How to decline a job offer

The idea of declining a new job can seem counter intuitive, even reckless - after all, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into the job search process.

Receiving a job offer is exciting, and a welcome affirmation that your skills and personality are right for a particular employer. But before you rush in to accept the position, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s really what you are looking for. Because if the new job isn’t right for you, it’s important to recognise this, and know how to decline a job offer in a professional manner.

Don’t burn bridges

A number of red flags can leave you uncertain about the job or the employer. A disorganised hiring process, uncertain prospects for promotion, or the prospect of a lengthy commute to work each day can create niggling doubts. And sometimes it pays to listen to your inner voice.

Regardless of why you are having second thoughts, to this point you have shown considerable interest in working for the company, and you’re now in the awkward position of having to reject the job offer. Bear in mind though, the interview process is a two-way evaluation step. The company won’t extend a new job offer to every candidate interviewed, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about deciding a role is not right for you.

Nonetheless, the key is to understand how to decline a job offer so that your professional reputation remains untarnished. You never know when you may cross paths with the hiring manager again, and at some stage in the future, you may view the company differently and decide you’d like to work for it after all. So it pays not to burn your bridges.

Clarify any doubts

Before you decline a job offer, it can be worth speaking with the hiring manager to clarify any issues of uncertainty. It’s not something to be embarrassed or uncomfortable about.

Chances are the hiring manager would rather invest a little extra time to secure a long term employee than have to find a replacement for you if you resign within months of coming on board.

Act promptly

If you’re certain you want to decline the offer, don’t drag the chain – or worse, leave the hiring manager in limbo, unsure about whether you’re keen to accept the role or not.

Once you’ve made a decision, let the company know immediately that you would like to decline the offer. Communicating your intentions at an early stage allows the hiring manager to move on to the next possible candidate or restart the recruitment process from scratch.

Be gracious

You may feel uncomfortable about rejecting a job offer but your reputation will benefit tremendously if you approach the rejection graciously.

No matter whether you choose to put your rejection in writing via an email, or verbally over the phone, be sure to thank the hiring manager for the opportunity, and for taking the time to meet with you.

Be concise

A few written lines or a brief conversation are all it takes to decline a job offer. There is no need to go into a lengthy explanation about why you’re turning down the role. Something as simple as “given where I am in my career at present, I have decided to decline your offer” will suffice.

Or, if you have received a better job offer, explain you have received another offer of employment in a role that is better suited to your career goals. Whatever the case, avoid levelling any criticisms at the company, the hiring manager or the role.

Offer to stay in touch

Offering to stay in touch with the hiring manager via LinkedIn or other professional means, demonstrates you still have an active interest in the company. Or you may have discussed upcoming events like an industry conference during your interview, and you may want to mention that you look forward to catching up with the hiring manager at the function.

The key point is that while the role may not be right for today, you could interact with the company again in the future so it’s important to remain on good terms.

Know how to decline a job offer professionally

If the job or company isn’t right for you, it’s important to know how to decline a job offer and keep your professional reputation intact.

Knocking back a job offer is never easy, but by maintaining a timely and polite approach you’ll be able to walk away from the offer without any damage to your reputation.

Take a look at our hub for a new job for more career advice.