How to Decline a Job Offer Politely
Updated 26 February 2021
If you are carrying out your job search actively and you submit consistently good applications, the chances are you will be invited to several interviews.
But what happens if you are offered more than one job, or you change your mind about a position you’re offered?
Declining a job offer needs to be undertaken with tact and diplomacy. You want to do it in such a way that it does not prevent you from securing another – perhaps more suitable – opportunity with the company in the future.
There are several ways in which you can notify the recruiter of your decision, including by letter, email or telephone.
Our advice would be to take a two-fold approach: draft an email or letter (either is fine) but before you send it, call the person who interviewed you and let them know your decision by phone. This demonstrates professionalism and shows that you care how much effort they put in to select you.
Whether you’re calling or writing an email, the question is: how do you begin and what do you say?
Rejection is hard for anyone: let the person who wants to hire you down gently.
How to Reject a Job Offer Positively: A Step-By-Step Guide
We recommend following these steps when it comes to turning down a job offer in a professional but friendly manner:
The first point is about politeness really. Don't sit on a decision for days, or hold off deciding on one company over another because you're nervous about saying no to one of them.
As a hiring manager, it's far better to receive a quick rejection than it is to wait for a fortnight and only then know that you've got to go back to other candidates (some of whom may have by that stage accepted other jobs elsewhere). That will earn you a black mark for sure.
Tell Them You Really Appreciate Their Offer
Be sincere in letting the manager or recruitment team know that you are thankful to them for spending a considerable amount of time reading your CV, shortlisting you and interviewing you. Obviously don't overdo it and come across as unctuous.
Ideally, pick something specific to thank them for, so your comment doesn't come across as overly generic. For example, if you asked a lot of questions relating to the role and they answered all of those candidly and in detail, you could mention that.
Or you could say how friendly everyone was, and it was nice to meet the team in advance.
Give a Clear Reason Why It's Not the Job for You
Next, explain your reason(s) for declining the offer. Be brief and ensure that your reasons are convincing and that your decision comes from careful consideration.
This is where many candidates go wrong, as they state why another job they were offered was far superior. Do not do this.
It's fine to say that another role you’ve been offered gives you a better chance, in your opinion, to develop your career or build certain skills. Leave it at that though. Avoid saying that the other position offers you a better salary.
Equally, don’t go into detail about which aspects of the position you’ve accepted compare favourably to the one you’re turning down.
Instead, talk about aspects of the company you like, and how you enjoyed meeting the manager or recruiter, but that on this occasion you have decided to accept another offer that more closely matches your aspirations.
If it's the only job you've been offered at this stage, but you've decided it won't work for you, just say that after reflection you've decided the role isn't the right fit for you at this stage of your career, and leave it at that.
You can tailor your response depending on the situation you are facing, such as:
The Work Culture Isn’t a Good Fit for You – Several factors play a role when you consider a job offer. For example, you might not be pleased with the environment at the workplace or the culture there. Maybe your interaction with certain employees has convinced you to reject the offer.
Don’t mention your grievance specifically in the message; instead, adopt a vague tone as to why you’re turning the offer down. We will elaborate on why this is important in the next section, i.e. keeping the door open.
The Pay Isn’t Enough – This one can be a tricky message to convey. If the low pay is one of several reasons why you are rejecting the job, make your rejection a general one and don’t mention the salary.
If, on the other hand, you feel the pay packet is on the low side but in most other respects you think the company and role are a good fit, state that the sole reason you are declining the offer is salary.
You can mention your excitement at the prospect of working for that company and also cite evidence for what you believe to be the market rate for your position and your personal worth to the organisation. In certain cases, employers will consider this argument and may make an improved offer.
The Commute Is Too Arduous – You have to consider the time it will take for you to get to and from the workplace. If you are facing the prospect of a long commute, or the office is located in an area with bad traffic, you might have second thoughts.
The hassle involved in simply getting to work can outweigh any satisfaction you derive from the work itself. You can mention this reason in your message when declining the job offer.
There's Not Enough Flexibility for Your Current Needs – Some people prefer the option of working from home or require flexibility in terms of work hours. Naturally, you don’t want to change your lifestyle for your new job.
You can inform the potential employers about your current needs and the level of flexibility you desire when you update them about your decision to not take the job. They may come back with a proposal with increased flexibility.
Finish by Leaving the Door Open
Try to be positive throughout. Many industries are a small world, so you don’t want to burn any bridges by being negative. Bring the letter or call to a close by thanking them for their time and wishing the company future success.
If you know your paths are likely to cross at a future event, mention that and say you'd welcome the chance to catch up for coffee there.
It may be useful to draft your letter first and then come back to it later in the day and look at it fresh. If you have taken the time to craft a well-written letter or plan exactly what you are going to say if you call, it will leave a better impression. You never know when you might cross paths with that company or individual again.
A Sample Rejection Letter
Here’s how an example rejection letter could be structured. Don't copy this exactly, but do feel free to use it as a basis that you can then tweak and personalise.
Dear [Insert name]
I want to thank you very much for offering me the role of [insert role] at [insert company]. I appreciate that you interviewed a number of candidates and will have spent much time reaching your decision.
I was very impressed by [insert company], which made my decision a difficult one. After careful consideration, however, I have taken the decision to decline your offer of employment. The reason is that I have been offered a different role at a more senior level, and with a greater opportunity to develop management skills.
I enjoyed meeting you and your colleagues, who were friendly and professional throughout. I would like to wish you and your company the very best for the future and I thank you again for your time.
A Sample Rejection Email
If sending an email is preferable, here is a sample to help you write one and politely reject the job offer.
Subject Line: Job Offer – [Your name]
Dear [Insert name of the interviewer or hiring manager]
I am grateful that you offered me the position of [insert job position] and trusted my suitability and experience for the role. However, after considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that I will not be able to accept this offer.
I was very much looking forward to being a part of [insert company name] due to [insert areas you were excited about]. Unfortunately, I feel I have to say no because [insert primary reason for declining the position – this can stretch to a few sentences if needed].
It was a pleasure to talk to you and the rest of your colleagues during the interview process. I wish the best of luck to you and the entire organization.
Once again, thank you very much for the job offer.
[Insert your name]
Declining on the Phone
Rejecting a job over the phone can be nerve-wracking. Follow these steps to structure your approach:
- Choose the right time to call – usually, lunchtime or close to the end of the day is best, when they are likely to be less busy.
- Call them and initiate the conversation by asking them if you are calling them at the right time.
- If the person is not available, leave your name and contact details and tell them you will call back. Don’t leave a message telling them that you are declining their offer.
- Thank them for offering you the job and then decline using polite words.
- Apologize that you could not take the job and that you wanted to let them know as soon as possible.
- Thank them once again for the offer and say goodbye.
It’s difficult, but you’ll need to have confidence in your tone when rejecting the offer on the phone. An unsteady voice can make you seem unsure.
Although declining a job offer can be difficult, ultimately you’re rejecting it because you've made the right decision for you. If you consider your options in advance and draft a well-structured response, there's no reason why you can't say no to an offer with confidence.
You might think that declining the offer will offend the recruiter, but informing them promptly is still the better option. They might feel disappointed at first, naturally, but they will understand the rationale behind your decision.
On the other hand, there will be resentment if you leave them hanging and never call to let them know. Declining professionally still leaves the door potentially open for you at the same organization in the future.