Congratulations, you got the job! But what if you’re not sure you want to take it and have no idea how to say no? If you’re unsure how to decline a job offer, here’s your go-to guide for knowing when to decline an offer, top tips for doing so, and email and phone examples when you’re ready to share the news. We’ll cover:
- When Should I Decline a Job Offer?
- How to Turn Down a Job Offer
- How to Politely Decline a Job Offer Email (and Phone) Examples
- How to Decline a Job Offer: The Bottom Line
When Should I Decline a Job Offer?
The first step in declining a job offer is knowing when to say no. If you’ve gone through a long, anxiety-provoking job search, it can be tempting to say yes to the first offer you get. However, it’s in your best interest to thoroughly consider the offer before signing any official documents.
>>MORE: How to Accept a Job Offer
Michelle Doan, ICF certified career coach and founder of Rising Tide Coaching and Consulting, suggests creating two lists: first, “non-negotiables” that you absolutely want out of a role, and second, things that are important to you but won’t make or break whether you accept.
Non-negotiables include things like your compensation, benefits, opportunities for promotion, and the company’s size.
The things that are important to you are “a bit broader than the non-negotiables list, but related,” Doan says. “This list could include things like team environment, company culture, interest in the day-to-day work, commitment to inclusion, belonging, accessibility, and justice. Rate the offer against each one of these categories on a scale of 1-5. Once you see the point total at the end, assess how you feel about the offer rating higher or lower than expected.”
Making these lists can help you figure out what it will be like to work in this role and whether it’s the right fit.
“Remember to look beyond the salary, check through the terms of the offer thoroughly, and assess how the job will impact your life beyond work,” Nema Smith, recruitment specialist, says. “Once you’ve evaluated your job offer thoroughly, you will be in a much better position to judge whether you should take the job, try to negotiate a better deal, or reject the offer completely.”
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How to Turn Down a Job Offer
You’ve made the hard decision that the job isn’t right for you. Now, it’s crucial to communicate this to the hiring manager quickly and respectfully.
Decline Right When You Know
“Don’t delay in letting the company know you’ve chosen an alternative opportunity,” Steven Waudby, senior recruiter at Delta Hire, a workforce development and hiring solutions firm, says. “The sooner you know and can let the team know the better.”
While you might feel stressed and overwhelmed, getting this part out of the way makes it easier for the hiring team to move on and find another candidate. It also ensures you don’t burn a bridge by waiting too long to let them know.
Try the Phone, Then Email
While hopping on the phone might sound daunting, declining the offer over the phone is often more personal than writing an email. It also gives you another chance to build a relationship with the hiring team. (Even if you don’t want this job now, that doesn’t mean they’re not a good connection to add to your network!)
However, if you don’t have anyone’s phone number from the team or calling them would delay the news — for example, they aren’t responding to your call — an email works just as well.
“The more personal the better,” Bill Catlette, executive coach and partner at Contented Cow Partners, a leadership development firm, says. “I would try phone at first. If that’s not going to work, use email, with copies to the hiring manager and recruiter. I would also send a thank you note. With any luck, this won’t be your last dance with them.”
Say Thank You
Whether you decline over the phone or via email, start by thanking the hiring team. While the job might not be right for you, acknowledge that they’ve taken valuable time and effort to interview you and decide to give you an offer. Make sure to say (or write) that you’re genuinely grateful for the opportunity.
Get to the Point
While declining the offer can be uncomfortable, you want to get to the point and tell them quickly you won’t be taking the offer. This ensures no misunderstandings about whether you are or aren’t joining the team, and you won’t waste anyone’s time (including yours) further.
Do I Need to Give a Reason Why I’m Declining the Offer?
Generally, you don’t need to give a specific reason for declining the offer. You can be straightforward and say you’re declining it.
However, you can give a specific reason if it will open the door for future opportunities or if you share feedback you think might be helpful to the hiring team.
“It certainly helps if you can [give a specific reason] as this will help your case to be considered again in the future,” Waudby says. “If you’re declining a job for another opportunity that has better benefits, be sure to share this information with the recruiter or in-house hiring manager as this feedback will be considered when the company does its annual evaluation of benefits offerings.”
Connect With Them
Even though you didn’t accept an offer from the hiring team at this time, there may be future opportunities you might want to accept. So after you’ve declined the offer, connect with people from the hiring team on LinkedIn to keep your name, future experiences, and achievements top of mind.
“Keep in touch if you felt a connection with the hiring manager or genuinely liked the company and are interested in a role there,” Smith says. “Growing your network is a good thing, and you never know how that connection might help both of you in the future.”
How to Politely Decline a Job Offer Email (and Phone) Examples
Whether declining a job offer over the phone or by email, you’ll want to be prepared with a concise, respectful talking track. Your email or conversation should include the following:
- A genuine thank you to the hiring team
- Your statement that you’ve declined the offer (and a reason, if you have a professional one you want to share)
- A further thank you and/or desire to connect or stay in touch
Your phone call or email should be addressed to whoever gave you the offer, whether that was the recruiter or the hiring manager. You can send additional thank you emails and/or connection requests on LinkedIn to other members of the hiring team, but your email or phone call declining the offer should come first.
Here are some examples of how to politely decline a job offer.
How to Decline a Job Offer: The Bottom Line
Declining a job offer isn’t easy — it may even feel uncomfortable. However, declining an offer that isn’t right for you benefits everyone. You don’t want to accept a job you’re not going to enjoy or that doesn’t meet your non-negotiables. And no one wants to hire a candidate who will end up unsatisfied and looking for new opportunities right after they start.
“It’s normal to feel guilty declining an offer, but at the end of the day, you have to do what feels right for you and your career,” Doan says. “As long as you’re timely in your response and are honest and professional, you won’t burn a bridge. And if the company responds to you unprofessionally, you’ll know you dodged a bullet!”
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