How to Decline a Job Offer Politely

by Molly Thompson, Demand Media
    Carefully review any job offer before making a decision.

    Carefully review any job offer before making a decision.

    You're doing the happy dance because you have multiple job offers to choose from; but slow down long enough to decline any job you don't select in a classy, professional way. You obviously made a good enough impression to get them to offer you a job in the first place, so ensure that nothing you do now damages that impression. Respond to the prospective employer as soon as you know you're declining his offer, express your appreciation and offer a brief explanation for your decision. With your integrity intact, feel free to go back to celebrating.

    Step 1

    Call the same person who offered you the job as soon as you decide you're not taking it. Start by telling him you appreciate the time and consideration he's given your candidacy for the position.

    Step 2

    Tell him you are, regretfully, declining the job offer. He's going to ask you why, so plan ahead about how you'll answer that question. You're not obligated to give him chapter and verse, but it doesn't pay to be flip or dismissive. Answer briefly but honestly -- tell him you got offered your ideal job or one with a much higher salary or prospects for advancement, for example. You don't have to say who made the better offer or how much they offered.

    Step 3

    Remain professional and respectful during your phone conversation -- you never know when you might come in contact with this person again. Avoid burning any bridges when you decline a job offer, because you may end up applying to that company in the future; at a minimum, the hiring officer might be a useful contact as you build your professional network.

    Step 4

    Follow up your phone call promptly with a formal letter. Address it to the same person you've been dealing with. Again, thank him for his time, for considering you for the position and for the display of confidence the job offer represents. Reiterate that you've decided to decline the offer and what your reasons are. Proofread the letter, fix anything that needs fixing and send it by first class mail. Keep a copy for your records.

    Tip

    • Declining a job offer in an email is neither professional nor appropriate. Even if you receive the offer that way, turning down the offer requires at least a phone call, and preferably both a phone call and a formal letter.

    About the Author

    Molly Thompson has been writing for classified U.S. government presentations and publications since 1980. She holds B.A. degrees in psychology and political science from Wellesley College, as well as an M.A. in Russian area studies from Georgetown University. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis/research company and is also a professional genealogist.

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