How to Turn Down a Job Offer

Published: Sep 14, 2015

Is there a right way to turn down a job offer? The answer is yes. We asked six experienced recruiters how to effectively and professionally turn down a job offer.

Get your point across. Don't beat around the bush. Clearly and politely state why you are choosing to decline the offer. If you do not give a concrete answer, it leaves the door open for further negotiation. Charley Polachi, managing partner of Polachi Access Executive Search explains "Quick and smooth rejections, while disappointing for the hiring managers, leaves the manager with a favorable opinion of the candidate."

Honesty is the best policy. If you are upfront and honest about why you are rejecting the offer, hiring managers may be able to make the appropriate adjustments so that the offer better meets your needs. With a background in headhunting and career coaching, Elizabeth Lions says that it is important that you must uncover and discuss all obstacles that may be keeping you from accepting. In addition, she notes that you should "be prepared to answer why you are declining, the company they lost to and what they could have done differently. If the others are close and you have to decline, explain why."

Senior Account Executive at Technology Search Firm, Eliassen Group, Chris Hickey adds that you should shed some light as to why you are opting out of the offer. "It doesn't have to be lengthy, but let the hiring manager know why you are declining the offer. From what I've seen in my career, such honesty is appreciated, and generally pays off later."

Personally decline the offer via phone. When a company is at the point of extending a job offer, it means they have already invested a good deal of time and resources into your interviewing process. Courtney Smith, VP / Founder of Lakeside Group Associates, Inc., an executive search firm specializing in Aerospace, Defense, and Alternative Energy, says that if you do choose to decline a position, it is it is important that you reach out to the hiring manager by phone to explain. "You owe it to the company to personally decline by phone ASAP, as well as in writing." Furthermore, Smith points out that if you worked with a recruiting firm, you should contact your recruitment agent right away. "Your recruiter will help you determine if you should reach out to the company to decline their offer directly, or if you should let the recruiter pass the news and letter on your behalf."

Express your appreciation. As Partner and General Manager for the IT division of recognized recruitment agency WinterWyman, Tracy Cashman has run into quite a few job offer rejections. She points out that a well-crafted thank you note will help you stay on good terms with the organization. Cashman advises that you "thank the person and by extension, the company, for the time it devoted to considering you for the position; explaining how difficult it was for you to make the decision."

Don't burn bridges. Whether it be at a networking event, business function, or maybe another job interview, you are likely to cross paths with an individual from this organization in the future. That is why most hiring managers will advise you NOT to burn your bridges. During her 20 years as a Microsoft Recruiter, Lora Poepping has had her share of job offer rejections. She explains "When you turn down a job, you turn down the manager too and you may run into that manager again. You want to leave them with the impression that under different circumstances, you may possibly want to work with them in the future. Keep it professional, upbeat and positive."

To the same end, Hickey says "it's all about trying to close the door, without slamming it shut. You want to try and keep that door slightly ajar, because you never know when you might need that future opportunity."  

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