How to Turn Down an Offer From an Employer

The details of a job offer might make it a poor fit for you.

The details of a job offer might make it a poor fit for you.

You don't have to pinch yourself -- you're not dreaming. Your hard work paid off -- and you suddenly have the luxury of choosing from more than one job offer. The problem is that you want to turn down an offer without burning your bridges. To protect your professional integrity and reputation, you need to hit three key points when you turn down a job offer, according to Jodi Glickman, writing in the Harvard Business Review: a gracious thank-you, a solid reason and a forward-looking closing. Typically, a hiring manager will offer a position over the phone, so declining the offer over the phone is also appropriate. However, it's a good idea to draft a letter anyway, so you can refer to it when you return the hiring manager's call to turn down the offer. You can also mail the letter following your phone conversation just so the hiring manager has it on record.

Weigh your job offers carefully and make the choice that is best for you. If you can rule out one right away, do so, but even if you need a little time, don't wait more than a day or two to return the phone call. You owe the company making you the offer a prompt response, especially there are other candidates waiting in the wings.

Type a letter in standard business format, addressing it to the person who made the job offer. Keep it short and sweet -- no rambling, no excuses, no emotional gushing. In the first sentence, thank the hiring manager for the offer and acknowledge that you're flattered to receive it. You might need to specify the job under discussion if you know the company is hiring for more than one vacancy.

State simply and concisely in the next section of the letter that you've decided to decline the job at this time. Although it's not absolutely required, the classy approach is to include a short reason for your decision, such as "I've accepted another job closer to home" or "I've decided to go back to school right now." Don't embellish your remarks or feel so guilty that you make something up, since that could come back to haunt you.

Close your letter by thanking the interviewer for her time and consideration. Wish her luck in the hiring process, or if you're just not interested in the particular position she offered, mention that you'd appreciate it if she kept you in mind for future opportunities. Use a professional but warm closing, such as "Sincerely," leave a few line spaces, and then type your name. Proofread the letter to make sure it's error-free. Keep a copy for your files.

Call the hiring manager with your letter in hand and graciously decline the position. Stick to the script of your letter, but don't sound as though you're reading it verbatim.

Tips

  • It's typically inappropriate to decline a job offer via email.
  • Never feel pressured to accept or decline a position when it's first offered. It's always appropriate to express your thanks for the offer -- and then ask for a little time to think it over.
 

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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