Being offered a job is exciting, especially if you’ve been searching for a job for a while. But what if you got more than one offer and have to choose? Or what if you get an offer only to realize it's not a good fit?
It is not unprofessional to decline a job offer, but there is a right and a wrong way to do it. Here are a few steps you can follow to reject a job offer professionally while maintaining a positive business relationship.
1. Make Sure It Is the Right Decision
If you like the job and the company, but there are one or two things wrong with the offer, it's worth asking for what you want first before declining the job. Once you turn down the job, it's difficult and often impossible to retract your rejection.
Don't decline an offer because the pay is too low. First, counter with a salary that would work for you. If you're looking for a specific type of benefit or another perk, tell them what you want.
They may surprise you and say yes. If they say no to your request, you can still decline.
2. Understand It's Part of the Process
Some people feel guilty about declining a job offer or worry that if they say no to this one, they'll never have another opportunity. Candidates turn down job offers all the time. It's a normal part of the hiring process, and employers understand this.
Don't accept a job that isn’t right for you because you feel guilty. You'll be locking yourself into something for a period. You'll also prevent the employer from finding another candidate who wants the job.
3. Tell Them as Soon as Possible
Once a company has extended you an offer, they pause the hiring process to give you time to respond. They may have selected you over other qualified candidates and could lose them to other opportunities if you delay too long.
Hiring managers understand you need time to think the job offer over or discuss it with your family, but don't drag out the process. The more time and effort they waste on you, the harder it will be to maintain a positive, professional relationship with that company. Let them know as soon as you are sure you don't want to take the position.
4. Use the Same Communication Channel as Your Point of Contact
Once you've decided to decline the job offer, you have to think about how you will communicate the news. The best approach is to use the same channel of communication they've used with you.
Did they call to extend the offer? Then your best choice is to call and let them know you won't accept. On the other hand, if they've been communicating through email, that will be your best channel.
Generally, they will receive your message faster through the communication channel they use most. It's a professional courtesy.
There are exceptions. If they have called you every time, but you know you're going to panic or be awkward if you have to decline on the phone, then an email is okay. It would be better to call, but if it's not something you are comfortable doing, a well-composed email may ultimately have a better impact.
Also, even if you decline over the phone, they may need your response in writing. In that case, you would follow up with an email confirming the conversation.
5. Be Honest
Just as you appreciate helpful and honest feedback during the job search and interview process, hiring managers appreciate when you are honest, polite, and professional when you decline their offer.
While you don't want to share rude or negative thoughts about the company, you can be honest about your reasons for declining. Is the job not a good fit? Does the role lack things that are important to you? Did your current employer offer you more money to stay? Did you receive other, more appealing offers?
If they don't successfully negotiate with you, your honest feedback will help the hiring manager as they move forward with other candidates.
6. Don't Over-Apologize
You want to let them know you appreciate their time, but you don't have to oversell or gush about why you can't take the job. Tell them it doesn't work for you at this time, graciously, and then stop talking.
The hiring manager just needs to know if you will accept or not. If you go on too much about how you wish you could take the job, they may try and talk you into it even though you know it's not right for you.
7. Express Gratitude
The employer or hiring manager who made you the offer probably put a lot of time into reviewing resumes and interviewing people. By expressing gratitude for their time, you acknowledge the effort that went into the process.
Expressing gratitude is also gracious. It paves the way to maintaining a positive rapport with the person even though you won't be working with them at this time.
8. Build Bridges, Don't Burn Them
When you give your reasons for declining, make it about the offer, not the company. Even if your reason for declining is you think the company is poorly managed and will go out of business within a year, just tell them it's not a good fit for your work needs at this time.
Let the people you met during the hiring process know you would like to stay in contact. There may be another opportunity that opens up that you do want. One of the interviewers may move to a new company that is very attractive to you.
It's always a good idea to build bridges when you can. A strong business network can pay off in surprising ways.
It's Your Choice to Accept or Decline
When you've sent out dozens of resumes and gone through several interviews, you may feel like you need to accept any job offer that comes your way. While there are likely to be compromises even in an outstanding company or position, if a job truly will not work for you, it's better to graciously decline and keep looking.
If you follow the steps above to decline politely and professionally, the people you meet may remain part of your professional network. If you have to turn down an offer, you can at least leave them with a good impression.
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