How to Graciously Decline a Job Offer Without Burning Bridges

Decline The Offer

Looking for a job can be as difficult as the job itself at certain times. Finding the right job for yourself, updating your résumé, making cover letters, going to interviews, and following up with your interviewer can eat up a lot of your time, and there’s no guarantee you’ll even get the job!

When an offer does show up on your table, it seems like there’s nothing else to say but yes. But that’s not always the case.

What do you do when you have an offer, but you have to turn it down?

Receiving a job offer and getting that far through the interview process must mean that you had some good vibes for the company and the position. Just because it might not be the right fit at the moment, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to work with them in the future. Their opinion of you matters too - you never know who they might later talk to. It’s therefore important to decline graciously so you don’t burn any bridges in the process.

Take it offline

A lot of people often leave voicemails or “cookie-cutter” emails when declining a job offer. These often lead to dead-end relationships with the person you were talking to. You don’t want to give anyone the impression that you’re ungrateful for the opportunity they gave.

Instead of taking the easy route of leaving a message and moving on, contact the hiring manager or HR and ask if they have time to discuss where you’re at. Call them and be as honest as you can.

Dig deeper on the reasons

While compensation is a valid reason to decline a job offer, try to delve deeper into other reasons why the opportunity isn’t a good fit for you. You shouldn’t feel bad about worrying over your financial situation, but blaming the salary on your decision can make you come off as a greedy individual who only cares about money, rather than opportunity and development.

Instead, try to come up with some reasons that can better portray why you might reject an offer. Compensation can play a part in it, but you have to provide some overarching reasons that can also back up your rejection.

The key is to be respectful and communicate your reasons so that you can retain your relationship. Getting to this stage of the interview process means that both you and the company has invested a good amount of time into each other, so the least you could do is maintain that relationship for future reference.

Don’t procrastinate

Try to let the HR team or your contact know your decision as soon as possible so that they can continue vetting other applicants. The last thing you want is to drag on the interview process until the last minute, leaving that company high and dry.

A speedy response can inform your company that you respect them enough to be open and communicative with them. Nobody wants their time wasted, and if they’re looking for a position to be filled, that means that they have a need that needs to be addressed. Delaying your response can hinder their efforts, which doesn’t shine a very positive light on you.

Pairing up your fast response with a personalized email to your contact can be the difference between making a valuable network contact or a “person you spoke to”.

Job searches can be tough but being in a position where you have to turn down an offer means that your skills and personality are well-received. It’s a good spot to be in, and make sure you take advantage of it. Don’t burn any bridges unnecessarily and make the most out of all your opportunities.

Chris Chu

Freelance writer, passionate about professional and personal development.

2 min read

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