.
Express an interest in keeping in touch.
We all know that a strong network is a valuable career asset. A manager who has made you an offer is a particularly good person to have in your network, because they think highly of you. At a minimum, say something like “I hope our paths cross again in future,” and invite them to connect on LinkedIn.
If you would be interested in other opportunities with the company, say so, then keep the connection active by engaging with them on social media or dropping them a friendly once in a while.
Refer someone else.
If you happen to know someone who’s a great fit, and they’ve told you they’re interested, make the recommendation. You could be doing both the employer and your friend a big favor that will be remembered.
So let’s wrap it all up. Your message might look like the following.
Example–Email Declining a Job Offer:
Thank you so much for offering me the role of Program Manager at Top Tech. I’m very honored. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and the others, and am very impressed with the firm’s products and the abundant talent and camaraderie on the team.
After giving it careful thought, I’ve decided this role is not quite a fit for my career goals at this time. I plan to continue my search for a role with more involvement in team leadership. If such a role opens up at Top Tech in future, I would love to be considered.
For the current opening, I do know someone who may be the ideal candidate. Let me know if you’d like to know more.
I’m sending you an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Let’s keep in touch!
When the right offer comes along:
Now that you know how to decline a job offer, you may want to read my post about how to accept one.