Figuring out how to decline a job offer can be a bit daunting at first. You don’t want to be disrespectful or burn bridges, but you also need to make it clear that you’re no longer interested in the role.
This guide will teach you how to respectfully decline a job offer without any awkwardness.
How to Respectfully Decline a Job Offer
When you’re searching for your next career opportunity, getting a job offer can be a jump-for-joy moment. However, there are times you know you just can’t accept the offer.
This happens more than you may think, and there are many reasons why you might decide to pass.
Whether it’s because you received a better offer from another company or this opportunity doesn’t feel right, here’s how to decline a job offer gracefully while protecting your professional reputation.
1. Respond Promptly
When declining a job offer, responding as quickly as possible is the most important thing to do. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. You likely went through several rounds of interviews, and the key decision-makers considered many candidates before deciding you were the one who deserved the offer. A considerable amount of time and resources went into that decision.
The last thing you want to do is keep them waiting. Prolonging your response will only inconvenience the would-be employer. Waiting several days or weeks will make you look unprofessional and likely burn bridges with that company.
If possible, try to respond within 24 hours. It’s a courtesy that minimizes delays for the hiring manager, allowing them to go with their second choice.
Of course, give your decision ample thought. If it takes you a little more than a day to decide that it’s not right for you, that’s alright. But be prompt!
The quicker you respond and decline the job offer, the better. Hiring managers can move on, and you show your respect for their process and investment in time.
2. Keep the Email Brief
Being straightforward is the best policy when declining a job offer. Many people feel somewhat guilty when sending what is essentially a rejection letter. However, you don’t need to go into a ton of detail or create a lengthy apology email.
Resist the urge to go overboard. There’s no need to send a lengthy explanation or shower the hiring manager with compliments. That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s too much.
At the end of the day, try to keep your email concise. Shorter emails take far less time to read. Plus, they’re easier to stomach.
A lengthy message full of overblown apologies and niceties can actually come off as inauthentic. Most prefer that you get to the point, provide some brief context, and respectfully decline the job offer.
3. Show That You Appreciate the Offer
While you should keep emails concise, it’s also wise to show some appreciation. Rejections can be difficult, even for a hiring manager! No one likes to hear “no,” and an overly simple email may result in negative feelings about you. Showing some appreciation nips that in the bud.
Again, think about this situation from the hiring manager’s perspective. Considerable time and effort went into this hiring decision. If you send an email without acknowledging the investment of time the company made, you may come off as ungrateful or cold.
That’s enough to make potential employers not be eager to offer you an opportunity in the future, which is the last thing you want. The goal is to come off as appreciative, ensuring that the hiring manager knows you gave this opportunity the consideration it deserves.
Make sure to thank them for the opportunity while still keeping the email brief. Recognize the time and effort they put into you as a candidate. Thank the recruiting team, and show that you appreciate the thought they put into this decision.
This small detail goes a long way and immediately shifts the tone of your rejection email. Start with a message of appreciation, and it’ll soften the rest of your email.
4. Explain Why You’re Declining
Honesty is always the best policy when rejecting a job offer, and it’s a good idea to briefly explain why you made this decision. Doing so helps the hiring manager understand your reasoning, and it adds another layer of professionalism that could help you maintain a connection with this company.
Something as simple as “I’m declining this offer” won’t cut it. Not explaining your reasoning may rub the hiring manager the wrong way, making them feel they wasted time and resources exploring your candidacy for the position.
Think of your explanation as a way to placate negative feelings and show that you’ve given this decision some thought.
You don’t have to go into the nitty-gritty details. That’s especially true if you decline the offer because you don’t agree with the company’s values or are disappointed with the negotiated job offer. You must avoid potentially insulting the hiring manager or organization; going into too much detail increases the risk of that happening.
Once again, short and sweet is the best approach when giving your explanation.
You can be transparent without going too deep into your thought processes. For example, you could say that after further consideration, the job doesn’t feel like the right move for you at this point in your career. Alternatively, you can say you’ve accepted a job offer elsewhere or decided to stay in your current position.
Whatever the case, make sure it’s true. Hiring managers understand that these things happen, so there’s nothing to be gained by lying.
Hiring managers may follow up for additional feedback after you send your rejection email. Many companies do this to understand how competitive their job offers are and find ways to improve their hiring process. That’s when you can provide more details if you wish.
But for your email declining the job offer, keep it simple.
5. Be Open to Connecting in the Future
Finally, mention that you’d like to keep the door open for future opportunities. This is a small detail that many job-seekers miss.
You never know when your paths will cross again. There could be a time in the future when you want to explore opportunities at the company again. That’s why it’s important to protect your professional reputation and not burn bridges.
State that you’d like to stay in touch. You can even use LinkedIn to connect with the people you meet during the hiring process. It’s a great way to expand your professional network while keeping the door open for the future.
Reiterate your general interest in the company. Despite this opportunity not being the right fit, showing that you want to stay connected proves that you did care about this position and were genuinely interested in getting a job. It makes the entire process worthwhile, and the hiring managers you interact with may feel inclined to check up on what you’re doing later when another position opens up.
Email Examples for Turning Down a Job
Figuring out how to decline a job offer after going through a lengthy hiring process can feel uncomfortable.
To make things easier, we have a few example emails that will guide you in the right direction.
Deciding to Accept Another Offer
Here’s a common scenario. When you’re searching for jobs, you may get multiple offers. When that happens, you’ll have to decide which job is right for you and decline the job offers you receive from any other employers.
This example email works well because it explains the candidate’s reasoning while showing appreciation for the opportunity.
“Dear Mrs. Johnson,
Thank you so much for the generous offer to join your team. I’ve enjoyed learning more about [COMPANY] and appreciate your time interviewing me. As we’ve discussed, I’ve admired and supported [COMPANY] for many years and fully intend to keep doing that.
However, after further consideration, I’ve decided to accept a position at another company that I feel better suits my skills and future career plans.
I would like to stay in touch via LinkedIn. Again, I thank you for your time and consideration. Best wishes for your and [COMPANY’S] continued success, and I hope our paths will cross again in the future.
[YOUR PHONE NUMBER]
[YOUR LINKEDIN URL]”
Realizing the Role is Not the Right Fit
In our next example, the candidate receives a job offer. However, they realize it’s not a good fit for what they want to do and where they want to take their career. This is another scenario that happens quite often.
When declining the job offer, this candidate explains their reasoning in a way that most hiring managers will understand. The rejection shows maturity because the job-seeker is self-aware enough to know that they wouldn’t be fully committed to this job.
“Hello, Mr. Smith,
I’m flattered to receive such a great offer. I appreciate your consideration and all the conversations we’ve had in the past few weeks. Meeting you and learning about your marketing firm’s work was a pleasure.
While I’ve enjoyed learning more about [COMPANY], I’ve decided to pursue another role. After careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather focus on project management than writing or editing, as I believe that it better suits my career moving forward.
It’s been great meeting you and your team, and I wish you nothing but continued success. I hope that our paths will cross again sometime in the future.
[YOUR PHONE NUMBER]
[YOUR LINKEDIN URL]”
Staying at Your Current Job
Sometimes, you go through the entire job search only to realize that the best career move is to stay at your current job. That’s the case with the candidate in our next example. They made the difficult decision not to accept a job offer because they believed there were more beneficial career opportunities at their existing company.
This email works well because it’s thoughtful and remains professional. It doesn’t insult the company or come off as ungrateful.
“Dear Mrs. Brookside,
Thank you for offering the senior management position at [COMPANY]. I appreciate you meeting with me these past few weeks and answering all my questions about the position.
After careful consideration, I’ve decided that now isn’t the best time to leave my current role. I’ve realized that moving to [CITY] isn’t feasible for my family, and my current employer has made accommodations and shifted my responsibilities to better align with my career aspirations.
It’s been a joy getting to know you and [COMPANY]. I hope we can stay in touch, and I’d love to work with [COMPANY] in the future.
[YOUR PHONE NUMBER]
[YOUR LINKEDIN URL]”
Discovering the Position Doesn’t Fit Your Larger Career Goals
You might find yourself in a situation where you love the company but not the position. This is a situation that arises more often than you realize. Job-seekers will go through the hiring process, learn about the organization, and better understand what the position entails.
Through that process, you might realize that the role doesn’t fit your grander career goals. You want to keep the door open for opportunities in this company while declining the job offer. Here’s a good example of how to do just that.
I’m delighted and flattered by the offer. I’ve enjoyed learning about [COMPANY], and our discussions about the organization have made me appreciate what you are doing there even more. While I’m incredibly interested in working for your company, I’ve concluded the position itself isn’t the right fit for me at this point in my career.
I’m hoping to steer my career toward leadership and management opportunities. Based on our conversations, I don’t see that as possible in this role.
I’d love to work for [COMPANY] at some point in the future, and I hope you will consider me for roles that better align with my goals. Please keep in touch and reach out if a position you feel I can excel at opens up.
I sincerely appreciate the offer and can’t express my gratitude enough. It’s been a joy speaking with you and meeting your team.
[YOUR PHONE NUMBER]
[YOUR LINKEDIN URL]”
Now that you know how to decline a job offer respectfully and concisely, it’s time to draft your response.
If you need some help getting started you can always use our example emails as inspiration!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.