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Published: April 12, 2017

How To Nicely Decline A Job Offer

Finally, the moment you’ve been expecting finally arrives. You get the callback from the job you interviewed for days ago – only to find out that it’s not the job you hoped for. But how do you decline a job offer with grace?

Why bother sending a rejection, anyway?

As a job seeker yourself, you’ve probably endured the frustration of never hearing back about a job, even if you aren’t being considered. Well, recruiters feel that same frustration when they don’t hear back from candidates.

Naturally, you wouldn’t apply for a job you weren’t interested in. But after the interview, you may have several thought processes that help you realize this isn’t the right position for you:

  • You discovered the compensation is lower than you expected. You know what you need to make to stay afloat, and can’t accept anything less.
  • You received a better job offer first. Someone saw your worth sooner than others, and you don’t have the need to entertain other offers.
  • You don’t think the work suits your skills. You know what you’re comfortable with, and taking a job well outside your comfort zone could land you back in the unemployment office.
  • You met your future supervisor – and didn’t like him or her. People typically don’t quit companies, they quit bad bosses who make it difficult to work with.
  • You don’t feel like you fit in to the culture. Always feeling like the odd one out isn’t productive, and you’ll be glad you turned down a job that didn’t jive with your experiences and beliefs.

If you come to that realization, it’s best to withdraw your application. But if you’re offered a position before you can do that, sending a rejection notice supports three main ideas:

  • It’s the respectable thing to do.
  • It can help you appear more responsive and courteous should you decide to reapply with that company in the future.
  • It allows the company to move on to their next choice before that person accepts a position elsewhere.

What does a rejection letter look like?

While some might say that any job is better than no job at all, that’s simply not the case – for you or the employer. You want to make sure you accept the right position that fits your unique skills and interests. Otherwise, you might find yourself starting from scratch a few months later.

Whether you’re holding out for something better or simply changed your mind about a job during the interview, here are a few basic elements to include in your rejection that can help you avoid burning your bridges:

Address it to a person, not a job title

Ideally, you’ll want to write the rejection notice to the person who made the offer, like this:

Dear [Mr/Ms Hiring Manager’s Last Name],

Offer a sincere rejection

When recruiters find a seemingly perfect match, it can be disheartening when the potential candidate isn’t feeling the same spark. Instead of providing a generic, one-liner “I am unable to accept the position at this time,” try for something a little more appreciative and sincere, like this:

Dear [Mr/Ms Hiring Manager’s Last Name],

I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me in consideration for the [job title/position].

At this time, I am unable to accept the position. This decision hasn’t been without merit and careful thought, as I feel very strongly about [company].

Best wishes,

[Your Name]

Provide a valid reason, not a lame excuse

If your job offer doesn’t come with the salary expectations you hoped for, or if there is another contingency that otherwise means the job isn’t in your best interest, it’s okay to say so when you make your decline. Providing a valid reason, not an excuse, tells the hiring manager that you were genuinely interested in the position at the time but can’t accept the position due to a valid concern. Try something like this:

Dear [Mr/Ms Hiring Manager’s Last Name],

I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me in consideration for the [job title/position].

At this time, I am unable to accept the position due to a discrepancy in compensation. This decision hasn’t been without merit and careful thought, as I feel very strongly about [company]. I would be interested in learning about other opportunities with [company] that I may be better suited for in all aspects.

Best wishes,

[Your Name]

However, this method is best used when those concerns are brought up during the interview to let your recruiter know there might be a reason why you wouldn’t accept the job. If you propose your salary requirements, ideal schedule and job functions, and other stipulations during the interview, your hiring manager will better understand why you cannot accept their offer.

Offer a referral

Hiring managers have to jump through a lot of hurdles to fill open positions. It’s a large time and money investment to find the right person, and can seem like a waste of both if their first choice candidate declines their offer. Providing a referral who might be a good match can help lessen the blow of a “No, thanks” response from you. In addition, if they do hire your referral, it will look favorably upon you should you ever reapply with that company. Try something like this:

Dear [Mr/Ms Hiring Manager’s Last Name],

I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me in consideration for the [job title/position].

At this time, I am unable to accept the position. This decision hasn’t been without merit and careful thought, as I feel very strongly about [company].

However, because I know [company] only accepts the best, I feel confident that [referral name] could become your next top performer. Please feel free to contact [him/her] at [contact information].

Best wishes,

[Your Name]

It isn’t always easy to decline a job, especially if you need a job. But holding out for the right job can make all the difference. Good luck!

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