If you need to decline a job offer, you might be having a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's always nice to be wanted, especially when you're in the middle of a potentially long and grueling job search. On the other hand, you might feel guilty when you have to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Don't waste your guilt. It's common for candidates to say turn down job offers--1 in 6 offers are rejected, per Glassdoor research. Hiring managers expect it (or should). Most importantly, declining a job offer that isn't right for you can be the best thing for your career in the long run.
However, there's a right way and a wrong way to turn down a job. Here's the best way to do it.
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How To Decline A Job Offer
It’s never pleasant to deliver bad news. However, the longer you wait to tell the hiring team that you’ve decided not to accept the offer, the more inconvenient it will be for them.
Remember that declined job offers are all part of the deal for HR professionals. There’s no need to put off saying no. Chances are, they won’t be shocked at your decision, even if they hoped you’d sign on.
Consider A Phone Call
Interview processes often involve multiple meetings and phone calls between candidates and the hiring team. If you’ve been speaking with the same recruiter or manager throughout, it’s a nice gesture to speak with this contact before you notify the employer in writing.
Send An Email
Regardless of whether you have a phone conversation with your contact at the employer, it’s essential to put your decision in writing. In the olden days, this meant sending a letter by mail. Now, it’s best to send an email so that you have a digital paper trail.
Say Thank You
When you write your email, be sure to thank the hiring manager for their offer–even if you felt like their offer left something to be desired.
Remember that the person you’re communicating with may have relatively little control over salary ranges, benefits, or other perks. In any case, it’s best to leave things on a positive note. Many industries are small worlds. You never know when you might run into this manager again during your career.
Maintain The Connection
Networking is essential to a successful career, and it shouldn’t be something that you do only when you’re actively looking for a job. You can expand your professional connections even when you’re declining a job if you’re gracious and professional. Consider asking if you can connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn or otherwise stay in touch.
Proofread Before You Send
The goal is to leave a good impression even when you’re walking away from an opportunity. With this in mind, make sure your email is polished, professional, and free of typos or other mistakes. Also send yourself a test copy before you email your final version to the hiring team. This will ensure that your formatting holds up even after it’s transmitted.
Email Template For Turning Down A Job Offer
Email Template: How To Decline A Job Offer Without Giving A Reason
Dear Ms. Lee,
Thank you so much for offering the position of Marketing Coordinator at Acme, Inc. Regretfully, after much consideration, I must decline the role.
I appreciated the opportunity to discuss the role with you and to meet your team. Thanks again for your time and consideration.
Email Template: How To Decline A Job Offer To Take Another Job
Dear Mr. Gonzalez,
I am truly grateful for the offer to join your team at Big Deal Company. However, I have decided to take another position.
This wasn’t an easy choice. I truly enjoyed meeting with you and hearing about all the exciting things you’re working on. I’m looking forward to keeping up with the team’s projects on Instagram and YouTube.
Thank you again for your kind offer and for your time.
Email Template: How To Decline A Job Offer For Non-Work Reasons
Dear Mx. White,
Thank you so much for your kind offer to join the team at LMK Company. After much deliberation, I must regretfully decline the role.
I have decided to attend grad school a year earlier than planned and expect to have a busy schedule. I respect your goals far too much to sign on and give less than my very best.
I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn and keep in touch. Thanks again for your consideration.
What To Avoid When Declining A Job Offer
Ghosting The Recruiter
The worst thing you can do when declining a job offer is nothing. According to an Indeed survey, nearly a third of candidates report having ghosted an employer–meaning that they drop out of the hiring process without notice or explanation. Some drop out after a phone screen but others disappear much later. Some go as far as pulling a no-show on the first day of work.
Whenever it happens, ghosting isn’t OK. Again, remember that you may run into these folks later in your career. Don’t leave a bad impression.
Giving Too Much Information
If you feel comfortable giving a reason for your decision, do so–but keep it brief. There’s no need to get bogged down in details. It’s none of the employer’s business and it might make you seem less professional if you give out too much personal information.
Even if the offer was truly terrible, offering far-below-market pay and other unattractive working conditions, resist the urge to offer a critique. The employer will realize that their offer is bad when they get few takers for the position. Or they won’t and it won’t be your problem. Either way, you will have moved on.
Perhaps you’re a people pleaser or just extremely empathetic. Regardless, if you find yourself feeling bad about turning down a job offer, stop. Hiring managers don’t expect every offer to pan out.
The Bottom Line
Your responsibility is to your own career–and sometimes, that means declining a job offer that isn’t a good fit. Remember that by doing so, you’re also saving the hiring team a lot of time and effort. It’s easier to continue a hiring process than it is to start a new one.
If you’re still looking for your next role, ZipRecruiter can help. Employers post over 17.5 million jobs on ZipRecruiter each month. Your next job might be waiting. You can also explore additional job sites by checking out our guide to the best job posting sites.